News / Opinion

Jacques Cilliers
3 minute read
14 Sep 2017
1:34 pm

An ad that inspires other ads is a success

Jacques Cilliers

It's no surprise that few things under the sun are original. I love a good ad. And a clever one even more.

Advertising is a cut-throat industry. There’s a lot to take in when you find yourself either on agency or creative’s side, and both sides serve up their challenges. It’s an industry notorious for the toll it takes on advertising professionals, and also for its questionable ethics. Burnout, creative blocks and ridiculous deadlines are part and parcel of what’s become known as #AgencyLife, but it’s still an industry I love.

Nothing is original. In his book Steal Like An Artist, Austin Kleon said: “You’re an amalgamation of the art you consume, so choose wisely.” It’s no surprise that few things under the sun are original – especially in the information age. I love a good ad. And a clever one even more.

Two weeks ago, a video went live on Vimeo. A stock video company from Calgary named Dissolve briefed And/Or studio to create a beautiful (fake) ad that mocks everything junior creatives (working in advertising) have heard in a studio/boardroom/brainstorm. The tone is cringy, like it was written by a 40-something creative director trying to appeal to millennials.

It went viral (what a gross word) because it illustrates perfectly how brands have tried to pander to millennials by using buzzwords such as “individuality”, “diversity”, “gender”. It’s a Vimeo Staff Pick. It was also lauded by Ad Age, The Verge and even local clickbait site The Good News Guy.

What makes this (fake) ad great? It’s a video for a stock video site, using the site’s stock footage in a hilarious fashion. It speaks to their target market (ie, agency creatives) in a way that art directors and videographers the world over can relate to. It executes a simple, original concept in a clever way to the right people.

It’s lovely, isn’t it?

Then KFC South Africa launched their #HonestlyFLG (“FLG” is probably “finger licking good”) campaign this week.

Here’s the ad:

The ad showcases what looks like stock imagery with chicken animated into almost every shot. It seems clever, funny and semi-entertaining. It’s well-produced, with clever copy and a great voiceover.

What bothered me most is that this video seemed too familiar. KFC speaks to a broad target market in a way their consumers would enjoy, and based on the feedback they’re receiving for the ad, it’s a success. However, tonally and visually, it’s clear that cues were taken from And/Or’s work. Can we say this ad is inspired by the Generic Millennial Video? Can we say it’s derivative? Can we possibly even say KFC’s ad is a localised (branded) version of the Generic Millennial Ad?

It’s a slippery slope. Comparing work to earlier work is not fair, because nothing is original. The KFC ad didn’t copy Dissolve’s ad frame by frame. The tone is similar, and the nuances (like the parenthesis in the voiceovers) as well. But hey, what do I know? Maybe I’ve just watched too many ads.