Creative Focus: It's called 'originality'

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 8 April 2016

This first appeared in the AdNews print magazine. You can read it all below but if you want it as soon as it goes to press, you better subscribe here.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – just ask Weird Al Yankovic. But when it comes to creative, when does paying homage cross the line, Rachael Micallef asks.

Aldi’s latest campaign is a trip to nostalgia town, with the brand using its Easter ad push to recreate Coca-Cola’s 1994 ‘Diet Coke Break’ ad. Oh yes, you know the one, where girls flock to the office window to swoon over a shirtless construction worker.

aldi easter comparison

Since its original release the ad has been recreated by Coca-Cola several times, but over the Easter long weekend Aldi recreated it with a new hunk who has a penchant for hot cross buns.

They say there’s no such thing as a new idea. And clearly, the Aldi campaign pays homage to a great idea. But when it comes to creative – making it, selling it, getting awards for it – when does parody cross the line? When is it ok to steal an idea?

stephen de wolf CC

About Stephen:

Stephen’s career has spanned the globe, from New Zealand, to the UK and Australia. He managed creative for Kellogg, Telecom NZ, and Dominion Breweries (Heineken, Sol, Tiger, Export Gold, Tui), spent time in Clemenger BBDO and Saatchi & Saatchi NZ, and most recently was creative director of 18 Feet & Rising in London.

The Aldi work is more of an homage than a stolen idea. They’ve clearly borrowed from Diet Coke, Cadbury and John Lewis campaigns for their iconic status. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an homage in those circumstances. However, I have an issue when we, as an industry, borrow from ourselves. It feels too inward focused. When it comes to outright stealing it’s pretty clear cut. Never.

I don’t think I’ve met any creative who goes out of their way to do that. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. We all have a morbid fear of creating work that someone else has done already. That said, we are all inspired by something or someone.

Film director, Jim Jarmusch, said it better than I could: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable, originality is non-existent.”

As a creative industry I think that’s something we can all identify with.

steve coll CC

About Steve:

Steve has won more Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions than any other creative in the world, including the inaugural Cannes Grand Prix for Creative Effectiveness for the Walkers ‘Sandwich’ campaign. Following a 12-month stint as ECD of Droga 5 Sydney, he is now creative partner at With Collective.

I think the Aldi ‘Like brands. Only cheaper.’ is one of the most ballsy, engaging, downright funny campaigns to prompt reconsideration for a supermarket brand. Having a bear, who happens to be standing in the woods, telling us he likes both the branded toilet paper and Aldi’s considerably cheaper own brand is a pretty brilliant way of getting shoppers to reconsider their choice of supermarket.

But the latest Aldi ads don’t work anywhere near as well. In terms of a creative concept, I think the idea of mimicking famous brand ads is a flawed progression of the ‘Like Brands. Only cheaper.’ campaign. These ads are a disappointment for everyone except the marketing teams at Diet Coke and Cadbury. I find myself thinking about the very famous ads for both brands instead of considering Aldi. Aldi is overshadowed.

And for a simple soul like me, I also find these ads a bit confusing. Having mice tell me about Aldi cheese or vampires spruik Aldi sunscreen is pretty simple. I am puzzled as to why you’d choose the Diet Coke guy to promote hot cross buns. Plus, and I do realise this comment is subjective, I just didn’t find them funny. Sorry to be the deliverer of such a brutal review. I really was hoping to like these because of the previous advertising. The original Aldi campaign works because it is brilliant, weird, simple and smart. Weird by itself just isn’t enough.

russ tucker CC

About Russ:

Russ has been working as an interactive creative for over 15 years. With a background in design and art direction, he made his mark at London’s renowned Agency Republic before moving to sunny Sydney’s Whybin\ TBWA Digital Arts Network in 2007.

With everyone connected to the same sources of inspiration creatively via the internet, one should think carefully before ‘stealing’ an idea.

Stealing an idea in the age of the internet means you will get found out – quickly. You and your agency will experience an open trial by trolls who will post up the evidence, jump to the worst conclusion and start a fire using your reputation as kindling.

Creatively, if you are gonna steal, steal inspiration from insights not from other ad campaigns.

And be sure you remix it, mash it up, refresh it and make the idea uniquely your own. I like to think of it as the same as sampling within the music industry, take a beat from here, a snippet from there and make a new sound. Do it well and you’re a creative genius, do it badly and your Milli Vanilli.

On the topic of homages, covers and parodies, I think the same rules apply: Creatively go hard or go home.

Fun fact: Weird Al Yankovich is still touring globally as the king of parody pop and Kanye West is still trying to forget about his awful version of Bohemian Rhapsody that time at Glastonbury.

Oh Yeezy.

dejan rasic

About Dejan:

Dejan’s career spans more than 18 years at creative agencies in Australia, Singapore and London. During this time, he has won numerous awards, including 15 Lions at Cannes. He was a founding partner of Colman Rasic Carrasco in Sydney and is now ECD at McCann Sydney.

Stealing and parodying are two very different things. It is obviously not smart to steal ideas, but the Aldi campaign is not in this camp. It is an homage and parody of two very famous and memorable pieces of advertising.

For a simple retail Easter campaign, I’d argue it is fun and a good way to get attention. The films are also executed well, which is vital if you are going to pull this kind of thing off. God is in the detail as they say, and these do have some nice attention to detail in them.

The fact that we are even discussing a retail campaign for Easter proves this Aldi work has achieved what it set out to do. It is not the first time advertising has parodied other advertising and it probably won’t be the last either.

Think way back to the 90s when British ale brand Boddingtons created a series of films around the campaign line ‘The Cream of Manchester’. Its ‘Gondola’ film was a direct parody of a well-known Cornetto ice cream ad at the time (except it was set on Manchester’s River Irwell). It was really funny and relevant to the creative strategy. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules when it comes to this kind of work. Ultimately it’s about whether it elicits a response and makes you feel something.

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