This is written in part for the ones new to advertising who didn’t experience the dawning of a cliché called Putting A Monkey Or Other Such Primate In An Ad. This is also written in part as a way to explore the idea that even at the risk of being labeled a cynic, questioning what is brought forth as the truth, even if there aren't ready answers available, is good exercise.
I’m not sure when it started. Maybe in 1971? But I’m not positive. You see, there have been Many of them. In fact a search of the word “Chimpanzee,” on adland brings up two pages worth.
“Gorilla,” brings up six pages worth of ads. And “Monkeys?” Nine pages worth.
Hell, a monkey had his own show in the late seventies, which capitalized on not one but two Clint Eastwood movies starring an orangutan. I have no idea what merchandise might have been offered to support the movies; there had to have been something though.
My point is, using a primate in an ad is so done it long ago stuck a fork in itself and turned over. Twice. So you should probably avoid it.
And yet here we are again with another damn monkey. This time as a maybe unwitting spokesman for Ikea. People are lapping up this social media sensation like it’s the first time a story like this happened. And this is good. Because we now know that a. this is the easiest way to get a brand out there and b. the viral media sensation is a cliché in and of itself now, and we'll hopefully avoid creating these in the future and try something new.
Here’s what I mean: Take an improbable situation, or a try to manufacture a pop culture phrase via urban dictionary or buzz feed. Attach said situation or phrase to a brand name. Create a parody twitter account, and boom. Social Media Sensation ensues. Or does it? And for how much longer? And how sustained is it, really? or effective? (Yeah, I'm looking at you Susan Glenn. )
What's interesting to me is that the Torontonians are asking questions via twitter such as "Will the Ikea Monkey run for mayor" and "Where did he get his coat," as opposed to, "Why does this feel like an ad to me."
Whoa whoa whoa, you say. Are you suggesting the #IkeaMonkey is a stunt of some kind?
Nah. It’s just totally happenstance that an unnamed owner of an illegal exotic pet, would dress it up in a fancy duds and send it over to Ikea in North York, Toronto.
It’s a complete coincidence that the first person on the scene is Bronwyn Page, an associate producer for Canadian media outlet CBC Radio 2, who was quick enough with the camera snap, and an insta-hashtag #ikeamonkey that she now uses in her Twitter bio.
And of course, Wendy Drummond, a spokesman for Toronto’s Police Force, would also easily use that hashtag in a tweet: “Toronto police not laying any charges in #ikeamonkey,….No further investigation/involvement by police." Har har har.
That's not even remotely fishy. I guess we chalk it up to that beautiful chaotic randomness called fate. Sure it’s kinda like the Bronx Zoo Cobra, but you know. It’s a happy accident, that just happened to repeat Ikea’s name over and over and over again.
The problem with the repetition of this kind though is that, ad or no, it's also becoming a cliché. Improbable situation. Hashtag. Viral spike. Then we forget about it. Even if this is a completely organic event, is this the best thing for advertisers to appropriate? Should we be selling more of this drivel? Look we're gonna give your brand a huge spike for about three days, it'll be awesome...
What happens when people outside of advertising also start to become a wee bit skeptical and think a bit critically about the improbable situation and the hashtag with the brand name they’re sharing and sharing? They might turn around and say “Hang on a second. This feels like an ad.”
So far, they haven't. But my Spidey senses are suggesting soon they will. And you know what follows when people feel like they’ve been duped? They get angry. And then they tune out. Put another way—would you really want to put up with another self-indulgent Joaquin Phoenix movie?
Back to the monkey. Is it real? Is it a stunt? Was Ikea behind it? And who is behind the Ikea Monkey parody twitter account? And how can it be a parody account when the whole thing feels like parody?
To quote an old commercial: "The world may never know."
All I know is, if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat and walks like a rat and acts like a rat,and hashtags like a rat, it’s probably a rat.
Even if it’s a monkey.