Whoa, Sony Trained This Octopus to Take Photos of Visitors to Its Aquarium

An octographer after only three tries

Holy mackerel, this octopus can use a camera!

Sony and FCB Auckland trained a female octopus named Rambo (no relation) to take pictures with a Cyber Shot TX30 camera for this captivating minute-long video.

This particular sea creature was used to promote the water- and shock-resistant camera because octopuses are among the most intelligent denizens of the deep. (Besides, clams can't take direction, and lobsters are too darn tasty.)

A special rig helped Rambo push a shutter button to capture images of visitors outside her tank at Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium in New Zealand. Rambo's trainer, Mark Vette, says it took her just three attempts to understand the process, though at times she behaved like an eight-armed diva, smashing several cameras to bits during a two-month training process. (Elsewhere, this little dude mastered octo-selfies in no time!)

Sony's "Octographer" ad has gotten nearly 400,000 YouTube views in a week and lots of media play. Still, the brand message, while present in most coverage, has been somewhat overshadowed by the sheer novelty of a photo-taking octopus, especially in casual social mentions. For many, Rambo is the breakout star, while the camera is an afterthought. Props to the cephalopod for playing her mammalian, land-lubbing overlords for suckers.

FCB group account director Toby Sellers answered some of our questions about the stunt.

Why use an octopus?

We wanted to show the world that even an amateur photographer can take amazing underwater photos with Sony's TX30. That led us to the idea of using a photographer who actually lives underwater.

They are one of the most intelligent underwater creatures, so we felt they would be a really good fit with our amazing underwater camera. We enlisted the help of Mark Vette, the animal expert behind our hugely successful "Driving Dogs" campaign (for Mini and the SPCA). He was really excited about the chance.

Was the concept a tough sell?

FCB Auckland had a lot of success with the "Bottled Walkman" campaign, so Sony was keen to see what we could do with their TX30. Their first reaction to the idea was amazement that it could be pulled off. We talked them through the plan we had developed with Mark, and they got very excited.

Was it more difficult than you imagined?

This project was far harder than any of us imagined it would be. Rambo got her name because the first few times we put the rig in the water she wanted to fight it. You could say she drew first blood. Despite the reports that it only took three tries [to learn the process], Rambo and Mark worked their way through 10 rigs and nearly as many cameras.

What would you say to activists who disapprove of using animals in ads?

Mark Vette and Kelly Tarlton only agreed to be involved because the process was enriching for the octopus. These creatures thrive in an environment where they are being mentally stimulated. When you have nine brains, you need to keep yourself occupied. So the project was not only fun for the octopus involved, it was also a chance to show the public how amazing these creatures are. The money people paid to have their photos taken goes to Kelly Tarlton's Marine Life Trust.

Tell me about the April 10 photo event at the aquarium.

Rambo had a great time. She photographed over 100 visitors. Many were there because they had seen the story on TV, but a few foreign tourists just walked in and lined up. They were blown away to have their photos taken by the world's first Octographer, and we were happy to give them a unique memento of their visit.


Client: Sony

Agency: FCB Auckland, New Zealand

Regional Executive Creative Director: James Mok

Executive Creative Directors: Tony Clewett, Regan Grafton

Writer: Peter Vegas

Art Directors: Leisa Wall, Christiaan Van Noppen

Head of Content, Executive Producer: Pip Mayne

Head of Art: Nick Smith

Director, Director of Photography: Michael Braid

Group Account Director: Toby Sellers

Account Director: Hannah Downes

Account Executive: Laura Little

Lead Behaviourist, Animals on Q: Mark Vette

Assistant Handlers, Animals on Q: Jazmin Vette dal Bello, Rosie Miles

Curator, Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium: Andrew Christie

Marketing Manager, Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium: Claire Wheeler

Rig Developers, Harrison & Watkins Ltd.: Harry Harrison, Blair Muchamp

Director of Photography, Event Coverage, Traction Films: Nic Fay

Editor, 6Twenty: Simon Wade

Editor, FCB: Grant Nicholson

Media Director: Rachel Leyland

Media Planner, Buyer: Erin McCaughley

General Manager, Public Relations: Angela Spain

Senior Account Director, Public Relations: Kimberley Kastelan

Digital Director: Kate Grigg

Customer Experiences Director: Ele Quigan

Music Composer: Peter van der Fluit

Music Composition: Liquid Studios

Studio Producer: Sarah Yetton

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com 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.