CLOSE-UP: PERSPECTIVE; Could you have a truly original idea more than once?

Blimey! If you can’t use your own column to ask naive questions, what’s the point of having one? All I said last week was: ‘What is this obsession with being the biggest agency?’ Cue abuse. Never mind - this week’s question is about the fascinating issue of ad authorship.

Blimey! If you can’t use your own column to ask naive questions, what’s

the point of having one? All I said last week was: ‘What is this

obsession with being the biggest agency?’ Cue abuse. Never mind - this

week’s question is about the fascinating issue of ad authorship.



‘Success has many fathers, failure is a bastard,’ is my favourite

epithet about the ad industry. The best thing about it being the many

weird things that people actually want to lay claim to. I don’t mean

Wonderbra or Pentax or ‘Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet’, but the

people who get excited about their 25-year-old ad for Polyfilla being

ripped off in the latest condom campaign (I made that up!).



Currently my happy little file includes J. Walter Thompson Manchester

moaning that TWA ripped off an ad it did for Virgin Holidays; Senior

King claiming British Airways ripped off an ‘A to B via Zzz’ ad it did

for Scandinavian Seaways; Simons Palmer complaining that the new Levi’s

work starring older models rips off its Nike print work; and, of course,

the Citroen versus Volkswagen saga.



Worse, I’ve made the mistake of championing media planning as the

creative of the future. So what happens? Media planners start behaving

just like creatives. Scarcely a ‘media choice’ goes by without someone

else claiming they did it first in the 80s, or saw it in hieroglyphics

at Luxor. The latest is McCann-Erickson complaining about the new Abbott

Mead Vickers ‘Kill Your Speed’ placements in TV listings. Not many

people recall it was done first for Gold Blend in1993.



I don’t wish to belittle these complaints (too much). I guess people are

what they’ve done, and to be associated with a good idea on your CV will

help your salary prospects. Also, I know how much it irritates us here

when our competitors rip off a regular feature, and dress it up under

another name, or Robin Wight ‘borrows’ Campaign articles for the Times

or Tatler. But we don’t go writing to 07.06.96 (the magazine formerly

known as the UK Press Gazette) about it.



So, finally, this week’s naive question is a two-parter - A: why does it

matter so much that the idea is all-time original (even I get the point

about original this year) as long as it’s relevant for the client? and

B: do creatives really think that other people don’t innocently have

ideas like ‘A to B via Zzz’ when the brief says ‘travel in comfort’?



Just questions for discussion, honest. After all, Hollywood has made a

virtue out of the saying ‘there are only five film scripts’. Can’t

advertising? Well, John Hegarty’s use of the classic 60s Hamlet ad where

a man walks into a launderette and takes his trousers off and puts them

into a machine hasn’t exactly done Levi’s or Bartle Bogle Hegarty any

harm, has it?



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