The campaign must grow out of what makes you unique. By that definition alone, copying an existing commercial is foolhardy.
“We begin coveting what we see every day.” Dr. Lecter’s words jabbed at Agent Starling. “Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don’t your eyes seek out the things you want?” In the 1991 film Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lector is forever seared into movie history. This erudite cannibal normalizes his behavior by suggesting that we all covet. Later in the film he slips past a battalion of police by removing the skin of a freshly murdered prison guard and wears the flesh as a disguise (I trust the statute of limitations on #spoilers has expired after 25 years).
I want you to remember this God-awful image the next time you are tempted to copy (steal, pilfer, mug) an advertising campaign. I’ll leave the legalities to your attorney, and the lack of ethics to your Rabbi, Minister, or Imam.
When you discover a “really great ad” and try to screw and glue it onto your own business, you are missing the key job of advertising. Advertising is supposed to emphasize and dramatize what makes you different. A great campaign orbits around the thing that makes you better than the 14 other schlubs in your industry. The campaign must grow out of what makes you unique. By that definition alone, copying an existing commercial is foolhardy.
The Goodby Silverstein “got milk?” campaign has been bastardized into “got mufflers,” “got appetizers,” and a failed gubernatorial bid by the owner of a dairy processing company who morphed it into “got gov?” At the least, these attempts just remind the consumer of the original, and there’s really no need to spend your money helping another campaign. In truth, they send the cloaked message that your company lacks vision, mission, uniqueness (cares little about flaunting the law, poor ethics, etc.).
I offer the same caution for doing parodies of movies or the latest Saturday Night Live catch phrase.
Your business is a unique snowflake. Treat it as such, and be damn proud of what makes you special. Stand on the roof and shout your differentiation to the world. Be bold and tell your special story to a tribe of people who share your values.
Yes, you can wear someone else’s skin. But, it looks horrible, and eventually you will get caught, Dr. Lector.