The Animal Farm and Advertising

This topic may seem a little strange. What does George Orwell’s Animal Farm have to do with Advertising?

To truly comprehend this, first let’s revisit the Animal Farm with a short summary and a re-introduction to its characters.

Summary of the Animal Farm

The Animal Farm is an essay about farm animals who take control of the farm, by overthrowing human control. The animals feel mistreated by their master Farmer Jones, and they conspire and succeed in ousting him out. Once they are liberated from the despot Jones, their life on the farm becomes productive for some time. There is also the promise of a joyful fate with less work, better training and more food. However, a power struggle ensues between the two pigs Napoleon and Snowball. Napoleon forcibly seizes power and winds up misusing the animals similarly as Farmer Jones had done. The essay concludes with the pigs behaving and even dressing exactly like the human-beings that the creatures attempted to dispose of in the first place.

Key Characters

The Old Major – Old Major is Mr Jones’ prize boar. He assembles the animals together in the big barn to make a speech. He is well respected, a good speaker and is the one who first gives hint of the rebellion but dies soon after.

Napoleon – is one of the three pigs that takes The Old Major’s ideas and uses it to encourage the animal rebellion. He is not a talented speaker but gets his own way somehow through preventing others from making their points. Eventually, he becomes as much of a tyrant as Mr Jones the farmer and mistreats the other animals.

Snowball – Snowball is one of the key pigs who takes the teachings of Old Major and turns them into a way of thinking called ‘Animalism’. He is intelligent, comes up with new ideas and cares about the farm animals. His plans involve providing education and better conditions on the farm. Napoleon uses him as a scapegoat, and eventually has him chased off the farm by dogs as he perceives him as a threat.

Boxer – a horse is a hard worker, strong, loyal and caring. Sadly, he is so loyal, that the pigs take advantage of this and work him until he collapses. Then they sell him to the horse slaughterer so that they can buy more whisky. Whenever something goes wrong, he blames himself and vows to work even harder.

So, how does the Animal Farm relate to Advertising?

  1. Advertising Campaigns can be used to achieve good or bad objectives

Propaganda, which the Animal Farm is based on, is an exceptionally powerful type of Marketing. Frequently, it is extremely proficient in communicating and planting polarising thoughts and ideas. In the Animal Farm, it is clear that Orwell is depicting a dictatorship regime through his allegory. He wanted to sound his peers about the true nature of the so-called “ideal” communist model.

The Animal farm includes themes like propaganda, spinning the truth, speeches, fear mongering and anthems. All of these find a place in marketing and advertising campaigns. And can be used powerfully for good or evil. Particularly, in political campaigning.

2. Selecting the Right Target Audience

The target group is changeable, contingent upon how big the client’s piece of the overall industry is. In the case of a wide audience, advertisers should plan separate advertisements for each targeted segment. So, a business that works on a global scale, would create separate promotions for each localised target group, or the marketing messages will be irrelevant and won’t convert into sales. To put it plainly, it’s simpler to achieve message recall when it appeals directly to the target.

This is suitably demonstrated in the Animal Farm. When Napoleon wants to gain acceptance for a new and modified farm doctrine, he chooses his target audience very carefully. He doesn’t attempt to convince Benjamin, the intelligent donkey. Instead, he gets his orator Squealer to convince the most gullible and easily influenced animals on the farm, the sheep. So, he used two attributes to decide his strategy; quantity and ease. He needed larger numbers to quell the opposition and he needed those who were easy to convince. The sheep were a perfect match.

Advertisers should take these considerations into account when deciding messages and campaigns.

3. The power of Story-telling

Story-telling is such a solid instrument to gain brand recall that it’s confounding that it’s not used better and more frequently by marketers. Orwell’s story makes more of a mark because it uses allegory to liken the situation of the farm animals to the Russian revolution.

The relatability and engaging nature of a story makes it simpler and pierces the target audience better than a bland piece of advertising. Orwell likened Russian socialists to pigs and managed to get away with it.

He created stereotypes exemplified by the farm animals. Don’t they fit individuals you know or work with? The tyrannical boss, the work horse, the shrewd donkey, the adorable but useless cat.

4. The Herd Mentality

Everybody wants to fit in and belong. Effective advertising tells the audience they should do something, buy something or support something because other people are doing it too. Ad campaigns that appeal to a person’s need “to belong” are often more successful. For instance brands like Levis, Coca Cola and Nike make use of the social and cultural context to do this very effectively. Even if the messaging is aimed at helping people stand out, ultimately “standing out” is also a way of fitting in and being accepted.

The Animal Farm depicts how Napoleon uses herd mentality to gain support for his doctrines and causes.

5. Promises and Lies in Corporates

Work hard but don’t allow yourself to be manipulated . Keep upgrading and re-thinking your goals. There is a time to be Boxer, the work horse who is loyal and supportive. And there is a time to be Benjamin the donkey- the whistleblower who cautions everyone when something seems to be wrong.

The story of the construction of the windmill is a cautionary tale for marketers. The animals are promised “heaters and hot and cold waters” as recompense for building the windmill. After much hardship and sacrifice, the windmill is built. And then they must build another to generate electricity because the first one will be used for another purpose. Doesn’t this bring to mind that tough project you worked on that ultimately went nowhere?

6. Ego-Tripping

Ego-tripping is also known as the snob appeal. It’s a play on the desire for the finer and fancier things in life. Better working and living conditions were promised to the farm animals in order to gain their support to overthrow Mr. Jones.

Luxury brands like Mercedes and Mont Blanc make use of aspirational advertising to drive traction and sales.

7. Effective Use of Slogans

The Animal Farm makes ample use of slogans to further the cause of its leaders.

For instance :

“Four legs good, two legs bad.”

– The sheep

This chant began as a simpler way to vocalize the ideals of the rebellion in the minds of the less intelligent animals. It also helped to outst Mr. Jones during the rebellion.

“Four legs good, two legs better.”

– The sheep

This slogan then evolved into a way to suppress any thoughts that were against Napoleon’s leadership.

Nike’s “Just do it” and Apple’s “Think Different” have now become anthems that cut across the demographic and intelligence spectrum. It also boils down to repetition, repetition, repetition. Repetition establishes credibility and brand familiarity. According to the book “Advertising : Principles and Practice”, an advertisement must be repeated at least nine times before potential customers acquire enough interest to purchase the product or service.

8. A Free and Fair Playing Field

All said and done, it’s sobering to realize that we market in a level playing field where we can advertise our products and services freely. Well, most often anyway. The internet and social media in particular have opened up possibilities that didn’t exist earlier.

To Summarize :

“All Animals are Equal but some Animals are more Equal than others.”

– George Orwell

As long as there have been markets, there have always been marketers or advertisers with more insider knowledge than others. Is the current marketplace truly fair or are some players establishing their monopoly subtly but surely?

Animal Farm started with a dream. A dream for a brighter future for the farm animals with better living and working conditions. However, in the end, most of the animals got old, some died and the younger ones were brain-washed and under Napoleon’s control.

Some dreams die. Others are forgotten. As marketers, we should work hard but never lose sight of the end objective or goal. Enough said.


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