I saw a commercial yesterday for an insurance company. It was an eyecatching commercial because it had a huge talking gorilla in it. (You can see the commercial here.)
Actually, the gorilla caught my eye, then confused me to the point where I missed the product and the company. I had to use Google to track it down to reference it here.
Here's my problem with the ad. The basic setup is a guy leaves his company retirement party, gets into an elevator, and there's a huge gorilla in there telling him that his retirement nest egg isn't what it should be. Again, I missed the details on the product because I got hung up on the "800 pound gorilla in the room." It seemed like the ad was getting the metaphor mixed up with the elephant in the room.
The 800 pound gorilla is a metaphor for a large, uncontrollable force, like being partners with Microsoft. But that's not what the ad's gorilla was supposed to symbolize. He was supposed to symbolize the uncomfortable, unspoken, but obvious problem. That's the elephant in the room, not the 800 pound gorilla.
Then I looked up elephant in the room on Wikipedia, which states that it is "Also sometimes seen is the variant 800 pound gorilla in the room. This is a contamination from a separate idiom, '800 pound gorilla,' meaning a powerful contender."
So, if you're creating a commercial to get a message across about a product, do you really want your audience struggling with your 'contaminated idiom,' or do you want them listening to your message? Just use an elephant.
Maybe it's just me. Maybe everyone else got it.