From a very young age, we as an audience have had a fascination with looking at animals; whether that be at the zoo, in the wild or in the media.Wildlife documentaries such as David Attenborough specials and Natural Geographic, are very popular as the audience has access to see them up close and in their natural environment. Over social media, we share pictures and videos of animals to each other and even well-known brands use animals in their logos and advertisements. But why do we look animals? John Berger’s theory suggest that humans have become civilised in urban areas and have been disconnected and isolated from other species, now we want to see them again (Berger, 2005).
As mentioned many brands use animals in their logos and advertising such as RAMS and Compare The Market. Stones’ (2014) psychology research investigated brands that use an animal as apart of the brands identity. Stones’ research found that humans are naturally fascinated with other living creatures, and when brands use animals as apart of their identity, sales will increase. Stone found further evidence that animals that talk and act like humans in advertisements, are the main reason for sales to increase. Stone states;
” the use of animals focused on anthropomorphism (endearing them with human characteristics) is effective on consumer behaviour”
Some may argue that animals are not always shown in the media to portray anthropomorphism, for example certain documentaries aim to show animals in the wild being natural and untouched by human interference. However, Núria Almiron (2016, pg.161) argues that even in documentary films, filmmakers “impose human narrative, a human cultural aesthetic, upon the animals”. Whether documentary based or animation, the same argument applies.
In 1989, Aardman produced Creature Comforts, a clay animated show that interviewed animals about everyday mundane tasks or thoughts. The British show was created by the same makers of the Wallace and Gromit series and the movie Chicken Run. Creature Comforts became a success in the 90s for both children and adults, as it had many colourful animals ranging from household pets to wild animals, all having one thing in common… human characteristics.
Creature Comforts had a very simple story line and scenes, usually one kind of animal being interviewed and talking to the audience;”the effect is of a gentle parody of television documentary“. The show never shows an actual human except for the hand and microphone of the interviewer. This particular show is another example of Anthropomorphism. The video below is an example of an episode where the animals talk about their ‘pet hates’ (excuse the pun). The audience was able to relate with the animals about this topics by the way the animals talk, think and interact with each other, just like people would.
As Aardman wrote on their website; “The real and unscripted voices of the Great British Public are put into the mouths of plasticine animals.”
Using animals in the media for marketing purposes or satirical shows such as Creature Comforts, should not be seen as a negative thing. Although this is the case… the audience should be aware of the fact that we are giving these animals human characteristics that they do/may not actually posses. In my opinion, giving these characteristics to the animals should not be frowned upon, as it enables us to make sense of the non-human attitudes animals present.
Almiron N, 2016, Critical Animal and Media Studies:Communication for Nonhuman Animal Advocacy, Taylor and Francais, New York.
Blue Chikuwa, 2015, Creature Comforts (Pet Hates), Online Video, 1 May, Aardman, Viewed 25 March 2016, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGhSxZLT1DY>
Berger J, 2005, ‘Why Look At Animals’, Worldviews: Global Religion, Culture and Ecology, Vol.9, no.2, pages 203-218.
Stone S.M, 2014, ‘The Psychology of Using Animals in Advertising’, 2014 Hawaii University International Conference, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Honolulu, 4-6 January, Viewed 28 March 2016.