Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dothetestgate, Day 2

So I talked to Kit & Tom. I can assure you - neither is the Antichrist. They're good guys. For reasons I am sure you will all understand, they couldn't say anything about the situation.

A WCRS spokesperson did make this statement to Brand Republic:

"We are facing criticism relating to copyright on the cycling safety TV ad. We have been assured that this execution does not infringe copyright. We feel it is a powerful message and is one that will have an impact on this very serious issue."

I also got in touch with Professor Daniel Simons at the University of Illinois, who made the original film. Here's what he said:

"From what little I understand about British copyright law, the advertisement was probably within the letter of the law given that they made some minor changes from my version (e.g, 8 players rather than 6, a bear suit rather than a gorilla suit). In any case, I'm not interested in pursuing a legal or publicity fight with an ad agency or with the British government. I'd rather let this just run its course
without too much additional attention."

"That said, I am unhappy about what the advertising agency and TfL have done. Nobody from the advertising agency or TfL contacted me to ask about my work, and there was no need to duplicate what I did so closely. I have helped other advertising agencies in the past (for free) to come up with variants of this effect that would be closer to the purpose of their advertising campaign and less clearly duplicating what I did (e.g., I helped advise an ad agency developing a web-based
ad for Hyundai last year). It would have been easy to come up with a scenario that actually involved a failure to see a cyclist and that didn't involve people in animal costumes or passing basketballs."

"I do like the goal of the campaign -- I often speak about the effects of inattention on accidents involving cyclists and motorcyclists myself. I'm just frustrated that they didn't bother to contact me (I'm easy to find) given that they based their ad so closely on my work. Even if they were legally within their rights to do what they did given British copyright laws, it would have been a nice courtesy,
and I could have helped them to come up with a much more targeted ad for their campaign that didn't duplicate my work so closely."

And here's a very short list I've compiled off the top of my head, of ads that were inspired by a short film, comedy sketch or pop promo:

Hamlet 'Photo Booth'
PlayStation 'Life On The PlayStation'
Honda 'Cog'
Guinness 'Man dancing around pint'
Budweiser 'Wassup'
Levi's 'Flat Eric'

Please don't tell me an ad creative can't be inspired by a book or a film. If a 'real' artist can put a urinal in a gallery, then we commercial artists can certainly adapt a pop promo into a TV spot.

However, some of the above ads were made with the collaboration of the original creators, some not.

And maybe that makes a difference.

Not from a creative point of view (they're equally hard to come up with, don't be fooled by commenters on here saying it's easy) and not from a legal point of view (the creator of the short film that the Guinness dancing man ad was based on lost his case, on the grounds that you can't copyright an idea, only an execution).

The involvement of - or payment to - the originator gives a much better feeling, for sure.

But then again, if the goal of the ad is to save lives, as in this case.... should we really feel so bad?


Anonymous said...

i prefer the ad with a moonwalking bear rather than with a bicycle. way funnier and cooler, glad they didnt get the profs advice on this.

Anonymous said...

I'm bored of all now anyway.
Let them get back to work and we'll probably only have to wait a month or so for them to produce another rip off for us all to slag off.

Anonymous said...

Talking of rip-offs, take a look at the new Honey Monster advert on Brand Republic (Creative section).

Rob Mortimer (aka Famous Rob) said...

But is there an inherent desire for WCRS NOT to contact the originator for fear that it damages their creative reputation?

After all, Fallon got away with Ballas and Rabbit being accused of copying other work, W+K got past the issues with Cog. Are agencies just assuming that pretending is easier than even a quick phone call of acknowlegement?

And yes, we should be lenient on an ad that promotes safety. But that doesn't mean the wider issue isn't important right now.

Anonymous said...

Scamp, just so you know the meaning of your last sentence:

If the end justifies the means, then spurious ends, such as the supremacy of the third Reich, justify unethical means, such as destroying anyone who gets in the way of this end. Or, if the glory of God and the fulfillment of His wishes is the end, then burning people who are in the way of this is justified. Or if spreading the word of the Gospel is the end, then using deceptive and other questionable means to achieve this end is justified. Thus, people may say, when disputing certain well-publicized efforts to forward goals they don't share, "Uh-huh. The end justifies the means." (That is, you are relying on the same arguments that have justified every horror known to man.)

