Should You Insert a Gorilla in Your Ads?

I was recently having lunch with an old friend for the first time in years, catching up on mutual friends, and jobs, and families, when he mentioned how much he and his elder daughter enjoyed a particular cellular phone ad.

He was able to recite a substantial portion of the dialog. He emphatically told me this was the best ad on television.

Out of curiosity, I asked the name of the advertiser.

He couldn’t remember.

Pause with me for just a moment, and let this admission soak in.

He remembered the ad, and couldn’t remember the advertiser.


How many millions of dollars has that advertiser spent to entertain my friend, his daughter, and hundreds of thousands of other people?

And they can’t even recall whom to thank.

I submit this is not the best ad on television.

In fact, would not a great ad accomplish exactly the opposite? You’d remember the advertiser, or his product or service, and not have any recollection of where your impressions of that advertiser came from?

Too many times advertisers seem to get it backwards. They want ads that look and sound like… ads. In fact, the more those advertisments look and sound like other ads, the more comfortable the advertiser is with the presentation.

The downside? The more they look and sound like other ads, the easier they are to ignore.

Think back with me a few days into our mutual past. Do you remember any ads catching your attention? Assuming you said, “yes,” did they catch your attention because of the sameness of those ads? Do you remember saying “My goodness… this ad appears to be more like all other ads than any I’ve seen this week. It stands out in my mind because of its ability to blend in with all of the others?

Or, did it stand out as different, and because of that difference become worthy of attention, and remembrance?

Be careful with that quality of memorability.

Are you remembering the advertiser, or the ad?

Making ads memorable is easy. Insert a gorilla in a jockstrap into your next ad. It will be noticed, and remembered. It may even be talked about. And much like the cellular telephone ad, it won’t sell a dime’s worth of your product.

Can we agree that the purpose of your ads is to communicate to a prospective customer that you have goods and services for sale? Can we agree that our objective is to persuade that prospective customer to come shop with you?

I submit that good ads, persuasive ads, communicate an idea which will be remembered. Once the idea is shared, the vehicle which carried it to the prospective customer is quickly forgotten.

When people are saying, “Hey, that’s a great ad,” chances are it’s not.


  1. Daniela Trifone

    I really enjoyed this post but I don’t agree with your point of view.

    A couple of years ago it happened in Italy the same thing as you described with a TV ad on online ING bank account.
    There were a gorillaz (what a coincidence :D) jingle and a big orange pumpkin and nobody knew ING new brand, so everyone was able to remember the pumpkin and the music but nobody recognized the ING brand.

    While the ad was on air, people started to search for “orange pumpking bank account” on italian search engines so ING started to bid on that keyword with their PPC campaign, that’s why I think that an ad like that can really work.

    Leave the ad by its own without thinking about the rest of the consumer experience is wrong, but I think that spreading the same message in other channels, stick to it for a long time and using it as an inspiration for a brand new easy to remember pay off and also using the same elements as part of instore communication can be a successful strategy 😉

  2. Anonymous

    People STILL don’t know what ING is.

    I’d doubt seriously that most people are curious enough to say “I can’t stand another minute of not knowing… let’s go to the web and look up orange pumpkin.”

    Most people would just assume that orange pumpkins have nothing to do with them, and ignore the ad… the kiss of death in advertising.