Intellectual property is a sticky area in advertising.
Most agencies, knowingly or not, have ripped off a few ideas in their time.
1. Stealing from the art world
Sometimes justified as a 'homage' to the artist, sometimes done with their permission, sometimes not. Often undertaken in a country far removed from where the artist is based, as Oglivy & Mather in China did with their 'crying kids' campaign for an local Italian Chinese restaurant chain. Ripping off artist Jill Greenberg in a very obvious way. They should know better.
Spot the difference:
2. Borrowing by getting out the cheque book.
In advertising we work with a lot of directors who also direct feature films or pop promos. Likewise with photographers. They may just shoot commercial stills, on the other hand, they may be Annie Liebowitz and have a known style in a parallel industry.
Often a campaign looks similar to something else you've seen because the agency has consciously sought out the original person responsible for that look or feel, and asked them could they please repeat it for Client X?
Only trouble is, certain artists may not want their 'style' or some ground-breaking new technique they've developed used to promote sanpro products in the Americas. But a certain number will do anything for money. They're much the same as us advertising monkeys in that way.
3. When ideas collide... or do they?
Sometimes it's clear that two people have simultaneously developed the same creative idea. Not that impossible when you consider how many brands there are out there with similar product attributes, similar business objectives, and similar market challenges.
Take skincare for example. Now, what are the big consumer insights around skincare? You want products to take care of your skin, right? Your skin is a living organism, made up of thousands of individual cells, right? You want to show how Product A takes care of all of those individual cells, which takes care of your whole body overall, right?
Now, hmm, how you could possibly represent that creatively? I know, have thousands of bodies, human bodies, naked as the day they were born, undulating like a big sea of naked bodies, which we then pull back and reveal to actually make up the skin on your body.
A fairly solid, if predictable response to a creative brief. A creative brief which must have landed in the in-trays of the creatives working on the Vaseline and the Sanex accounts at the same time, judging by their very similar campaigns which broke within days of eachother:
Unless of course they simply lied and cheated and one has just ripped off the other?
It's possible. We are in advertising, after all.