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Crazy Coincidence, Plagiarism, Or An Obvious Idea For An Electric Car Ad?

from the seems-possible dept

David points us to this fantastic post by Ken Segall, entitled Creativity has many fathers, and analyzing the story of two car commercials that seem quite similar. The first, for the Nissan LEAF, is below:
The second is from Renault, for the Z.E.:
The two ads debuted within days of each other. You might note some similarities. Or, actually, a ton of similarities. My first response was to remember that Nissan and Renault are connected at the hip in a slightly odd non-merger alliance where each company owns a substantial stake in the other. However, the two companies are still mostly separate, and their marketing is apparently entirely separate. More specifically, the two ads were developed by two different ad agencies -- and apparently neither is particularly happy about this, with each suggesting the other "plagiarized" the ad. However, neither has been too vocal about this publicly, and no legal action has been threatened.

Segall digs up the possible reason why, in the form of one more ad... for the Mitsubishi i-Miev. This commercial came out way before the other two:
Yeah, it's kind of tough to claim someone else plagiarized you, when your ad looks like a blatant copy of yet someone else's...

Perhaps the reality is that this idea was just so obvious that three different ad agencies came up with it. It's not hard to see how a brainstorming session might come up with exactly this concept pretty easily. Or perhaps there really was some copying. But, in the end, does it really matter? As Segall notes about all three ads, "Wow, what a fantastic concept."


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 19th, 2011 @ 3:22pm

    This kind of thing goes on forever

    A while back I found this quote from C.S.Lewis

    "Only the other week a reviewer said that a fairy tale by my friend roger Lancelyn Green was influenced by fairy tales of mine. Nothing could be more probable. I have an imaginary country with a beneficent lion in it: Green, one with a beneficent tiger. Green and I can be proved to read one anotherís works; to be indeed in various ways closely associated. The case for an affiliation is far stronger than many which we accept as conclusive when dead authors are concerned. But itís all untrue nevertheless. I know the genesis of that Tiger and that Lion and they are quite independent."

    In other words these coincedences happen all the time!

     

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  2.  
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    Beta (profile), Sep 19th, 2011 @ 3:27pm

    maybe they read the same small-town paper

    Either 1) this was an amazing coincidence, an idea whose time had come, 2) a couple of members of the Nissan and Renault marketing teams saw some version of the Mitsubishi ad and it stuck in their minds, or 3) all three teams saw or heard something something that planted the idea. The one thing I can't believe is anyone consciously copied the Mitsubishi ad this closely.

    Remember when Derren Brown got a team of the most creative and original ad men in London to come up with a series of concept sketches for an ad campaign-- that was exactly like what he'd placed in a sealed envelope beforehand?

     

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  3.  
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    The eejit (profile), Sep 19th, 2011 @ 3:29pm

    Re: This kind of thing goes on forever

    The basis for new plagiarism is, in fact, old plagiarism.

     

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  4.  
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    Beta (profile), Sep 19th, 2011 @ 3:31pm

    Re: This kind of thing goes on forever

    Rowling's Harry Potter series and Gaiman's Books of Magic. "Infamous" and "Capote". "Eragon" and... well, no, I guess that was a rip-off.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    snow, Sep 19th, 2011 @ 3:39pm

    blender

    both ads, regardless of any plagiarism behind them, make the same awesome point: we need coffee machines with pull cords.

     

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  6.  
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    digitalrefuse, Sep 19th, 2011 @ 3:41pm

    Nissan and Renault are part of the same company

    I wonder if it's just that Nissan/Renault decided to put out similar ads since they're part of the same company?

     

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  7.  
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    cjstg (profile), Sep 19th, 2011 @ 3:53pm

    Re: This kind of thing goes on forever

    this coincidence thing you speak of, it is dangerous to intellectual property holders everywhere and must be rooted out. we will mobilize law enforcement and the courts to eliminate all traces of coincidence before our industries and our children are irreparably harmed.

     

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  8.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 19th, 2011 @ 4:30pm

    Re: Nissan and Renault are part of the same company

    I wonder if it's just that Nissan/Renault decided to put out similar ads since they're part of the same company?


    Pretty sure I discussed that in the post and why that's not true.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 19th, 2011 @ 4:34pm

    Interesting that three companies (two of which might have a close relationship) come up with ads predicated on the same idea, and yet no mention is made that any one of them is suing another. Does this mean that, perhaps, creative ideas can still be translated into unique expression despite "draconian" copyright law?

     

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  10.  
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    Bob Jonkman (profile), Sep 19th, 2011 @ 5:29pm

    Need text links

    Hi Techdirt: Can you post ordinary text links for those embedded objects? Some of us use browsers that are restricted in what they can display, eg. no Javascript, iframes or media objects. But there's no problem in downloading an actual video file...

