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.”

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Companies: mitsubishi, nissan, renault

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Comments on “Crazy Coincidence, Plagiarism, Or An Obvious Idea For An Electric Car Ad?”

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Richard (profile) says:

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 another?s 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 it?s 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!

Beta (profile) says:

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?

GMacGuffin says:


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.'”)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

Urza9814 says:

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.

illuminaut says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

mermaldad says:

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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