Chris Kyme: Postcard from Hong Kong

Chris Kyme_April2016.jpgChris Kyme continues his "Postcards from..." series and this time he asks do great minds think alike?

Years ago when I was working in Singapore, a young team in our agency presented what I thought was a half decent idea for an after-sun cream. It was shown to the client among a couple of other ideas and approved, and went into production. Which meant going out to a retoucher.

The image was a lobster which had been bleached white. Now it just so happens that a really similar idea (okay, the same image for a different product and message, put it like that) was spotted by someone, and funnily enough, it was also executed in Singapore.

Now in no way did we think the team was ripping off an idea, but the fact is, we had to pull the ad and come up with something else. I actually met the creative director from the other agency years later and we laughed about the incident.
Pure coincidence, and it happens. It's law of averages, in the world we operate in, that similar ideas will pop up every now and then, especially because usually we are working to exactly the same strategies and propositions.

Meet Graham.jpgSmoking UK advert.jpgHow many times have you come up with something and someone says "Er..it's been done." To which you can only say "Bollocks" and move on. Take the recent case of the TAC Road Safety 'Meet Graham' work by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, and the accusations (observations?) that it was the same idea as a UK anti-smoking TV ad from the 1980s. I remember the UK ad, it won awards. It was brilliant and eerie. I'd have to say that it's a very similar survival idea, albeit for a different topic.

But I really don't believe that the creative team would even have seen the UK ad from way back when. It's not as if it was an iconic campaign which remains famous to this day.

Nor do I believe that a team from such a respected agency would even need to rip off an idea. So it has to go down purely as coincidence. An unfortunate one albeit.

Toyota.jpgVolvo.jpgHow many other campaigns could you say are created 'in the tradition' of work from the past. Remember the Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore campaign for Toyota which had kids wrapped in protective cladding? (I do, I'm a walking encyclopedia me...).

A niggle was at the time it was very similar to an idea that had been done by Abbot Mead Vickers London for Volvo (the great David Abbott RIP).

Such cases are very different to what we've seen emerging from China in recent years, where there seems to be a creative culture emerging which deems it okay to blatantly lift an idea lock stock and barrel and just plant a different logo on the end. I kid you not.

Such is the problem that when I was invited to speak at an industry event in China a few years back, the organisers (China Advertising Association) specifically asked me to address the topic head on. Which I did, and what turned up in my research was frankly astounding.

So I was thinking about all of this recently when a new campaign popped up in Hong Kong for Kentucky Fried Chicken, where, through clever on-the-spot photo grabbing, they produce tray mats with the photo of the actual customer it's being served to. And of course, a viral film is then created from the hilarious responses. Another one of those 'candid camera' ideas. It felt somewhat familiar to me though, and I remembered a similar viral film for a completely different category and message. It was for Nivea, where they did the same treatment to surprise people in an airport waiting area. The entertainment (again, 'candid camera' style) comes from the reactions of the unsuspecting targets, until all is revealed at the end to be about Nivea anti-perspirant stress protection (I would have thought a few beers be a more relevant product for that one but there you go).

Burger King.jpgKFC.jpgDiscussing this with someone, I was then pointed in the direction of a campaign even more similar to the KFC one in that it was same category, fast food. It was for Burger King, and I have to say having reviewed it - wow! Pretty much the same idea. The Burger King work was released by Ogilvy Brazil in 2010, so it's not as if the two campaigns have been unknowingly released at the same time.

I would like to give the Hong Kong agency benefit of the doubt. They might have just happened to have come up with a uniquely brilliant idea which also just happens to have been uniquely done elsewhere for a different client in a different part of the world. But given that recently an agency in the Philippines got fired by its client for a similar scandal, these days we have to be especially alert to what's being done out there, in case we want to avoid more of the same.

Coincidence? I'll let you decide.

Chris Kyme is chief executive officer at Kymechow, Hong Kong

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