September 1, 2010

Is there a line between “inspired by” and just plain copying?

Posted in social media, trends at 9:46 am by Jennifer

Last week I read an article in the Globe tech section about everybody’s favorite smelling meme – Old Spice guy. The article was about the new Telus ads that seem to try to capture the same over the top bravado which made “Spice” such a great campaign. Many people are commenting that this is an obvious attempt to capitalize on a campaign that has been incredibly successful. Is this the case?

Where is the line between repurposing marketing tactics that worked for one promotion and pilfering them for your own brand?

One of my favorite campaigns was the Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty”. It made me smile, I loved the messaging and it started discussions between people about standards of beauty. Then came the campaign for “true beauty”. They subverted the Dove messaging to its very core, but in the end accomplished what they set out to achieve – to reply to the “real beauty” campaign by asserting they have their own tightly defined parameters of what “beauty” is. Did they try to capitalize off of the original campaign? Of course.

But back to the man I wish my man could smell like. I loved the campaign, still love the campaign BUT – was it the first of its kind? Is the sense of overconfident bravado, over the top claims blended with humor an original marketing concept? Not too long ago there was the most interesting man in the world – what would he have to say about Mr. Old Spice stealing his thunder?

At the end of the day many ideas will draw inspiration from something else, it’s a part of the creative process. But where we draw the line between plagiarism and inspiration is not necessarily always clear cut.




  1. John said,

    That’s a good point: the more plagiarism, the poorer the creative industries will be en masse, surely. As for the Old Spice ads — some of us are (sadly) old enough to remember these!

    PS: loving the picture from the fake prom, you look great 🙂

    • I don’t think that “plagiarism” is as clear a concept as we think it is. A lot of ideas come from previous ideas… look at the world of fashion as an example. Trends are “recycled”. Maybe so are marketing trends. (Remember all of the ads with cute animals?)

  2. I saw the Telus ads and wasn’t impressed. First thing I thought was “rip-off”. Old Spice did something new and fresh, so it was only a matter of time before someone (a third-place cell phone company) “borrowed” the idea. Too bad for all the money spent (and I’m sure there was a butt-load of it) people won’t remember Telus’ campaign in 5 years.

    • I agree, it wasn’t as well executed a campaign as Old Spice. I think their marketing dollars would have been better spent coming up with something fresh and new.

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