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23 October 2014updated 22 Jul 2021 4:36am

Why the hell is there a sad orangutan in the Scottish and Southern Energy adverts?

We've uncovered the TRUTH behind Maya, the SSE orangutan, and why she is so interested in how escalators work despite being from Borneo. Pulitzer plz.

By Anoosh Chakelian

What the bloody hell does an orangutan have to do with electricity generation?

Anyone who’s seen Scottish and Southern Energy’s recent billboards, online campaign, or even its advertisement in this week’s New Statesman, will come across the giant, mournful face of an orangutan, incongruously pictured next to a tagline about the FTSE 100.

But why? Why is this sad ape so closely involved in SSE’s energy provision? Is it that excessive western energy consumption is destroying its home in the rainforest? Or a reminder that one of the many wonderful things energy provides us is the ability to make big, superfluous CGI higher primates for bad adverts?


Here’s what a weary-sounding spokesperson for SSE tells me:

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The orangutan is a vehicle for being in awe of things you can do with energy. It usually lives in the rainforest, and is suddenly seeing things like cooking and lighting for the first time.

It’s to show energy through fresh eyes. It gently reminds people that energy is taken for granted but does amazing things.

Such amazing things, according to the TV ad, as escalators, a hob, tacky light fittings and a laptop screensaver.

Here’s a quick run-down:

Maya, the unhappy energy ape, finds herself in the big city.

Her handsome profile is silhouetted against the bright lights of the big city for a bit.

She feels downhearted that such a wonderful array of garish lighting is unavailable to her in the rainforest.

Probably having seen some pissed Portuguese tourists scaling Eros, she decides to do some acrobatics in Piccadilly Circus.

She looks briefly devastated about the idea of onshore wind power.

Returning to her tropical home, Maya tells her baby about the wondrous escalator and hobs she’s seen.

You can find out how – but not quite why – SSE made this advert by clicking here. It involves a man bouncing around on his hands and knees for money.

And if you still need it at this stage, here’s the full advert:

The orangutan’s relationship to energy production has perpelexed some of the country’s finest journalistic minds:

Meanwhile, the Guardian, being the Guardian, have taken five minutes off from writing pieces about why no one should be writing pieces about Renee Zellweger’s face in order to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the use of orangutans in energy company adverts.

“This is a culpably crass example of cheap lazy advertising thinking, that exploits innate human biophilia and connection with nature in the most cynical way possible,” Ed Gillespie writes. We would be outraged too, but we have no idea what “biophilia” means. Is he suggesting people want to have sex with the orangutan? Because that is a bit gross.

SSE’s spokesperson added, forlornly:

By the way, it’s important to say that it’s a CGI orangutan. No real monkeys [sic] were used. A lot of people are asking us if it’s real.

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