Truth in Advertising

Before I begin, I need to say that I have liked many of my jobs. I have enjoyed the people I have worked with and sometimes even liked a boss or two, in that “I respect you” sort of way. But that never stopped me from thinking, “Man, why are we always being told to copy someone else’s concept?” Why is it, when we get a new project, our concepts are often times thrown out because __ Graphic Design Firm did something that won an award and therefore we should try and do something more like that?

I thought it was just something that took place while working for firms who weren’t working with high-profile clients, known across the U.S. or the world for a new concept or campaign. For example, I was designing logos for non-profits, government groups and small local restaurants not huge fortune 500 corporations who had commercial space on every major network, not multi-billion dollar fast food chains, not Quaker Oats. I just always figured that this didn’t happen up at the top. I knew that Pentagram didn’t copy concepts. And Landor didn’t rip off entire campaigns. This had to stop somewhere right above the level of exposure I was used to dealing with.

But that’s just not the case.

When Burger King came up with their the Wake up with the King ad campaign, it was instantly a hit. It was an uncomfortable hit, but a hit nonetheless. People were talking about how weird it was. Everyone recognized the King. When the ads came on, Toby Joe and I stopped whatever it is we were doing to revel in its weirdness, and our own discomfort. Among all the “I’m Lovin’ It” ads they did something great, they had their low-grade, craptastic meat noticed again.

We were both a little disturbed when Quaker Oatmeal followed suit. Basically, whatever marketing firm worked with Quaker Oatmeal in coming up with their new ads featuring this plastic looking fella standing in a field holding food for a family of five (give or take) ripped BK’s team off entirely. It was annoying. But I let it go.

That is up until today.

The other night, I was watching TV when a White Castle ad aired. And wouldn’t you know, but the VERY same idea was laid out before me. And my head exploded a little bit.

Are we such unoriginal creatures that we need to blatantly rip people off? Are we really that lame? One of my biggest pet peeves in life is just how unoriginal and predictable people can be. Just once, I want to spend one entire month pleasantly surprised. What makes this happen? Fear?

Why are advertisers/account executives/CEOs/business franchises afraid to make people think? When did we start working towards the lowest common denominator?

Next week, I’ll talk about just how bad I think the Oneify print graphics are. (Tho, admittedly, they look better on screen than as 6 foot tall subway posters. Yikes.)

17 Comments

  1. sort of like how one decides to put mustard in an upside down bottle, and they all do the same?
    or when one decides to make lysol into wipes you pull out of the tub, and then there are 40 others doing the same?

    i look forward to seeing all the new rx bottles.

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  2. Seriously, can’t someone ANYONE be innovative, like ever? I see the blandness all the time, so I might just be overly sensitive towards it. But when the “big guys” are doing it, it’s just so damn depressing.
    And the Miller Lite subway ads hinting towards anal sex (or just sex from behind), those annoy the crap out of me, too.

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  3. I’m not the most artistically original person, because I lack talent. I am, however, a quazi-decent musician- and I feel the same sense of disgust with what I hear on the radio these days. Oh, yeah…that band is swell. I liked them better when they were called “Alice in Chains”. Burns my ass, it does.

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  4. Well, maybe I’m off on this, but communication like advertising isn’t always about “standing out” from the crowd but “fitting into” your target market’s life, language and expectations. Of course, if your job is to create this stuff, I can see why you crave the opportunity to be original. But if you’re like most people (and remember, MOST people voted for GWB last fall) you may not want “creative” because you don’t understand or trust it. Creativity requires risk, and when millions of dollars are at stake, those risks can be awful high. I guess that’s your point, right?

    Maybe I’m just too vain/proud of my critical awareness, but I am no longer dismayed by our culture’s lack of appreciation for the creative and critical. I USED to feel as you did (when I was a teacher), but now I realize that it’s just not healthy to wish that others were not the way they are.

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  5. “but now I realize that it’s just not healthy to wish that others were not the way they are.”

    funny, this is what many clients have probably thought in reference to me

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  6. Side note: you know, that burger king guy is really fucking creepy.

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  7. Is it wrong that I kinda like the “oneify” guys? Just a little? Maybe in a I-don’t-completely-HATE-them kind of way?

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  8. it’s not wrong at all. I wanted to like them. At first I think I did. But after spending a month walking an avenue underground through the Grand Central Terminal I’m starting to fear them. The literally line the entire underground from the 42nd subway entrance all the way to the Park Avenue 4/5/6. AND THEY ARE FUCKING HUGE! ;]

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  9. I’d rather other companies copy BK’s creepy statue than the Hootie commercials.

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  10. ha haha! You know, I have yet to see these Hootie ads. How very sad. I feel incomplete. :/

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  11. I agree with ya, charlie, except on the example given here. It’s correct that the bleeding edge usually only pays off for the wave of deritive works, and I’m comfortable with that. My gripe with the Quaker copy of BK is that it’s not just the space that they’re recognizing but a very specific idea. It’s become a very big deal to market in “weird” ways and to do bizarre stuff, pull stunts, and have quirky creative. That’s fine. This Quaker example is just way too close. It’s like doing a “Subservient Turkey” as a copy of Barbarian Group’s Subservient Chicken campaign for BK last year.

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  12. White Castle’s new ad is even closer.

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  13. well at least no one is copying the drowned dead rats from quiznos.

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  14. i thought about that, too. But figured that one was TOO weird for people. Tho, I have to say, it put Quiznos back on the map. heh Didn’t they just pull a Budweiser WAZZZUPPPP and use found internet shit anyway?

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  15. Oh holy crap. Those Hootie ads were wrong on 18 levels…

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  16. Today, I noticed on my way home that they took down the ads in GCS. Instead of ONEIFY ads there are now HSBC ads everywhere. And, by that, I must conclude that the person selling advertising in Grand Central reads mihow.com.

    P.S. I must see these Hootie ads.

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  17. WE LOVE THE SUBS! CAUSE THEY ARE GOOD TO US!

    Reply

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