By Louai Alasfahani
1- What is your opinion of the KAAA’s initiative – to be applauded, or pointless?
The KAAA “intended” step towards following the well established practice of Cannes Lions, Dubai Lynx and other reputed creativity awards in withdrawing trophies (from agencies that have been proven to have won with copy-cat, spoof/ghost or cliché ads) is certainly to be applauded – provided KAAA actually takes this crucial first step. Withdrawing only one trophy as an attempt to save the KAAA integrity due to mounting pressure from the industry watch-dog, the IAA Kuwait chapter (sponsors of last year’s KAAA) or as a timely reaction to the increasing publicity on copy-cats in trade publications is not enough. Only the withdrawal of all awarded copy-cat work can save the KAAA integrity and make the effort of combating copy-cat ads meaningful.
In theory – Agency staff are encouraged to look at others’ work to open their minds to the infinite possibilities of creating new artworks. In reality – the copy-cat problem is due to agency staff constantly looking at others’ work, falling in love with others’ work (specially internationally awarded others’ work) copying others’ work then selling it to their clients as their own creations and being awarded for such practice!!! I strongly disagree that “nothing is really original”; this statement is parallel to “there is no new thing under the sun” – Ecclesiastes i:8.Since this is a very long argument; I have summarized my disagreement with fundamental definitions/process of creativity with some quotes to clarify my point:
1- Creativity by definition of Lateral Thinking: “When a low probability line of thought leads to an effective idea, there is a “Eureka” moment and at once the low-probability approach acquires the highest probability”. – Edward De Bono.
2- Creativity as a process of Bisociation: “The bringing together of two previously unrelated planes of thought”. (Examples from the art world include one of Picasso’s paintings when he brought together the style of the sculpture of African masks with Paul Cezanne’s brush technique; another example is the portraying of a face in profile together with a full face).(example of daily life is sailing + surfing = windsurfing another example is glue + Woods Shaving = chipboard) in other words “Creativity is finding new things…or expressing old truths in new ways” – Roger vol Oech.
3- To what degree is copying acceptable in terms of art direction or ideas?
The region is resorting to copycat work for a number of reasons; in some occasions for a combination of all the listed reasons:
1- Lack of self-regulation. Internationally “aligned/affiliated” agencies have only embraced the international agency “name/logo” but not the more important- international agency “culture”.
2- Un-sufficient enforcement of copyright laws in the advertising industry.
3- Rising costs and Lower industry profit margins in the GCC than the developed world.
4- Quick profit combined with good old fashioned laziness. “Time is money”. It is much easier, much faster and much more profitable to copy already existing work than to invest time in creating something new and original.
5- Lost passion. Many professionals have lost their passion for the industry so anything goes. Those who still have passion believe that “When love and skill work together expect a masterpiece” – John Ruskin.
6- Wining at any cost. Many creative directors have resulted to spoof ads and copy-cat ads to unethically accelerate their carriers on the account of other more talented and deserving individuals – but this will not last.
7- Lack of knowledge on the part of most clients with regards to copy-cat work which directly effects creative output in this region.(Although clients are not the ones to be blamed).
5- Do you think it is a problem particular to the region?
There is bad news and then there is very bad news; The bad news is – the problem is not particular to this region alone; as evident in blogs and websites dedicated to fighting this problem, examples are www.bloganubis.com (first site in the Middle East dedicated to fighting copy-cats), www.joelepompe.net (author of the world’s first book on copy-cats) and http://www.coloribus.com/admirror/ the very bad news is - only in this region has the problem reached epidemic proportion.
Agencies can be better policed in a number of ways, such as;
1. Self-regulation. Each agency can lead by example by reprimanding any member of the agency compromising its integrity with spoofs and copy-cat ads. (Even before the idea/concept is presented to the client for approval). “I would rather fail for attempting to do something different, than just do constantly mediocre work” – Jack Mariucci
2. If and when self-regulation fails (intentionally or unintentionally) we as industry professionals have the moral obligation to report (with proof) any copy-cat work to the industry governing body – the IAA local chapter ; which in turn will take necessary actions. (An important fact is that many creativity awards are presented in association with the IAA and industry leaders are IAA board members).
3. In the unlikely event that the IAA local chapter does not take adequate actions then industry professionals can report (with proof) any copy-cat work to their favorite trade magazines which in turn will gladly publish it. (In addition copy-cat work can also be reported to specialized advertising blogs).
4. If all fails then as a last measurement we as industry professionals can do the client a favor by enlightening them by means of forwarding (with proof) any copy-cat work that has been sold to them by the agency.
It is interesting to note that creative directors constantly complain about clients not embracing creativity in this region, yet manage to sell them copy-cat ads created by a different agency, for a different market, in a different continent many years ago…but continue to blame clients!!! Agencies are paid to create good work not to copy great work. “Imitation is not the most sincere form of admiration but the sincerest form of thievery”.
7- Do clients really care if work is copied if it works for their brand and doesn’t clash with anything locally?
Clients entrust agencies in producing original, creative, relevant artworks that sells products and services and are not aware they are paying for copied work. (It is not a client responsibility to investigate the work copied by an agency). Yes, clients do care if work is copied; even if it works for them they would shift their account to another agency. To put the theory to the test publish some examples of copy-cat ads then call those clients for an opinion
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Frank Jefkins. Advertising Third Edition. M+E Handbooks. 1994.
John Townsend & Jacques Favier The Creative Manager’s Pocketbook.
Alastair Campbell The Designer’s Lexicon.
Capsule. Design Matters.