Additionally, the study explains, animals are what give an advertisement meaning. "If most consumers associate positive cultural meanings with specific animal characters, advertisers can exploit those meanings," the researchers write. And, according to another study, "consumers are influenced by both the symbolic meanings that have been culturally assigned to that animal as well as the physical attractiveness and likeability of how the animal is portrayed."
That would explain why some animals actually don't work in Super Bowl commercials -- especially when efforts to use them for entertainment cross the boundary between cute and cruel. Chimpanzees, for example, used to be a popular feature of Super Bowl commercials, but when it became clear that many of the young chimp actors -- who, because of their age and small size, were more suitable for acting than adult apes -- concern for the animals' treatment became more important than whatever they were selling. Now, few companies are willing to use live apes in commercials, in part because their advertisers won't even suggest it. Instead, they've started replacing them with other animals -- like bears -- that audiences find equally lovable.