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Ad industry calls for regulatory body to monitor plagiarism

Ad industry calls for regulatory body to monitor plagiarism

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MUMBAI: Creativity sometimes takes inspiration from past creatives but what if it is an entirely copied one? Plagiarism (or inspiration), is a never-ending burning issue in the advertising world. A little similarity can be overlooked but complete knockoffs are just astonishing.

Information sharing on the internet has led to rampant plagiarism. In the garb of creativity, sometimes, knowingly or unknowingly, ideas tend to be entirely copied.

Plagiarism with ads is much more difficult to pinpoint compared to a music piece or a film narrative, purely owing to the shorter format of the medium. Accepting that this does happen, The Glitch senior creative director Sunetro Lahiri admits that he has personally been part of campaigns where the main thought had to be tweaked in the event of another brand (that too, from a totally different category!) having launched a campaign with the exact thought. He affirms, “It does happen and that's why it's more about ethics than rules. We see elements of different auteurs in the work of a lot of current film-makers. Just the way you can't label it plagiarism, there's a larger grey area in advertising too.”

Without naming any brands Grapes Digital COO Shradha Agarwal brings up that there are times that a client shares references to create a new piece of communication. After multiple rounds of changes and iterations, it becomes less of an inspiration and more of a ‘copy’. This is another reason why sometimes a creative agency, without the intention of copying, might actually end up copying a current campaign from an ‘inspirational’ campaign.

Lesser known local brands tend to ape their famous counterparts. It was only last year when a 2015 ad for Wagh Bakri Tea conceptualised by Scarecrow Communications was plagiarised by a local Gujarati tea brand, Jay Jawan Tea. The local brand not only copied the entire ad but smartly replaced Wagh Bakri shots with its own product placement.

Wagh Bakri ad:

Jay Jawan ad:

Recalling an old incident, Happy mcgarrybowen senior creative director Naren Kaushik read about a bike, named Gulsar, which was a rip off of Pulsar. He says that maybe years ago when internet didn’t make everything news, it was just easier to use existing ideas for which people would have spent time and money, and just rip them off as is. In today’s context, Jai Jawan gets their share of eyeballs very quickly. Now we all know such a brand exists.

While there is no way to stop it and brands often just send a legal notice to the other party, maybe there is a need to have more stringent rules to keep a tab on plagiarism.

Our experts view on this:

BBH chief creative officer and managing partner Russell Barrett:

The people who do that should be ignored. It's the best punishment. It's a vile habit that untalented poseurs have resorted to through the centuries. The best thing is for them to be forgotten and ignored. By their peers and their audience. The argument should not be about copied versus unique. Show me what you think is a unique idea and I will show you another one that is somewhat similar. The drive should be for freshness. Why is this idea different? Why should it exist in a new form? What's fresh about it?

Happy mcgarrybowen senior creative director Naren Kaushik:

Needless to say, yes. A regulatory system for any big industry is important. There will always be me-toos bordering on illegal. If we walk around our own neighbourhood, how many salons do we see with actors’ and actresses’ pictures all over them? Surely they haven’t paid for endorsement. Even smaller and local fashion outlets use celebrities of all sorts. There’s no real way to keep track of who is copying who and where. We have also seen billboards when we drive out to smaller towns where some or other ad has been ripped off. It is very difficult to keep a track of this. But when it does come to someone’s notice, there should be some action that we can take. The trouble, though, is that this is a sketchy process right now. We don’t have a system to ensure quick results and more often than not, the petitioners end up losing time and money. That is a huge deterrent. If there’s a ‘regulatory body’ that can help fast-track this, more agencies will be encouraged to take their case up.

The Glitch senior creative director Sunetro Lahiri:

Ideally, it should. If various forms of media are protected, why should this field be left out? The lack of legal action stems from the lack of belief that there will be a possible resolution. Also, as a rule, as mentioned in the question, agencies and brands aren't even aware of the said creative.

Grapes Digital COO Shradha Agarwal:

There are a lot of copyright laws that exist which are meant to safeguard the interests of advertisers from ones that are out to steal. But sometimes they are not enough as has been proven time after time. Things, like muting the audio or taking the entire video down, are currently practised on multiple social platforms as a good way to minimise copyright infringement. So yes, perhaps a regulatory body can help minimise the damage that this sort of plagiarism can cause. If the entire advertising community comes together as one and penalise the one that is stealing work from one of their own, it can definitely serve as a step in the right direction.

White Rivers Media co-founder and CEO Shrenik Gandhi:

Honestly, it is too small a problem for a regulatory body to be formed for. These are marketing techniques used by smaller brands to influence a smaller audience. So this has to be solved at a smaller level itself. And I don't think at this moment there’s a need for a regulatory body to guide on this particular issue. There are much bigger issues the industry is facing and if a regulatory body exists, they should focus on those.

While copying someone’s creative is a pertinent issue that needs to be looked at, maybe AAAI, ASCI (The Advertising Standards Council of India) and other regulatory bodies should come together to fight against this. If not, let us just leave ideas to breed other ideas just like this ad where oil brand, Sunny Lite filed a complaint with ASCI against the Aashirvaad Atta brand over a TVC where Sunny Lite claimed that the ad bears a striking similarity to its advertisement.

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