The objective, says Olwell, is to see if advertising can make brown capuchins change their behaviour. The team will create two brands of food – the team is considering making two colours of jello – specifically targeted at brown capuchins, one supported by an ad campaign and the other not.
How do you advertise to monkeys? Easy: create a billboard campaign that hangs outside the monkeys' enclosure.
"The foods will be novel to them and are equally delicious," Olwell says. Brand A will be advertised and brand B will not. After a period of exposure to the campaign, the monkeys will be offered a choice of both brands.
Santos plans to kick off the experimental campaign in the coming weeks. "If they tend toward one and not the other we'll be witnessing preference shifting due to our advertising," Olwell says.
But what kind of advertising might a capuchin--without language, pop culture, or an appreciation for human aesthetics--find appealing? The answer is simple, if wholly unrelated to the food in question:
One billboard shows a graphic shot of a female monkey with her genitals exposed, alongside the brand A logo. The other shows the alpha male of the capuchin troop associated with brand A.
Olwell expects brand A to be the capuchins' favoured product. "Monkeys have been shown in previous studies to really love photographs of alpha males and shots of genitals, and we think this will drive their purchasing habits."
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