    Thanx,
    --Bob.

     

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  11.  
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    GMacGuffin (profile), Sep 19th, 2011 @ 5:58pm

    Duh...

    I read the story without watching the videos then tried to imagine what the theme was, and came up with the same thing. It's a big fat duh. Besides, the "idea" of it isn't what's really protected by copyright; it's the execution. And from that perspective, the ads are quite different. (Try to enforce this copyright: "Plaintive music; various shots of common electric items being run by internal combustion engine; cue subject vehicle; VO states the obvious - 'Electric car good.'")

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 19th, 2011 @ 6:14pm

    The Renault and Mitsubishi both sport a little girl playing with a toy dog. That could have been any other gas powered toy...

     

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  13.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), Sep 19th, 2011 @ 7:37pm

    Re: Need text links

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 19th, 2011 @ 7:37pm

    All three ads suck because the electric in electric cars is actually coal and nuclear power. So it's not gasoline. Big deal.

    When I am philosopher king, understanding of thermodynamics will be mandatory.

     

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  15.  
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    Urza9814, Sep 19th, 2011 @ 7:42pm

    I'm thinking they were copied

    The theme is obvious enough that I have no difficulty thinking multiple companies could come up with it. But I don't buy that multiple companies would have decided to use dentist tools. Or even more strange -- a little girl playing with a gas-powered robo-puppy. When was the last time you saw even an electric robot dog? The mixer strikes me as a bit odd, but not much of a stretch. The fact that both gas powered computers have gas pedals, and are pretty much the only thing with a gas pedal, is a bit strange as well, though also not inconceivable. But yea, I don't think this is entirely coincidental, though it's probably not intentional.

     

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  16.  
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    Hothmonster, Sep 19th, 2011 @ 10:16pm

    are they sure they all didn't hire the same advertising firm?

     

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  17.  
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    Hothmonster, Sep 19th, 2011 @ 10:17pm

    Re:

    or not.

    reading things helps

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    illuminaut, Sep 20th, 2011 @ 1:57am

    This is how ad agencies work:
    Boss: listen up, we got a deal for an electric car commercial. Go brainstorm for 30 minutes.
    Staff: electric cars, eh? I saw that cool idea on youtube/local programming. It goes like this...
    Boss: awesome idea. get to work.

    It's entirely plausible that all three agencies ripped off the same idea. After all, it's a pretty good one. And since the original source was probably rather obscure, nobody cries foul play.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2011 @ 2:05am

    Re:

    What happens to your claims when electricity doesn't come from coal or nuclear anymore?

    Would you be able to feed electricity to your gas tank?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2011 @ 2:09am

    Re: I'm thinking they were copied

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2011 @ 2:20am

    Re:

    Not really, if you are trapped in time, you are likely to have the same perceptions as others and that makes dogs an easy choice.

    Ask anybody from the 1800's to list kitchen utensils and you will get one list, now ask people today to list kitchen utensils and they will list another list, but chances are the people in the same era will have more chances of having the same things listed.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2011 @ 2:29am

    Re:

    Yes that is one possibility as is the possibility that they all came up with the exact same idea on their own, or they could have ripped off different ideas that had the same underlying theme(showing something else in modern days).

    Maybe they all ripped off stempunk art, maybe they all ripped off Wild Wild West.

    http://steampunkworkshop.com/bus1.shtml

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2011 @ 2:39am

    Upon having an idea, especially one that may be used in a public fashion, two question should always be immediately answered. The first question is, "Is this idea completely original?" The second should be, "Does the answer to the first question really matter?"

     

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  24.  
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    Scooters (profile), Sep 20th, 2011 @ 4:54am

    Re: Re: This kind of thing goes on forever

    What a coincidence. I was about to post the same thing!

     

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  25.  
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    FarSide (profile), Sep 20th, 2011 @ 6:54am

    Re: maybe they read the same small-town paper

    Thanks for reminding me of this - just awesome.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyQjr1YL0zg

     

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  26.  
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    mermaldad, Sep 20th, 2011 @ 8:36am

    where ad campaigns come from

    A while ago I saw a video (via StumbleUpon) in which ad agency folks were brought in to pitch their ideas for a new campaign. The video shows the bidders being picked up and driven to the office, where they are told what they are advertising. Then they are given a fixed amount of time to come up with an idea. When they are about to present their idea, the organizers show them a series of images that were placed along there route on their car ride to the office. Sure enough, many of these images feature prominently in the campaign presentation. Perhaps there was something similar going on here.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    mermaldad, Sep 20th, 2011 @ 8:58am

    Re: where ad campaigns come from

    Oops, FarSide's previous post with the youtube link was the video I described.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 20th, 2011 @ 4:37pm

    Re: Re:

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Shine (profile), Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 12:21am

    Coincidence or not...we'll never be sure.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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