Anonymous said...

There are three elements here:

1. Creative (and, as you say, it works creatively and is still not that easy to pull off)

2. Legal (and thanks to the minor tweaks in execution, it's just about OK)

3. Ethical (where I think nearly everyone would agree this is dodgy)

The fact that it's for a good cause is a very thin excuse - a bit like mugging someone and saying it's OK because you're poor and need the money.

The moral of the story: just be nice to people and give credit where it's due - it's the right thing to do and it stops you looking stupid further down the line.

Anonymous said...

Scamp, just wondering what your clients and agency make of you spending your time talking to WCRS and the Professor and NOT working on BBH/clients' business...

Anonymous said...

If I punched your mum in the face to make people more aware of using their headlights, what would you think of that, defenders of the WCRS thieves?

Anonymous said...

Think you've gone in too deep fella. We're just talking about some blokes who ripped off a professor's short film.

Anonymous said...

I thought they at least contacted the prof on using his work.

This reminds me of the book E? Copying an idea...i see a shit storm coming for WCRS!

They could have probably done something much more relevant to cycling and just as cool if they got the prof on board.

I can't see this getting an award now.

Anonymous said...

Of course creatives are inspired by film, books, music, etc. Public domain and privately owned. Always have been, always will be.

But by the same token, when the ad so closely remembles the original and the original is fairly well-known, the lack of acknowledgment of such by the agency/creative team will always bother people. Especially in a business where compensation and title are bestowed upon people solely for "their" ideas.

It's a lesson every small child is taught, really:

Borrowing is OK, as long as you remember your manners.

Anonymous said...

The mad professor sounds like a really sound bloke and WCRS should count themselves very lucky they didn't pull this on a sue happy American.

Sounds like an offer to do something truly original was on the table too but obviously that not something WCRS are interested in for their clients.

Has the pitch list for TFL bike safety been released yet?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the team could ask the Profs help so no one notices them packing up their stuff and leaving through the back door?

Anonymous said...

dare i ask something stupid?
say the ad was xeroxed from the prof, knowingly, for a noble purpose: to deliver a powerful message to the masses.
why was it bloody removed from Youtube then?

Anonymous said...

"we commercial artists"

Advertising its not art. And it will never be art. We think too much of ourselves.

gongu said...

could it be because the ad was "done" with D&AD in mind instead of Youtube... I believe this is the case, hence the bitterness of it all.

Anonymous said...

"For reasons I am sure you will all understand, they couldn't say anything about the situation."

I don't understand the reasons. They've only commented on the copyright, but I think given how publicly they've been caught out, they ought to say something about the theft, even just to clear their names.

It looks to me like the reason they can't say anything is that they're embarrassed, rather than anything legal.

Why can't they come out and tell us whether they tried to pass it off as their own (which makes a difference in how immoral this was) and why they didn't contact the professor?

It's cowardly.

Anonymous said...

come come
let's go to btaa, get pissed and forget all about it.

Anonymous said...

who gives a shit

i usually reading this blog

but you're all doing my head in

Rob said...

Nasty shit this.

The team come out with little credit, sure. But I bet they've done some shit hot stuff in the past as well. They may not even have considered this plagiarism. It's just the way ads seem to be done these days.

It's the responsibility of the creative director and the agency to know better, surely?

This public humiliation of our peers seems a little...well...News of the World.

Anonymous said...

here here

you're all acting like the daily mirror did with sex offenders

Anonymous said...

I think Lowe's got in a bit of a legal lather a few years back over ripping off a photographer with the Tesco Babies campaign

Unknown said...

One word: manners.

A few more words: I think it's telling that the professor said how he wished the team had got in touch so he could help them devise a more original execution, rather than just ripping off the one they found. Bing!

Shame. One of the best, most different, clever ads you're ever going to see. Spoilt a bit just because they didn't ask.

Or is it a case of 'Juan simply doesn't have to get permission these days, does Juan?'

Anonymous said...

re 5.12pm

Because the account team crapped themselves.

