I think I'm flattered

Recently something happened to me that I wasn't prepared for. At first I was surprised, then a little angry, then nervous and finally a little flattered. So what was this surprise?

I saw a print ad that "borrowed" from one of my ads.

So how'd it go down?

I was at a Barnes and Noble flipping through a student publication and about three ads in I saw it. Even before reading it I knew this ad looked familiar. Then I read it.

Honestly, my surprise turned into anger rather fast. I contemplated emailing the student and giving him an inbox full of what it means to do your own work. Berate him with a tirade of expletives that would have left him numb for days.

But then I thought about it.

I closed the publication and thought to myself about what it was to be a student. When I was at school I did something similar, unknowingly of course (probably like the guy I'm writing about). My partner and I came up with a campaign and about a month later we saw it in the One Show. Even though I had never seen the campaign I rationalized that since I hadn't seen it, I could keep it in my book. I kept it in there for about a quarter, then dumped it because the vast majority of my teachers thought it looked "familiar."

But still, I was pretty upset. I imagined the next time I showed my book to a CD, he would say "I like these, reminds me of something I saw in a students book...." Damn, how would I explain that. I could show him how my ad ran about 6 months before the students (I checked just in case I was the one doing the copying), but that's just awkward

Then I realized something, who cares? The kid may or may not have seen my ad, I don't know. And if he did why should I be mad? He may have given me the biggest compliment someone in advertising can give; I like your ads so much I will do them for myself. I don't think that's a long term strategy but at some level I'm flattered.

In the end I never emailed him or called or left a bitter comment on some blog. I instead took a little pride in the fact that somewhere someone looked at one of my ads and wished they would have done it (and then did).

15 comments:

Mark Kenny said...

Surely the issue is not whether your work is copied but your clients? Unless you retain ful creative ownership or everything you do?

You were paid to create a piece of design for your client, much like whoever copied you was. That client paid both of you because they wanted an individual piece of design to make their brand stand out.

If your, or his or anyone elses work is copied, it devalues the brand it's advertising.

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