Polar bears: in advertising and reality

While I was travelling through Europe earlier this year, I couldn’t help but notice that polar bears featured in all sorts of advertisements. From strong and fearsome warriors, to cute and cuddly fluff toys, they are used to sell a diverse range of products from cars to mints to light bulbs. They are definitely not shown to be stinky or poisonous to eat (more on the reality below)!

No doubt Coca Cola has been most successful at combining a product with a polar bear. First introduced in 1922, the polar bears are recurring characters and fundamental elements in Coke folklore. It’s grown into a fully fledged Arctic affair; with Coke pledging more than US$40 million to support the native creatures of the harsh far north.

This is the latest interpretation of the Coke polar bear family which has screened this year on television. The polar cubs are a later addition to the family:

One freezing Parisian day, I used the Paris metro and saw another ad featuring the head and skin of a polar bear. This provocative ad was for Jean Paul Gaultier’s new fragrance Le Beau Male, suggesting hot and cold seduction. The fragrance reinterprets the original Le Male, which introduces a new archetype of male: the sensual sailor. According to Gaultier, Le Beau Male “is the scent of freshness which makes men hot”. The ad is composed and photographed by Norwegian artist Solve Sundsbo.

Jean Paul Gaultier fragrance, snapped in the Paris metro

Jean Paul Gaultier fragrance ad, snapped in the Paris metro.

The next ad I saw was literally advertising the polar bear as a product – at Copenhagen Zoo! A version of this web banner ad was also seen in the Copenhagen underground metro.

Advertising the newly opened ‘Artic Circle’ exhibit, featuring polar bears. Also featured in an underground metro ad. Source: Copenhagen Zoo

And then I started googling… A grey bear turns into a polar bear, when it jumps through the mint with the hole.

Polar bear Polo mint, by JWT Dubai

Polo mints: the mint with the hole, by JWT Dubai. Source: ibelieveinadv

Greenpeace ad? The irony is subtle and probably a bit too vague to understand if you have a hangover.

In order to survive, we all have to push our limits, by Greenpeace. Source Greenpeace.

And this ad tries to equate the Toyota Landcruiser as being the top of the food chain through x-ray vision.

Toyota Landcruiser: ‘Be top of the food chain’, by Saatchi and Saatchi, Australia. Source: Ads of the world

Another car brand using the cute polar cub to promote a heatable steering upon request.


The next ad below is contradictory. It’s promoting an energy-saving light bulb so cold (and efficient?) that it could be mistaken for an iceberg. I wonder what should happen to the polar bear swimming in the water if you could switch the lightbulb ‘on’.

Energy Saver Light Bulbs: “POLAR BEAR” Print Ad by DDB London. Source: Coloribus

So what have I heard about polar bears in the Artic?

  • Contrary to belief, polar bears don’t come walking into settlements that often. One bear did swing by near Nuuk last year, however, and it ended up frozen in a nature institute.
  • If you do go out camping in the wild, it’s safest to bring a gun. A polar bear will likely attack if they see a human, as they are a predator.
  • If you would like to eat a polar bear, it’s common knowledge up here to boil it for at least six hours. Due to the man-made pollution in the sea, high amounts of heavy metals are found in the creatures’ bodies. Seals also have these metals, however just below the danger point, so feel free to eat them! Since polar bears are eating lots of seals, they have deadly doses of dangerous stuff in their body. A polarphile also told me that women of childbearing age shouldn’t eat it full stop. So…don’t eat a polar bear unless you’re sure you know what you’re doing 😉

And that’s all folks!


4 thoughts on “Polar bears: in advertising and reality

  1. Pingback: Video: A polar bear and a samsung washer | The Fourth Continent

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