Anonymous said...

As one responsible for one of the campaigns you mention, I have this to say: when will people get it through their thick skulls that its fine to adapt others' ideas so long as you a. Get their permission and b. Pay them and give them credit. I'm sure the lovely prof would have been chuffed to do it. You'll sleep better and it makes a better PR story.

Anonymous said...

Yeah the team involved are getting slated but rightly so. We can’t be creative geniuses every day and need a little inspiration from time to time. But give credit where credit is due when you just blatantly copy something. It will come back and bite you on the are otherwise.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for inspiration, however you define it, but you Brits really have no clue at all about how good/easy you have it. Meaning, your copyright laws are among the most lax in the world. For better or worse, the laws American creatives have to work under are far more stringent. Some might argue that it keeps our work more 'pure,' some might argue that Americans just like to sue. I'd say both.

Anonymous said...


Precisely how UN-creative do you have to be, in order to have so little input between deciding to steal an idea and making your re-hash, that the idea you're stealing is indistinguishable from your copy?

That's what pisses me off most. Not that they nicked an idea, but that they were too bloody lazy to put their own thoughts into it.

Anonymous said...

S'also funny that people tend to only get pissed off when it's a (potential) award-winner. It's as if the principle of theft is not the issue; more the extent to which the creatives involved stand to profit from their 'theft'.

If it appears that you steal for your own gain (uninjured cyclists being a convenient and pleasant by-product) then it seems, perhaps rightly, to raise the hackles of the creative community.

If someone were misguided enough to think me worthy of a jury then I would certainly mark it down. Something about the directness of the lift and the arrogance/deceit involved just doesn't feel right.

What about you Scamp, would you still send it on its way to a silver if you were on next year's viral jury?

Anonymous said...

In my opionion, the ad is totally valid. Hey, it's just an ad. Whatever works. And this probably works.

However, as in any case like this, I only feel strongly against rewarding/awarding ads for their 'business solving creativity' in the award shows. The key word is 'creative' which is what needs to be celebrated, IMO. Sure, things are of course always a little derivative, but the uniqueness of the solution should be what's celebrated there.

Just recreating a successful video on youtube or an art piece, etc, and then slapping a logo on it is not very creative in any sense of the word, is it?

Scamp said...

Even if our whole job was just choosing which YouTube video to put on TV, that would still require creative judgement - just as Marcel Duchamp used his creative judgement in choosing which object to display in a gallery, and didn't physically create anything.

But in fact our job's much harder, because we have to find the right video (or pop promo, scene from film, scene from book, short film, artwork, memory etc) out of all the billions out there, to match the brief in our hand. Marcel didn't have that constraint.

And you can't deny that "Do The Test" is the 'right' video for this brief.

I would give it a pencil no question.

Anonymous said...

i wouldn't.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure the Marcel Duchamp thing works. It's more like if Anthony Gormley saw a metal cast of a student at the Goldsmith's second year show and then went about 'creating' his current output.

The original film was a communication of a point, just like the ad.

Your Duchamp comparison would require the thieves, sorry, creatives, to see some basketball and a man in a bear suit moonwalking then think that was good material for an ad.

You saw cops hiding behind a car and altered it for your purpose. You didn't see loads of cops hiding behind a small car which claimed to be tough (I assume).

Anonymous said...

jesus you are not artists - you're coming up with business solutions not making art.

scamp i really hope that duchamp reference is a compare your jobs to the most important artist of the 20th century is fucking ridiculous

Anonymous said...

I sense Scamp is employing a deliberately twattish argument to stir up debate.

Anonymous said...

Surely the imitation point here is a sideshow, and the key point is whether it's right for the brief and whether it works. As James Webb Young said, "An idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements." Surely that makes this an idea, combining a cycling safety message (not new) with an existing video (also not new). But the combination is new. And that makes it valid.

I also can totally see the point in NOT asking the guy from Illinois whether he'd have let WCRS use it. It was the perfect answer to the brief, it didn't contravene copyright (not being a reproduction of an original work, but merely a replicated film, not in itself a copyright infringement) and he could very easily have said no or demanded payment TfL weren't prepared to make. Which would have killed a very good solution to the brief.

