Tuesday, August 2, 2011

If it was creative the first time, what is it the third?

       Fashion and advertising have one enemy in common: knockoffs.

       It's been a problem in fashion for years, and the government isn't cooperating. Fashion design still can't be copyrighted; only patterns can. Meanwhile, knocker-offers keep getting better at it, thanks to better and better computers. A photo at a fashion show can result in a knockoff in a store window in days. Some retail chains seem to be building a global business on knocking off, and are doing astonishingly well because of their low prices.

       Advertising has its knockoffs, too. You'll recognize it when someone in a class or an advertising agency prefaces her presentation with "you know that Old Spice commercial where the guy..." A knockoff is about to be born.

       We in the ad business call those kinds of ideas "derivative". That's bad. It's the kiss of death.

        When I started in the business, clients all wanted their ads to be like Marlboro...cowboys eating chili, cowboys eating gelato, cowboys washing their hair, cowboys eating coco-flavored cereal.

         I remember a wine client of ours asking for a knockoff of Marlboro's theme, "You get a lot to like in a Marlboro". We came up with such lines as "More to your liking", "A lot to enjoy a lot of ways", "There's more to like in store" and "A lot to enjoy, a lot of ways to enjoy it". Fortunately the client woke up in time to stop the foolishness he had started. In advertising, if somebody steals your idea, it's a rip-off. If you steal somebody else's, it's a parody.

         Are  fashion ads knockoff of each other? Looks like it to me. They're all so predictable. Beautiful models with beautiful cheekbones in eerie locations with beautiful clothes and big logos. How can an industry that proclaims its inventiveness do such copy-cat marketing?

         Would Dior go on TV? Not unless Gucci does. Meanwhile, knockoff artists are stealing the business because now there's a whole generation of customers that don't know the difference.

          In advertising, it's easier to to create derivative ideas, derivative layouts, derivative TV executions. I call it the delicatessen approach to creativity.

          Hey, Max! I need a slice of life with a little honey and a Kardashian on the side.


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