News & Insights

Looking Backwards To Look Forwards: Gorilla

14 Aug 2023

Dan Tull


It’s important to be looking forward when approaching strategic advertising and marketing. Trying to find the next big “thing” is a crucial part of the strategy, whether it is a new technological development or a trend that can be capitalised on, marketers are always speculating and experimenting with the next steps. 

There must also be reflection during this process. We have to learn from the past in every way that we can, from the campaigns that succeeded to the ones that failed. In a world now dominated by the encroaching dominance of artificial intelligence based creativity, I think it’s a valuable exercise to look back at some of the most creative advertising campaigns in recent memory and look at what made them successful. We’ll start with a popular classic that in many ways redefined the way advertisers think. It started with a gorilla…


In 2007, TV viewers were greeted with what would go on to become an iconic part of culture. A video advert, 90 seconds in length that depicted a humble gorilla sat at a drum set to the music of Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight”. The board was set, the pieces in place and the final moment ready to play out. As the crescendo builds in the song, the gorilla metamorphosizes from calm, contemplative breathing to cathartic and energetic drumming.   

When the gorilla begins playing to the music, viewers everywhere were overjoyed with the bizarre performance on show. Even more strange was what this was advertising. One might have assumed they were watching an ad for a zoo or perhaps a wildlife conservation charity, maybe even something music related. 

Instead, it was Cadbury. 

The Cadbury's Gorilla advert is indeed a classic example of successful advertising. There are many reasons for this success, five of which we will explore here:

1. Emotional Resonance and Surprise:

You must remember that this video was released in 2007, a time where advertising was still following fairly traditional rules. YouTube existed but not in the way that it does today, meaning that the notion of “going viral” was not a term that was considered and therefore not something that audiences were prepared for. The unexpected juxtaposition of a gorilla playing drums with the anticipation of a chocolate advertisement created a memorable and unique experience that lingered in viewers' minds.

2. Memorable and Unique Concept:

The quirkiness of the advert ensured that the video remained embedded in audiences memories. Unlike its contemporaries, "Gorilla" took a creative leap by transcending the confines of traditional product-centric messaging. Instead, it offered a captivating narrative that wasn't focused on directly showcasing the chocolate product itself or elaborating on its features. The advert's audacious decision to feature a gorilla passionately drumming to Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" took viewers on an unexpected journey. This departure from the mundane and predictable not only caught audiences off guard but also left an indelible mark in their memories. 

3. Universal Appeal and Relatability:

One of the advert's ingenious strategies was its conscious avoidance of spoken words. By eschewing dialogue, the ad effectively overcame language barriers, ensuring that its message was not hindered by linguistic differences. This deliberate choice to communicate through visual and auditory cues allowed the advert to communicate on a primal, human level. As a result, the gorilla's drumming performance became a powerful form of nonverbal communication that required no translation, making the message universally accessible.

The heart of the advert lies in the portrayal of the gorilla's exuberant drumming performance. This portrayal exudes a genuine and unadulterated sense of joy that resonates with viewers across diverse cultures and age groups. The feeling of sheer delight evoked by the gorilla's enthusiastic drumming is a universal emotion that requires no translation. This universality of emotion allows the advert to forge an immediate and deep connection with a wide spectrum of viewers, fostering a sense of shared experience and relatability.

4. Strong Brand Association:

Throughout the advert, Cadbury adeptly intertwined its brand elements with the playful and lighthearted narrative. Despite the whimsical focus on a drumming gorilla, the Cadbury logo was the first thing present, serving as a subtle yet powerful reminder of the brand's identity. This strategic placement ensured that the audience's attention remained anchored to the Cadbury name even as the story unfolded.

5. Multi-Channel Engagement:

The unparalleled success of Cadbury's Gorilla advert can be attributed, in part, to its masterful execution of a multi-channel engagement strategy that leveraged various platforms to amplify its impact. By effectively promoting the advert across a diverse range of channels, Cadbury ensured widespread visibility and prolonged engagement, ultimately leading to increased brand recognition and resonance.

The strategic distribution of the advert extended beyond traditional television broadcasting. Cadbury astutely recognized the power of online platforms and social media in shaping modern consumer behaviour. By disseminating the advert across digital spaces, including websites, video-sharing platforms, and social networking sites, Cadbury tapped into the vast potential of the digital landscape.

One of the defining strengths of the advert's multi-channel strategy was the buzz it generated through online sharing and discussions. Viewers, captivated by the unexpected and delightful content, enthusiastically shared the advert with their networks, triggering a chain reaction of user-generated content and discussions. This organic amplification extended the advert's reach far beyond its initial airing, ensuring that its impact was sustained over an extended period.

What Can Brands Learn From This?

Looking at “Gorilla”, we can see that there are unique ideas and concepts here that go against what might traditionally be considered successful, and yet the advert remains ubiquitous with the term. It’s particularly impactful when looking at some of the concerns surrounding AI and creativity. If I were to input all of the brand language, tone of voice and service offerings of Cadbury into an AI with the intention of generating creative campaigns, it would likely come up with some great examples that would work on a generic basis. But it is in the strange and wonderful minds of humans that examples such as “Gorilla” emerge to such roaring success. For that reason alone, we can sit back in comfort knowing full well that the human spark of genuine creativity will always be present in the process of pushing powerful ideas into the world. 

When marketers seek to look outside the box for new and disruptive strategies, looking to the past can be a great place to start. Get in touch with us today to talk about your marketing challenges.

Get in touch with us today to talk about your marketing challenges

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