Hindsight is a great thing, but how many teams would, with an ad like this in the offing, insist that their account team asked the originator of the film for permission, knowing that it could mean an end to their ad? Not many, I'd bet...

Anonymous said...

>>>I also can totally see the point in NOT asking the guy from Illinois whether he'd have let WCRS use it. It was the perfect answer to the brief, it didn't contravene copyright (not being a reproduction of an original work, but merely a replicated film, not in itself a copyright infringement) and he could very easily have said no or demanded payment TfL weren't prepared to make. Which would have killed a very good solution to the brief.>>>>>


no!!! that's exactly where they went wrong. you want to adapt someone else's idea you grow a pair and contact them and charm them into it. this was for a good cause and i'm pretty fucking sure professor whatsisname isn't currently fielding several competing offers from hollywood to adapt his test. he'd do it for ten grand US i'm guessing. give him twenty grand so he feels good. and bring him to the shoot. you're done.

this would have been easy.

Anonymous said...

Duchamp?? Art?? Scamp, really losing faith in your judgment both as a creative and as a person with any morals.

You can give it a noble peace price for all i care but for fucks sake give it to the professor not to your mates who lifted this.

Eugen Suman said...

yes scamp, yes we should. let's not find "circumstances" and excuses for what is, simply put, theft. this is not "a tribute" or "inspired work". this is theft.

Mr Orange said...

No I'm sorry Scamp, you can't compare Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" with choosing Youtube clips.

Duchamp did that to assault convention and accepted notions of art.

Pinching Youtube clips is not exactly breaking convention now is it!?

Anonymous said...

Let's all laugh at London creatives who think that their job is to match YouTube clips to briefs. LOL.

Anonymous said...

so i take it creatives showing Scamp work now no longer need to take in scripts and scamps...just a laptop logged into youtube?

Anonymous said...

Let's just have a catagory in award ceremonies of "Best ripped off" ads. The creatives can have their shiny awards and no one will be decieved. Volia!
Solving people's problems. It's what I do.

Steve H said...

I'm with 6.24.

When I worked in the States I wrote an ad for a beer account we handled that was, essentially, lifted from a funny scene in a sit com. (After all, if Hamlet can get in D&AD for their comedy rip-off why couldn't I). I was honest when I presented the ad to the CD and even showed him the clip (as I imagine the WCRS team did with their idea). The CD said, "very funny, but it's been done - they did it. Go back, work a bit harder and write something funny, and original - then maybe I'll present it." Frankly I felt like shit. But I sort of agree. If we award and admire the best of what our industry does then it should be original. However, that doesn't make the TfL ad a bad ad - it's a bloody great ad. Just not original.

Anonymous said...

"I'd give it a pencil".

And that kind of judgement is billed at what rate to the client?

Anonymous said...

The Scamp blog doesn't represent the views of the agency I work for.

Thank fuck for that or BBH would be in some serious shit produced knocked off work left right and center.

Anonymous said...

It's just a shame that none of you tarts will be on any juries any time soon... so your opinions matter very little

Anonymous said...

Re 7.33

I think you hit the nail on the head there my friend. The reason those responsible have encountered such wrath is because it’s a potential award winner.

To win awards for just getting a top director to replicate existing footage is wrong, simple as that.

Yes it’s a good ad but when awards are a measure of how successful you can be in this industry, people who cheat should not reap the rewards.

Ps. Scamp, your Duchamp argument is nonsense.

Anonymous said...

well done to tom and kit. thanks to you lot they are now the most famous team in london.

nice one fellas. good on ya.

blap blap!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I'd rather be unknown than famous for what they've done.

Anonymous said...

shit sticks I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

Give it a pencil? Thank fuck for that. At heart I'm a lazy swine so this is brilliant news. I'm on You Tube from now on. Why in god's holy name did I waste all that time at Watford?

Anonymous said...

This whole thing is fucking funny. The complete self-righteousness of "creative" people has led to this holier than thou attitude towards ads from different teams.

