Written by

Andrew Millar


November 18, 2008

There are two very powerful words in the English language. If carefully used they can allow you to get away with as much insulting, accusational and abusive language as you like. They are the literary equivalent of crossing your fingers in the schoolyard*. A sort of ‘say what you like and get out of jail free card.’

Those two little magic words are ‘Just kidding…”

You used them like this:… ‘“Heavens you are fat…. Just kidding…”.’ Or ‘My God that’s a stupid motorbike…. Just kidding.”’ Or “’Your haircut looks like an explosion in a mattress factory… Just kidding.’ And so on….

One application I’ve seen over the last couple of years has been a twitchy, bitchy article published on the last page of AdNews.

‘The Tribunal’ is a thinly veiled attempt to accuse creatives of plagiarism by pointing out the similarities in ad campaigns. Every week it picks a couple of ads, jabbers on about foul play and then says “Just kidding” by metering out some silly punishment like ‘the fellows at so-and-so advertising need to stop ‘snorting’ the product (in this case a washing powder) and get back to work’.

If anyone takes offence, the silly punishment is the “’Just kidding’.”

Anyway, what I wanted to point out today was an amazing creative coincidence I noticed… and it is only a coincidence. This is not a sarcastic ‘those bastards ripped off our idea’ blog. This is not The Tribunal. And I won’t couch a vague conspiracy accusation in humor. In other words, I won’t end this with “’Only kidding’.” Because I think it is just one of those quirky things that happen in the idea world.

The current campaign for North Restaurant in the Star City building is identical to a campaign we pitched a couple of months ago to another client… who paid us and kept the idea without progressing it.

I am in no way saying someone’s playing silly buggers. I cannot think of a way that anyone would have seen and knocked off the idea. It’s just one of those funny things that happens…

Siiiiiiiiiiiimon Reynolds (remember him, he made a commercial once…) he used to say that all ideas live in the ‘ether’ (clear sky, the upper regions of the atmosphere beyond the clouds) and that we as creative people have antennas that bring these ideas back to earth. He claimed that this was how identical ads can be created at the same time, in different parts of the world.

I’m not sure about this theory of the unborn souls of ideas drifting around the skies waiting for suitable creative parents (or waiting to be sucked into the air intakes of international jetliners…… or maybe that’s what clear air turbulence is -… the violent death of an unborn idea.)

What I do believe in is ‘Polygenesis’, my idea that can sum up the creation of the same idea in different places at the same time.

And in the years I’ve been working in this business, I’ve seen it happen time and time and time again. Currently one of the national financial brokers are running an ad that shows an African American man free falling with a parachute strapped to his back. The headine reads, “Have a life and a home loan…”. This is identical to an ad we ran for CPS Credit Union; same image (except for the colour of the complexion) but exactly the same headline.

Years ago we wanted to buy the rights to the long forgotten song ‘Duke of Earl’ for Sip’n’Save, only to find Decore on air that night with the same tune. Polygenesis strikes again.

I like the ads for ‘North’. Why wouldn’t I. They make me smile in a world that offers precious little reason to. And I’m glad they found a client ready to run them. Too many advertisers are ready to take what they can from a reader and are not prepared to give anything back.

But that’s the subject for a future Bleat….

Andrew MIllar

*For those who didn’t grow up in Australia, crossing your fingers in a schoolyard game of Chasey signified you’d stopped playing for the moments your fingers were crossed, so you couldn’t be caught….