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HomeUncategorizedA chimpanzee brought Xerox to the masses

A chimpanzee brought Xerox to the masses

Under the Influence

Duplicating paper so easy, a monkey could do it. That is, with the approval of the FCC.

CBC Radio


(Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

Under the Influence27:26When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It: The George Lois Story

One day, a new tech company called Haloid-Xerox knocked on adman George Lois’s door. The company made a newfangled machine called a photocopier. The first order of business was the company’s name. Lois’s agency recommended shortening it to Xerox.

The Xerox 914 photocopier made duplicating simple and easy. Just put the original on the glass, press two buttons and the copy would come out the other end. So Lois and company created a commercial where a businessman is sitting at his desk and hands a sheet of paper to his young daughter.

Little Debbie skips to the Xerox machine, puts the paper on the glass, pushes two buttons, the copy comes out the other end, then gives it to her father, who asks, “Which one is the original?”

Overnight, Xerox became famous.

But, the commercial generated complaints. Competitors said no photocopier could work that easy or that fast. They said the ad exaggerated the speed of the machine. The FCC got involved and told Xerox to pull the commercial off the air. Lois then offered to produce a new commercial and invited the FCC to attend the actual filming.

He had a plan. He wanted to film the exact same commercial again – shot by shot – in front of the FCC. Except this time, they wouldn’t cast a little girl. They would cast a chimpanzee.

As the camera rolled, the FCC watched as a chimp grabbed the paper. He then waddled over to the photocopier, pressed two buttons, made a copy and brought it back to the businessman. In real time:

Now Lois had an even stronger commercial – proving the copier was so simple to use, even a monkey could do it. The country went ape for Xerox.

For more on adman George Lois and other stories from Under the Influence, click or tap the play button above to hear the full episode. Find more episodes on the CBC Listen app or subscribe to the podcast.

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