Yeah they copied it and are nobbers if they don't put their hands up and say "fair play, we just thought it was a cool idea and robbed it for our own ill gotten gain". It's so obvious this is what they did... I'm embarrassed for the bastards, they need to do the honourable thing and have a word with Prof.Boggles and apologise.

But as far having work validated and praised by your industry peers goes... who fucking cares when they're all pretentious tossers?!

High awareness + muchos hype = job well done

Anonymous said...

How do people feel about creatives seeing something on a director's reel and then getting that director to 'do some of that for us'? For example, the Cravendale work from Pic Pic Andre's reel or the Coca Cola 'bluebird' spot from Nagi Noda's reel. I think this is possibly even worse than just nicking stuff as it's just plain

faris said...

:I think this is possibly even worse than just nicking stuff as it's just plain

That isn't the point - the point is that the creator is getting recognised for what they've done and compensated for their involvement - and perhaps even given the chance to make the higher budget version they wanted to make at a brand's expense - I think the directors themselves are much happier that way.

At least that's what one said when I asked him.

Anonymous said...

faris is right. pay up or fuck off. go with the flow. but don't sit there like a spoilt child and then get all red-faced when you're found out.

the reality here is that advertising is having a hard time competing for people's attention. nobody, not even juan cabral or sir hegarty or whoever it is you brits are currently kneeling in adoration of, can compete with the internet. so the solution is to move away from creating slightly interesting ideas to "programming" actually interesting ideas. and that, of necessity, involves adaptation of things you never in a million years could think of on your own.

take london creatives for example. you're all white anglo-saxon guys in your 20s/30s. you're all the bloody same! no wonder an argentinian can come in and, maradona-like, make you look like you don't know what you're doing. juan has flavour and clearly doesn't give a f**k. that's his edge.

solution: move to argentina!

Anonymous said...

Just came back from Argentina. Went to a Boca Juniors game. They're all fucking crazy over there.

Anonymous said...

Have people actually watched this and thought that this is an original idea that the creatives came up with? Isn't obvious that this is an experiment that they've seen before. What's creative here is the application of the experiment and not the experiment itself. It was totally clear to me from first viewing that this is something the creatives would have seen before - but they have adapted it for this brief - and the adaptation is very good and does the job brilliantly. Anyone who watched this and believed that an advertising creative would be able to construct this scientific test of human awareness vastly overestimates the ability of those working in this industry.

I do agree that out of respect it is always best to contact the originator to ask permission - but respect is an attribute that many in this industry consistently fail to demonstrate or think necessary. I know the creatives who did this - I've always found them to be kind and respectful and would be very surprised if there was any deliberately devious or dishonest action.

Do we still really expect commercials to be grounded in an original idea? Come on, we're lucky if there is one original idea a year. But this is because most original ideas are founded on science or technology - subjects that most people in this industry have no expertise in at all.

In any creative business the line between inspiration and plagiarism has become very blurred. Its an issue that has been around for decades and will continue beyond us.

What we should ask for is that acknowledgements are made where they should be, and glory is not unduly and undeservedly basked in. And that's a lot to ask in advertising!

At the end of the day anyone who works in advertising is simply selling stuff that we don't really need. That is, of course, apart from those few commercial films that are trying to raise awareness for an extremely important cause.

Anonymous said...

take a break from all the handwringing to view this masterpiece. shot by film students, i'm guessing. better than frank budgen.

Lunar BBDO said...

Thanks anon. I've put that on my blog because it's the funniest thing I've ever seen.


Anonymous said...

thanks lunar. I wasn't kidding, was I?


J said...

Shit, I was on holiday and missed the whole debate.
Here's my take anyway.

I think it's a great ad and it'll work with the punters. Should that make us ignore there rest? I think not.

"..if the goal of the ad is to save lives, as in this case.... should we really feel so bad?" (Scamp)

But you and I know that's not the case, mate. Awards is what the team is after (who isn't).

I don't know them and I'm sure they're good guys and I can't blame them for a system that awards merely relevancy instead of creativity. Check your dictionary.

That said, the MFI precedent exists and there's no excuse for using those ideas.

SiouxGeonz said...

(so was that ad a forward or backward career move?)