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09/01/01 - Agency Of The Apes

By now just about everyone's heard of the "director's duel" between Tim Burton and Kevin "Clerks" Smith.

Perfectly timed to promote his new release, "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," Smith publicly accused Tim Burton's "Planet Of The Apes" of finding its ending in a three year old "Jay and Silent Bob" comic book that he authored.

Coincidence or piracy? You be the judge.

While Smith's threats of legal action generated national publicity, within the advertising industry, "monkey see monkey do" creativity rarely raises an eyebrow.

Take, for example, the advertising for the "Planet of the Apes" itself. The voiceover on the much screened theatrical trailer contains a phrase that's obviously been deemed a good luck charm in movie marketing circles--"In a world thatů" (If you don't know what I'm talking about, just start listening for it.)

Past Observation Post entries have cited many examples of "clonemercials." A year ago there was the outrageous frame by frame copy of Apple computer's famous '1984" Macintosh spot by Global PC.

At least this pilfering didn't go unpunished. Checking Global PC's website, it appears the spots and the company couldn't duplicate the longevity of Apple.

In the Past Posts archives, you'll also find a print ad format that was cut out to be ripped off by a diverse range of advertisers, most recently, Best Buy.

This template is joined by another, the "box around something" format which has appeared in ads for Time, Micron Computers, Blue Cross, National Geographic magazine and others.

The puppet people plague, lead by England's Levis hawking hipster, Flat Eric and imitated to death (literally) by the ill-fated Pets.com sock puppet and Domino Pizza's Bad Andy (probably buried next to his predecessor, the Noid).

Unbelievably, efforts at building brand personality with another company's advertising are not only tolerated, but sometimes even awarded with ad industry recognition.

While the ad industry closes its eyes to such monkey business, consumers are more likely to be blind to any brand differentiation between look-alike advertisers.

They might like the rocking tunes in a wide variety of car commercials, but they'll have a helluva time distinguishing which tune goes with the correct :30 of quick cut product footage.

I can't imagine Kevin Smith would have had much of a case against "Planet of the Apes." Who reads his comics (or attends his movies for that matter) besides his hardcore cult of fans--of which Tim Burton has proclaimed he is not? In fact, it was Smith himself who blew the whistle.

It's doubtful the "Apes" ending provoked any audience members to shout out "I saw that in a 'Jay and Silent Bob' comic three years ago. " Audiences might be shouting other things, but not that.

If anyone should consider legal action for plagiarism, it's Gateway and Dell. Less than a year ago, these two computer companies were airing campaigns that both featured songs by The Who. How'd that happen? I guess their "brand stewards" didn't ask the publishing company for a category exclusive.

Well, Gateway blinked first and switched to The Beatles' "I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends." Sad irony is Gateway just laid off 8000 "friends."

No, a more original campaign probably wouldn't have spared Gateway's 8000--but it might have spared a few. In fact, within a month or so, the "Help From My Friends" campaign was replaced with back-to-basics spots featuring Gateway's trademark spotted cows and the company's founder/CEO.

Though Gateway sabotaged itself with inconsistency, generally, when pitted against advertising that apes, true originality strikes with the force of an 800 pound gorilla.