Carnivores and Herbivores Throw Down in Columbus Zoo’s Ridiculously Epic Rap Battle

And wait for Jack Hanna's breakdancing cameo

No animals were harmed in the making of this ad. Well, maybe the polar bear ate a fish, but that's about it. 

Ron Foth Advertising stages an epic rap battle between carnivores and herbivores for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Thankfully, the animals don't bust any rhymes or moves—but dozens of zoo staffers do, in a throwdown that gets pretty intense. 

It's feedin' time at the Columbus Zoo/I said meat or veggies, whatcha gonna chew?

Carnivores are cute, you can't resist 'em/Top of the food chain, digestive system.

Herbivores, that's who's leadin'/'Cause you don't wanna mess with a seven-ton vegan.

Those lines reference big-cat cubs and elephants, respectively. 

The zoo folks don't look so street in their light-blue shirts and khaki pants, though donning shaggy animal costumes ups the freak-ay quotient considerably: 

"A group of us were visiting the zoo looking for inspiration for this year's campaign," agency creative director David Henthorne tells AdFreak. "One of our kids asked a sweet old volunteer what the alligator eats. She went into a fantastic answer about the alligator being a carnivore, and what that meant, and the difference between carnivores and herbivores. Her answer had this amazing flow. Almost like a rapper. That got us thinking about old-school hip-hop rap battles."

Jack Hanna, the zoo's director emeritus and a familiar face from his many talk-show appearances—often with animals in tow—shows up toward the end for some frenetic breakdancing. Omnivores rock!

"We brought in an Emmy-winning choreographer to teach these zookeepers how to groove," Henthorne says. "They spent days rehearsing various routines, all incorporating bushels of veggies and protein." 

The team wisely plays it straight with the animals, simply filming the beasts in their zoo environments, or cradling smaller creatures in their arms, rather than using cheesy CGI to have the critters join in choruses or move hooves to the beat. (Though that cheetah looks like it would rather hang out with other cool cats at the supermarket.)

"The bigger the animals, the easier they were to film," Henthorne says. Elephants and giraffes generally stayed in place for the cameras, while smaller inhabitants tended to scurry away and ruin the shots. The penguins—they were the real divas. [And] who knew sleepy koalas could move so fast?" 

Along with the music video, the campaign includes TV and radio spots, digital elements and outdoor ads that show carnivores eyeing hamburgers on nearby billboards.


Client: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Agency: Ron Foth Advertising, Columbus

Creative Directors: Ron Foth, Jr., David Henthorne

Copywriters: Ron Foth, Jr., David Henthorne, Megan Small

Art Directors: Gene Roy, Mike Wilson, Nikki Murray

Director: Ron Foth, Jr.

Producers: Martin Nowak, Lisa Bauer

Editor: Martin Nowak

Audio: Doug Edwards

Music: Walker Hayes, Nashville

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.