The first advertising campaign aimed at monkeys — for science!

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A group of brown capuchin monkeys will be the lucky targets of the world's first non-human targeted advertising campaign. Their responses will provide evidence as to whether humans are the only sickeningly suggestible primates in the world.

It's been shown that the division between humans and animals is not as sharp as previously thought. Monkeys have shown game-playing strategies, altruism, and even developed basic economies. They've mirrored what humans consider to be our smarter and more noble instincts. Now a team of scientists is seeing if they will mirror our more stupid and base ones as well. A partnership between Yale University and advertising executives has resulted in an ad campaign aimed at a group of brown capuchin monkeys.


To ensure that there is minimal existing bias in favor of different products, the researchers want to use two different-colored kinds of jello to test their marketing strategy. One color, known as Brand A, is supported by an advertizing campaign. Billboards for this color will hang outside the enclosure. The other color will be on its own. An actual advertising firm came up with the campaign, probably working on the assumption that human consumers who learn of this will have either no sense of irony, or an overabundance. They've come up with a pretty basic campaign. A female brown capuchin will be shown beside Brand A, genitals exposed. (So, basically, it's a perfume ad with less artistic shading.) Another billboard will show an alpha male capuchin alongside Brand A. (There's no mention of exposed genitals, so perhaps this is more like cigarette advertising. Or perhaps the explicitness of the ad is necessarily limited by the fact that visitors will still be allowed in the monkey enclosure, and pictures of simian erections might disturb them.)

The entire ad campaign idea is fraught with quotes that signal that it may be a prank, or an experimental art project. It was unveiled at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Keith Olwell, the advertising executive, describes the Brand A campaign like this:

They do not have language or culture and they have very short attention spans. We really had to strip out any hip and current thinking and get to the absolute core of what is advertising. . . . Monkeys have been shown in previous studies to really love photographs of alpha males and shots of genitals, and we think this will drive their purchasing habits.


It will take a few weeks before the monkeys will actually be offered the brand choice. Weeks in which many of us will ponder what any of the results could mean. What do you think, readers? And what do you hope?

Via New Scientist and Cannes Lions.

Image: All Voices