In our humble opinion, Powershop's 'Same Power, Different Attitude' campaign is one of the best campaigns of the year. But we wondered aloud a couple of weeks ago whether its latest execution featuring Darth Vader prancing through a field like Julie Andrews crossed the IP line. Turns out it did, and the LucasFilm patent lawyers have been in touch telling them to cease and desist. They've done as asked, but, with a dose of challenger brand cheek, they've also taken a leaf out of 42 Below's book and, with the help of its PR agency Sputnik, decided to have a bit of fun with the apology letter.
How do you solve a problem like Darth Vader?
Online electricity retailer Powershop has received a request from LucasFilm to cease publication of an online advertisement featuring a likeness of the Darth Vader character.
Speaking from Powershop’s base, CEO Ari Sargent said he responded by immediately withdrawing the advertisement. At the same time, he expressed surprise at having attracted the attention of the LucasFilm ‘Empire’.
“Powershop is not a member of any rebel alliance. I’m surprised the Empire considers small companies like Powershop to be a threat; perhaps our force is stronger than we thought.”
Sargent said the advertisement was part of Powershop’s ‘Same Power, Different Attitude’ campaign which has used well known dictators, tyrants and the occasional Sith Lord engaging in unlikely acts of charity and goodwill.
“We looked for a range of recognisable figures, both real and fictional, known for their abuse of power. The Galactic Empire seemed like the perfect place to start, those guys are pretty evil.”
Sargent says it was not the intention of his campaign to harm the reputation associated with Darth Vader in any way.
“Our artists worked tirelessly to turn Darth into something wholly original – a singing, dancing, guitar-toting Maria von Trapp. I take my helmet off to them for their efforts.
“It’s hardly what you’d call dark side stuff - if anything, they were enhancing his reputation.”
While vowing to ‘restore the Republic at any cost’, Sargent apologised to LucasFilm for any harm caused as well as ‘unnecessary disturbances in the force’.
“Running an Imperial Starfleet is a demanding job, the last thing they need is a ragtag band of Jedis, Wookies and power retailers getting in the way of their destiny.”
Not bad, but they've still got a way to go before they reach the giddy heights of the 42 Below 'retraction', which came about after Absolut complained to the ASA about an ad it had run saying Absolut was judged the least favourite at a competition in London.
“We are deeply sorry for any offence we have given Absolut over this. In fact we are so distressed that we have gone out with our own money and made this new ad to make sure that everyone knows Absolut was not judged ‘Least favourite’ but that the judeges actually said they had no ‘kind words to say about Absolut’. We trust that clears up the matter.”
Of course, here at StopPress we obey the law at all times and often make citizens' arrests to uphold it, but in both situations, the media coverage a faux pas like this generates for the companies almost makes it worth stepping on a few toes.