Imitation or inspiration?

There’s always plenty of discussion in the ad industry as to where the line between plagiarism and creative inspiration is drawn. TV3 has felt the cool accusatory breeze a couple of times this year with some of its promotional work. And, after Colenso discovered two of its Vodafone commercials were eerily similar to overseas numbers, planning director James Hurman wrote an excellent piece entitled Casualties of Coincidence in Idealog that explained how similar ideas tend to emerge at the same time from different places. Mumbrella also recently put together a great collection of Australia’s 20 best copy cat ads. And while it’s debatable whether anyone outside the marcomms bubble (ie the intended recipients of the commercial messages) actually cares whether an idea or an ad has been modified for a different market, especially in an age where the mash-up is King and online YouTube homage is common place, I couldn’t help but notice this article in the August edition of Wired magazine about an experiment called PacManhattan, which used the streets of Greenwich Village for a real-world version of PacMan back in 2004. Sound familiar?

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Away from whether Saatchi & Saatchi’s recent Telecom spot for its 2500 text deal is a copy-cat or a homage, the crux of the Wired story, which talks to one of the men behind both the real-life PacMan event and Foursquare, is very interesting from a marketing perspective. Social media is often criticised for leading to a rather oxymoronic dearth of real-world socialising, but mobile/digital tools and new location-based networks like Foursquare now mean these two worlds are starting to converge. And, as this article in Ad Age shows, such developments could soon lead to a kind of virtual reality bun fight to try and attract customers.

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