How is it that two different people hundreds or thousands of miles apart can have similar ideas for the same product?

I’m working right now on a campaign for a regional advertising awards program. For the last three weeks, we’ve been meeting as a team to talk about thoughts and execution. We finally chose a direction (not to be egocentric or self-centered, but it was mine), refined it and began work. Yesterday two of the designers here put together some comp layouts.

Today, one of the art directors dropped a direct mail piece on my desk.

It’s a foldout poster for another advertising awards program. And it’s very similar to our idea. So similar, in fact, that it was one of the ideas we had on the way to our final concept.

How does this happen? How do two teams in different regions of the nation talk about the same idea? We didn’t go with a concept identical to theirs, but we could have. If we had stopped pushing toward something else, our comp layouts would look almost exactly like the printed piece I’m looking at right now.

The tragedy of the situation is that it could look to our consumers like we copied this other agency. Nothing could be further from the truth, but their material went to print first. Their idea is already in the hands and the minds of the public.

Our idea is good (trust me; really good). But it could look to some like we copied the thoughts of the other team. That sucks. It’s like making the most delicious sandwich of your life and dropping it, open-faced, onto your shoe. Yeah, it still tastes good, but you’ve essentially just put your tongue on the street. And that’s not cool.

[For those curious about the concept: picture five chimps, two typewriters, approximately one ton of raw hamburger meat and a trebuchet. It's nothing like that.]

9 Responses to “similarly different”

  1. # Blogger Eric

    Reminds me of the Eminem iPod commerical "scandal" right now.  

  2. # Blogger r.fuel

    Our final concept is reasonably different from theirs. They lie in a similar vein of thinking, but are pretty dissimilar. Although, like I said, we talked about going with something exactly the same. So when TBWA says that they didn't copy the Lugz commercial, you can bet that there's a reasonable chance that they're telling the truth.

    For information on what Eric is talking about, look here. The comments are pretty interesting, too.  

  3. # Anonymous anne arkham

    It happens. Newton and Leibniz invented calculus simultaneously.  

  4. # Blogger Eric

    Yeah so did I. But seriously, I have no doubt that TBWA wasn't trying to copy a commercial for wanna-be ghetto shoes.  

  5. # Blogger anaglyph

    Florey and Fleming: Penicillin
    Darwin and Wallace: Evolution
    Hitchcock and Castle: 'Psycho'/'Homicidal'
    Steve Jobs and Me: buying music online (actually, I was first on that but he had the leverage).

    Great minds and all that...  

  6. # Anonymous anne arkham

    Who was Wallace?  

  7. # Blogger Joe Fuel

    Anne - Alfred Russell Wallace. He came up with a theory of evolution incredibly similar to Darwin's. He decided to send his manuscript to Darwin before it was published.

    Darwin had not yet published his own work on the subject. Upon reading Wallace's paper, he quickly published his work before Wallace could take any credit for the idea.

    I hope that made sense...  

  8. # Blogger Joe Fuel

    Wallace's paper was titled "On the Tendency of Varieties to Depart Indefinitely from the Original Type."

    There, this biology major is through with the subject.  

  9. # Anonymous anne arkham


    I miss academia.  

Post a Comment

words © 2006-2008
All rights reserved. Reproduction prohibited without proper consent.