The embarrassing incident happened during the 2016 Father’s Day celebration. MTN ran a print ad using a stock image that showed a dad cuddling a baby, same stock image First bank used for its Father’s Day ad too. As expected, this pair of me-too ads slightly buzzed on social media, some attributed the scenario to a case of copycat ad, hence the question, who copied who? Others simply saw it as an avoidable coincidence: If either of the two parties had opted for proper photography, that gaffe wouldn’t have happened.
Well, it has happened again. This time, it’s between the same MTN, and its direct competition, Etisalat. We’ll get into it shortly.
According to the ad man that pioneered television advertising, the legendary Rosser Reeves: “Originality is the most dangerous word in advertising.” Further collaborating this position, Paul Arden, a former Executive Creative Director of Saatchi and Saatchi (New York) said: “90% of advertising inspiration comes from other advertising.” Even as early as 1932, a Harvard Law Review editorial noted that: “According to advertising men, imitation in advertising is the rule, not the exception.” Though these arguments succinctly explained the truism, “Nothing is new under the sun,” even at that, the big question has always been: What “magic” are you sprinkling into your ad that’ll make it a bit different from the clutter?
Creativity today deploys all manner of tools and tropes. These devices sometimes allow one ad to uniquely bite into the style of another, or altogether ape it in a fresher way. Hypo, a Nigeria bleach brand used its “Made of White” campaign to cleverly spoof the Guinness “Made of Black” ads. Industry watchdogs lauded this smart move by Hypo. However, on the flip side, no one saw any ingenuity in the recent Hollandia Milk ad that immodestly copied everything Peak Milk did to push its economy pack sizes that sell for 50 Naira. Peak intelligently created the “Wazobia (Sikini Money)” TVC; Hollandia foolishly aped it verbatim!
In the words of Mr. Kayode Oluwasona, the AAAN President, “there may be one or two instances of pass off or copycat, the issue has not gotten to a frightening stage, but there is obvious need to nip it in the bud.”
Now let’s jump into the MTN and Etisalat ads…
Early in the year, Etisalat broke its TVC tagged “Offer 2017”, an effort to sell its airtime bonus offer. Telecommunication giant, MTN Nigeria, also unveiled its “Awuf 4 U” TVC with the same intent. Both the MTN and Etisalat TVCs are clearly the same: Man enters a buka, orders for food and was served more than what he’s paying for! (Ads hyperlinked at the end of this piece)
Again, what do we make of these MTN and Etisalat ads? Is it another case of copycat ads? If so, who copied who? Or is it simply a case of idea coincidence? Infact, doesn’t this me-too trend say a lot about the prevailing standard within the industry today?
According to Alhaji Garba Bello Kankarofi, the Chief Executive Officer of Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), “advertisers should these days be more concerned about falling standard of creativity…”
In the light of the above, one begins to wonder if the Advertising Standards Panel, a statutory committee under APCON, is really living up to its job description.
As stated in its manifesto, the Advertising Standards Panel (ASP), is expected to “vet and approve all advertisements before exposure in the media, and to define acceptable standards for advertisements exposed in Nigeria…”
So, if the ASP is effectively doing its job, how come it seems no one is putting the red light on these pass offs and me-too ads? Or should we just conclude that the ASP is more interested in the charges (monies) attached to the vetting, and not the actual vetting itself?
Whatever the case might be, truth is: We will do well as an industry if we collectively take it upon ourselves to push. Push and rise above this standard-eroding, me-too syndrome!
View the ads in question:
… I’m Just Saying