Experts stand divided on ‘Ye toh mera wala IDEA hai’ notion plaguing the Ad World

similar campaign idea

With thousands of advertisements getting served to the consumers each day, coming up with a unique idea is a challenging task which also comes with the fear of similar campaign ideas. Experts dig deeper into the ‘Campaign Insight clash’ in the creative world.

An average modern person is exposed to around 5,000 ads per day, according to Yankelovich, Inc., a marketing firm. It comes to our notice that this stat is ten years old and the number is estimated to be doubled now, quadrupled if we’re being realistic.

Now imagine 5000 creative minds wrecking their brains behind coming up with a distinctive idea or campaign insight. Not to forget occasion-based marketing including campaigns on a Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Women’s Day which come with its own set of challenges fuelling concern for brands to not get their idea clashed with anyone in the market, lest the same category.

For instance, recently Comedy Central and McDonald’s India went out with a similar idea for their Elections 2019 campaigns. While Comedy Central’s message read Cast vote or somebody makes a choice on their behalf, McDonald’s ad targeted at youth said if they did not cast their vote, they have lost their right to choose what they want. Although the central act is similar (vote to make your choice) the narrative is subtly different. And this isn’t the only case in 2019 alone.

It ain't funny anymore.#ChooserNotLoser

Posted by Comedy Central India on Monday, 1 April 2019

This brings us to the question – is there a shortage of campaign ideas or is it just another case of sheer co-incidence? Digging a bit into the Indian copyright law led us to understand that while an idea cannot be copyrighted, the tangible form of an idea can be, which includes original works of authorship, photographs, sculptures, choreography, architectural works, sound recordings, motion pictures, and other creative works. It protects the expression of an idea, not the concepts, methods and ideas that are expressed.

But, as they say – advertising is all about creativity and if this very creativity gets duplicated time and again, the source of originality and newness gets lost. There have been various instances (Sunny Lite vs Aashirwad Atta and the very recent Bajaj Alliance vs Kia Motors India),  agencies and marketers have gone on record to accuse each other of plagiarism.

We spoke to a cross section of industry expects to understand the authenticity of the famed adage – ‘Imitation is the best form of flattery’ and does it hold any ground in the ad world.

Plagiarism, Imitation, Copy or Co-Incidence?

Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc thinks that we tend to overemphasize the issue of ‘plagiarism’. Often it is nothing but what could be called ‘co-incidental creativity’.

“They (ad creators) are keen observers of people and habits. They are also big consumers of various forms of popular culture; television, books, music, cinema, digital content, magazines, newspapers, etc. So, for instance, the movie Gully Boy was a big hit. Chances are a number of copywriters got the idea of doing a Hindi / Hinglish Rap song in an ad. Now, this does not mean that they copied each other or that there is a paucity of ideas or insights”.

On the other hand, another Industry Consultant who chooses to remain anonymous expressed that it isn’t the paucity of ideas or insights but laziness and a copy-paste culture which has always existed but now amplified due to the sheer volume and reach of media.

Paucity of Campaign Insights – A Reality?

Coming from an experienced communications consultant above, we turned to our creative minds to know whether the phenomenon of ‘Paucity of Idea’ for hundreds of creatives and campaigns that go live everyday exists.

Kartikeya Tiwari, AVP – Creative Strategy- Social Kinnect feels that in a way the advertising industry is facing challenges in creating something unique every day for hundreds of clients. He elaborated, “Campaigns are backed by insights, but those insights are getting rather repetitive. Mother’s Day, which recently passed, is a good example. Practically every single brand jumped on the Mother’s Day bandwagon but the campaigns weren’t backed by many original insights.”

From equating moms to superheroes and calling out a mother’s love, insights were common across the board. “I would say we’re suffering from ‘original insight’ deficiency, which is due in large part to the natural human instinct to seek examples and inspiration from around us. We talk about what we know,”

While Mandar Natekar, Chief Business Officer, KidZania India too agreed that the creative industry is suffering from a campaign idea deficiency because everyone is following the “easy first” and “misunderstanding millennial” mindset. That’s why you see most creatives following the same patterns.

Also Read: The Curious Case of Missing Brand Connect…

Meanwhile, Amyn Ghadiali, Director Strategy, Gozoop believes that more than ‘Campaign Insight’ deficiency, the industry is suffering from ‘Insightful Creativity’ deficiency. Brands are trying to establish thought leadership through topical campaigns and capturing trending emotions. By default, the ideas tend to have a breakaway approach, which means that they land up occupying similar spaces as there is a limited range to any deviation considering a brand’s journey.

Ghadiali reminisces that 3 years back Gozoop did a campaign for Gadre for Independence Day and Vodafone did Look Up.

He added, “If one observes closely, the insight for the campaign remains the same whereas the creative expression of both were different. Without drawing parallels if the same insight can be treated creatively in an unexplored manner, it means that ads need to be brand bound and not time bound. And that insight deficiency isn’t the real problem, but creatively exploring fundamental human truths (insightful creativity) is the actual deficit.”

Sahil Gilani, Director – Sales & Marketing, Gits Food does believe that imitation is the best form of flattery. “Deriving inspiration from a thought behind the campaign and then crafting your own concept is yet acceptable but blatantly copying one’s concept and tweaking it with different visuals and characters is just not done,” he shared.

Formula to avoid the ‘Clash of Ideas’

Co-incidences are bound to happen, as they say there is no copyright on ideas. Brains do work differently but what if a similar idea strikes off to two different minds?

Tiwari asserts that more risk-taking at the campaign strategy phase is definitely the need of the hour. Involve more people in the brainstorming process! From client-servicing and design to strategy and copy, the more minds at work, the more differentiated insights you will receive.

The digital world is becoming extremely cluttered, especially on days like Mother’s Day, when all brands shape their communication to suit the same occasion.

The key to being heard in this cacophonous platform, as per Akshay Popawala, Co-founder, Togglehead, is a strong understanding of your brand and of all things labeled regular.

The ‘Big Idea’ deficit – A threat?

Though some might prefer to call it a coincidence or plagiarism or inspiration if the shortage of creative ideas exists – does that pose as a threat to the AdVerse in the future? Aarti Iyer, Marketing Head, Unibic expresses that over the last century many insights have been used to come up with best of campaigns and there could be an overlap sometimes.

Natekar, on the contrary, would like to believe it as a threat. “But the bigger threat is ‘easy first”. We are trying to make “fake” real. And consumers are the first to catch it,” he added.

Human insights at any given point are limited. They are never in abundance, they can only grow more micro in nature as agencies dive further into the human psyche. As much as we would like to believe we are different, somewhere we all are still humans with the same fundamental emotions.

An original insight is worth the time taken to crack, as it laya the foundation for a more crystallised and effective campaign. Human behaviour is always available for marketers to observe, which means insights will not dry up anytime soon!