Do monkeys respond to sex in advertising?
That’s what a team of advertising professionals, market researchers and primatologists is seeking to discover.
I attended a seminar at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity where Elizabeth Kiehner and Keith Orwell did a marvelous job explaining their research project. I also learned that the test subjects, Capuchin monkeys, share up to 98% of human DNA.
The marketers teamed up with Laurie Santos of the Yale primatology lab. Dr. Santos has done some ground breaking work with Capuchins, including teaching them how to use money. Advertising seems like a natural if you want to part monkeys and their money. Sex in advertising is first in a serious of studies designed to see if monkeys can be shown to respond to advertising.
The concept for the sexual ad is built around the monkeys’ natural behavior. We were told that female Capuchins publicly masturbate. The males find this behavior intriguing and copulation naturally follows observation. This sexual behavior sequence happens frequently each day.
So, the creative team designed an ad featuring the female Capuchin in all her glory. They paired this image (and a non-sexual image) with a logo. The hypothesis is that the sexual image will result in a behavioral preference when just the logo is available.
I suspect the researchers will discover a sexual effect. Sex is a powerful motivator that should become associated with through simple conditioning with a brand logo. We know these effects translate in the marketplace with humans. With such a shared heritage, we should expect the same with Capuchins.
It would be really interesting to see if the monkeys vary in their affinity to sexual stimuli. Working with Michael LaTour and John Ford, we just reported in JAR that personality variables as well as moral reasoning influence human responses to nudity in advertising. I want to know if the same is true for monkeys.
We look forward to hearing the results of this intriguing study.