I recently watched a great ad that launched a well-known brand back into our consciousness. It was brilliant, capturing the brand and the verve of the previous campaigns. Then I realised that a few months previously I’d seen a whole series of films on YouTube that were pretty much identical.
Over the last few years I’ve seen more and more campaigns that take (diplomatically-speaking) reference from postings.
But is this wrong? Let’s look at it rationally…
Let’s say you come across some film/image that’s been hugely popular… Perhaps you dig deeper and discover that the people viewing it match your target market. It fits (with a little tweaking) the brief.
Put simply, on one level, you’re looking at something that works really well. So if we’re assuming that the people who originated the work are compensated in some way, then everything’s fine, isn’t it?
Well, there’s nothing wrong creatively-speaking with referencing and taking influence from other areas. It’s all perfectly normal. Typography, tone of voice, lighting, composition. That’s how ideas evolve and grow to deliver fresh angles.
For example, the classic line Vorsprung Durch Technik was taken from an old poster in a German Factory. But then completely reworked in execution. A fresh angle.
However if all we do is just lift ideas completely, where does that leave us? In my mind we’re in the world of ever-decreasing circles.
The point of a creative is to deliver a fresh angle, a new take. You’re not doing that if you’re lifting concepts wholesale. It used to be called copying. And back at school you’d get sent to the headmaster’s office for that.
Why should clients pay for ideas if they’re already out there? What exactly are they paying for except account management, planning and production? Shall we just sack the creative teams, hire people to trawl the net and then get the production bods in?
An agency I know of recently banned creatives from the internet because they were increasingly coming up with similar work. The reason? As a group they were all visiting the same sites for reference. So they made them get out, watch people, get offline references.
A bit extreme… I don’t think anyone should exclude the internet totally. But if all we do is look at the net for inspiration, we’re not living in the real world.
Now extend it across the industry, because the truth is as much as we like to feel that we’re free to explore anything on the internet, we don’t. Our movements are directed by our friends, peers, links from the websites we currently visit.
But what do you think? Is the internet damaging our creative process and our reputation as an industry? Or shall we just keep it secret and hope the clients don’t ever visit the same sites as us?
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