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The First Advertising Campaign Made for Monkeys

Capuchin monkey Wikimedia

Advetising execs and scientists are experimenting with ads designed specifically to target capuchin monkeys like these. (Wikimedia)

A team of scientists and advertising executives unveiled the first ever advertising campaign tailor-made for monkeys at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival.

The two New York ad execs, Keith Olwell and Elizabeth Kiehner, were inspired by a TED talk by Laurie Santos, a Yale University primatologist who uses monkeys to study the human mind. Through Santos, Olwell and Kiehner learned that captive monkeys understand money and even behave like humans when placed in economic situations.

The next step was obvious: monkey advertising.

Owell and Kiehner quickly teamed up with Santos -- a collaboration with Yale University and Proton Studio -- with the ultimate goal of seeing whether they could influence monkey behavior with advertising, specifically providing the monkeys with two foods, one ad supported and the other not.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, advertising for monkeys isn’t all that different than ads for us: it involved a billboard campaign.

The team placed ads outside the monkey enclosures for a period of time, at which point the monkeys will be offered a choice of two foods. “The foods will be novel to them and are equally delicious,’ Olwell told New Scientist.

The experiment will also be used as an opportunity to test one of marketing’s oldest maxims -- sex sells.

And since the monkeys have limited (if any) language and culture and an extremely short attention span, sex was the obvious high impact option, one that easily spoke across species.

According to New Scientist, one of the billboards displayed a graphic shot of a female monkey with exposed genitals. Another -- part of the same campaign -- displayed an alpha male. 

Olwell already has a hypothesis on which campaign will be more successful. 

“Monkeys have shown in previous studies to really love photographs of alpha males and shots of genitals, and we think this will drive their purchasing habits," he said.

The team hopes to begin the experimental campaign in the coming weeks.