Computers, the Internet and social media are the great equalizers.
Now, just about anyone is empowered to be a marketing whiz, copywriter or art director.
Which is great. Well, except in some cases.
One such case is the increase in blatant rip-offs of other well-known advertising lines. You know what I’m talking about. While this may seem cute or clever at the time, it’s not. It shows a lack of thoughtfulness and creativity. So, unless “lazy and un-original” is what you want to communicate about your brand, don’t do it.
What’s more, you’re really just helping the idea originator. Every time someone rips off the “Got Milk” slogan, they’re just reminding me to drink more cow juice.
Now, this is not to say that knocks-offs and send-ups don’t have a time and a place in advertising. They do. Parodying other ads is particularly useful when taking on a competitor. MCI did a great rip off of classic AT&T commercials. The legendary Energizer Bunny campaign was actually, originally a parody of a long-forgotten competitor (Duracell). And, when we helped launch E*TRADE, we did a send up of the famous EF Hutton spots.
Here, by my count, are the Top Ten most often ripped off ads. For the most part, they are famous, and effective ideas. Many of them are short slogans that allow you to replace one word or phrase with a new one.
1.) Got ________?
I get it. We all love and remember the Dairy Board’s “Got Milk” campaign. But, it has been knocked off over 500 times. Do you remember any of those 500 derivatives? Neither do I. What’s more, it is over 20 years old now.
2.) What happens in ________ stays in _________.
How many invitations have you received with some bastardization of this Las Vegas tagline?
3.) (The buster sign.)
A fast, easy way to say “Anti” whatever. But every time I see it, I just keep hearing the “Ghostbusters” song.
4.) Stay Calm & __________.
A fairly new member of the club. A classic English poster. Well art directed. Derivative posters encourage us to stay calm and do just about anything.
5.) We are ____________.
This has been done so many times, I’m not even sure who originated. Penn State? Marshall? (I’m pretty sure it was not Farmers Insurance!)
6.) There’s a ____________ for that.
Apple-envy is a common and understandable disorder in advertising. Some people don’t even bother to change this line: they just introduce a new app using the copy as originally written.
7.) Friends don’t let friends _____________.
…Go to Duke. …Pay full-price. How about, “rip off Ad Council PSA’s for drunk driving?”
8.) _________ wanted.
Volkswagen introduced the Driver’s Wanted campaign nearly 20 years ago. It’s been every planner’s wet dream since.
9.) Keep _________________.
Another favorite of planners. A bunch of brands have campaigns that encourage us to keep walking, soaring, rising, etc. I am waiting for “Keep imitating.”
10.) I (heart) __________.
Legend has it that this New York State tourism logo/tagline was not originally trademarked – and thus became fair game for any originality-impaired creative-types.
- This is not your father’s ________________.
- ___________ is the new black.
If you have any others, let me know. Thank you for your support. (Ooops! Ripped off that sign off from Bartles and Jaymes.)