Two dogs, one bone?

For many outside the ad industry, arguing over who was the first to come up with an idea could be perceived as petty. But when ideas are the lifeblood of this industry and often have a tangible effect on an agency’s reputation—and, if it helps to win awards, momentum—provenance is important. Recently we’ve seen some controversy over the creation of personalised OHBaby! magazines for Huggies. And it looks like we can add another interesting case to the list: Colenso BBDO’s Doggelganger website for Pedigree and Whybin\TBWA Sydney’s Dog-A-Like mobile app for the same client in Australia. 

Mars has a global strategy for its Pedigree brand and sponsors pet adoption drives around the world, with each market coming up with a way to promote them. But we noticed that the two very similar campaigns from different agencies had both won at Caples recently (Dog-a-Like took gold in the mobile marketing category and was a finalist in creative use of technology while Doggelganger took gold in microsite and silver in creative use of technology). The same thing happened at AWARD, with both winning silver in digital direct response, but at Cannes last year Doggelanger won bronze in direct, while Dog-a-Like made it onto the shortlist.

We asked Colenso BBDO’s managing director Nick Garrett, who has worked with TBWA\ in Sydney in the past, what was up and he didn’t want to comment, aside from saying the campaign was a long time in the making and a lot of effort went into developing the facial mapping technology with NEC.

Oliver Downs, marketing manager, petcare, for Mars New Zealand, says the Australian arm was asked to help share the costs of the development of the campaign and launch it across the ditch as well but, after a long wait, it decided to do its own thing with Whybin\TBWA because it didn’t fit with its focus on www.petrescue.com.au.

Nothing wrong with that, of course, but their own thing ended up being an iPhone app that was very similar to Colenso’s idea and, understandably, a few eyebrows were raised.

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Downs confirmed Colenso came up with the idea first and were “six months ahead of them”. But the Mars team in Australia assured him it hadn’t shared anything with its agency in that time and that TBWA\, which lost the business in June last year when BBDO became the global network, came to them with it independently.

“If it hadn’t been Pedigree Australia, and it was a competitor, we would have gone pretty hard at that,” Downs says, indicating that it would be obvious there was some idea sharing going on amongst the partners.

Of course, the insight that dogs look like their owners isn’t a new one and the two agencies could have come up with the same idea at the same time. As James Hurman wrote, ‘Casualties of coincidence‘ happen all the time and it happened to Colenso when it launched its Vodafone Symphonia ad a few years back. So while rats will presumably be smelled here, maybe it was just an idea whose time had come.

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