“Inspired”Advertising. If you borrow an idea, can you make it your own?

Remember the award winning Honda Cog ad from 2003? It was a clever and technically difficult domino effect, a chain reaction of colliding Honda parts. If you missed it click here.

There was a bit of media hoopla when the creators of the 1987 film The Way Things Go claimed it was just a shortened copy of their idea. They weren’t happy about it being used without permission.

Wieden and Kennedy’s acknowledge that the film had been the inspiration behind the ad.

None the less, they managed to own it. The ad was a huge success, one of the most awarded in history and the general consensus was that there is nothing new in the world.

Wieden and Kennedy did three things that I think helped them:
They stayed true to the nature of the original film.

They made the domino effect work, filming each half in a long, single take that earned them respect for their craft skills.

And importantly, they made it relevant to the brand and proposition, Honda’s car parts work well.

Less Convincing
I’m far less sure about this ad for the charity Water is Life by DDB NY.

They’ve taken their inspiration from Funnyz’s “First World Problems” on Youtube but didn’t follow the things that made the Honda ad work.

The beauty of Funnyz rap is that he’s a cute, middle class, white boy, poking fun at himself and his peers. It’s his humour, expressions of irony and clarity about his problems, which make you like him.

His message is implicit and he makes it at his own expense. Definitely worth watching.

The Water is Life ad takes his message but juxtaposes it on poverty stricken Africans. In my opinion it loses the humour and makes the message feel like blame.

I’ve learned, with charity advertising, that hitting your audience with the big guilt stick usually just makes them look away.

It also makes me uncomfortable that the people saying the words in this ad don’t appear to be in on the joke, making it impossible replicate the original idea.

Perhaps, with these visuals, Crocodile Dundee would have been better inspiration: “You call that a problem? THIS is a problem.”

Drop a line in the box below if you think it does the job or misses the mark.

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