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MEET THE HUMANIMALS: Anthropomorphic advertising

According to the Urban Dictionary, a “humanimal is a hybrid of human and animal features, biological characteristics and/or behaviours”. Examples of these anthropomorphic creatures abound in popular culture; it is an age-old technique that has been adopted by civilizations as ancient as the Egyptians and the Greeks, but which has also impregnated today’s modern societies.

Anthropomorphism is a common occurrence in children’s films and books. Some of Disney’s most popular characters are indeed animals that can talk and wear clothes: Mickey, Donald and the Chipmunks; however, these mesmerising characters have also been brought to the adult realm through a variety of disciplines: photography, sculpture, paint, literature, taxidermy, film… and of course advertising.

There is evidence of anthropomorphism being used in advertising as early as the 19th century; however, in recent years the use of animal imagery has seen a considerable increase. In this issue of The Bank Currency we look at a number of reasons why brands are resorting to this technique to communicate their marketing messages:

THE “KEWPIE” EFFECT – Trussardi’s Supermodel Dogs

The “Kewpie” (shorthand for cutie-pie) effect is basically the ‘awww’ factor of a human or animal; it enhances the attribution of human emotions in a positive way and influences how we relate to them.

For the launch of their 2014 collection, Italian fashion brand Trussardi commissioned famous photographer William Wegman to shoot the label’s designs modelled by greyhound dogs – the longstanding mascot of the brand. The result is an endearing selection of stills and a behind the scenes video that would put a smile on anyone’s face, thus increasing emotional connection with the brand.

HUMOUR – Kia Soul

The hybrid and absurd nature of humanimals makes them unavoidably comical characters. Their use in advertising can help to establish a brand’s tone of voice at a glance and seamlessly sets the mood of the communications.

Kia Soul, in the USA, has been successfully using anthropomorphic hamsters in their advertising for the past 4 years. Their latest commercial, which features the now famous hamsters totally transforming themselves into fit, stylish, head-turning machines (just like the new Kia Soul), has reached over 14 million views on YouTube!


Commonly, humanimals are not perceived as ‘real’ people. Despite being represented as humans with human emotions, their metaphoric status means that they can be represented without the ideological correctness and moral sensibilities required of humans today.

Orangina has a long tradition of using humanimals in their advertising. When they first launched their positioning, ‘Naturally Juicy’, they did so by introducing the sexiest anthropomorphic animals the world had ever seen. The highly ‘erotic’ scenes shown in their commercials are unlikely to have ever featured on national TV had they been performed by real people instead of humanimals.

In their latest campaign, Orangina introduces a new positioning ‘Stay Alive’, which continues to use humanimals as actors, but builds on humour rather than on the ‘juiciness’ of the characters.


Another way in which humanimals can aid brands in their advertising is by providing stand out. In the case of swimwear brand Arena, their campaign not only conveyed the brand’s message, “water instinct”, in a simple and direct way, but also left people with a highly impactful image that stuck in their mind and helped brand recognition.

DRAMATISATION – Nutrivet & Snickers

Associating human emotions with a specific product can be a very powerful tool. The advertising of Nutrivet’s Wild Salmon Oil (which treats pet hair loss) makes owners look at their pet’s problem as if it was their own; however, it is the use of humanimals, rather than a ‘normal’ cat and a dog, which dramatises the feeling of empathy and drives shoppers into action.

Finally, the use of a man-wolf, a man-shark and a man-alligator in the above Snickers campaign, perfectly dramatises the insatiable feeling of hunger that we all feel sometimes. As per previous examples, the unusual visuals certainly deliver impact and memorability.

If whilst reading this The Bank Currency you have developed a liking for humanimals, take a look at the work of Spanish photographer Miguel Vallinas and London-based artist Ana Rajcevic.