Leicester City 'Industries Inc' and the copy-cats are out

09 May 2016  |  Dominic Mills 
Leicester City 'Industries Inc' and the copy-cats are out

There is nothing marketing can learn from Leicester City's Premier League win, writes Dominic Mills, so quit trying - plus: the rise of advertising mimicry and the threat to creativity

Oh dear. That which I feared - Leicester City winning the title - has come to pass.

This is nothing to do with Leicester - I'm as thrilled as the next man by their triumph - but because, predictably, the Leicester City 'Industries Inc' machine is already in full swing.

You know what I mean: all those blogs and LinkedIn posts droning on about 'What marketing/advertising etc can learn from Leicester City'.

Sometimes, just for variety, they're phrased the other way round - as a plaintive question: 'What can marketing/advertising learn blah blah blah?'. Or sometimes as a 'definitive' 'Five Lessons etc etc'.

Just pop that phrase or something similar into Google and a dreary litany of copy-cat stuff comes up.

In fact, there's no industry sector that doesn't play this game: retailers, investors, recruiters, management, and so on.

Even Christians have got in on the act, with this '3 Lessons the Church can learn from Leicester's win'.

I'm sure it is a only matter of time before funeral directors are lectured about Leicester, and while we're at it, a lesson or two for Sir Philip Green.

I can't think of a single thing the marketing/advertising/digital/content marketing disciplines can learn from Leicester, and nor should they look to.

It reminds me of the story of maverick 50s footballer Len Shackleton, known as the Clown Prince of Football, but we can think of him as the Eric Cantona of his day. In his autobiography, he included a chapter headed 'The Average [club] Director's Knowledge of Football', followed by a blank page.

Anybody writing a blog post on Leicester should do the same.

Actimel/MoneySuperMarket: which ad is which?

Talking of a paucity of original thinking, I'm inclined to think that agency behind the latest Actimel TV ads has been drinking shamelessly from the same well of inspiration as MoneySuperMarket.

You'll all be familiar with the MoneySuperMarket ads, in which an ordinary bloke is so chuffed by his success in cutting his car insurance premium by a fiver that he dons his hotpants and high heels and does a fabulous strut and dance.

I love this campaign. It captures exactly how you feel when, even with something as trivial as renewing your insurance, you get a deal. It brilliantly elevates the humdrum and the tedious into something, well, epic.

And here's Actimel, doing pretty much the same thing. A farmer is so fired up by his breakfast yoghurt drink that he dances round his farmyard to Aerosmith's Walk this Way.

A teacher, similarly energised, does the same in her classroom to Staying Alive.

So let's just run over the list of shared ingredients in both campaigns.

Both feature an ordinary man/woman.

Both do something mundane (i.e. insurance/yoghurt).

Both, as a result, feel 'epic'.

Both feature a catchy piece of dance music.

Both 'heroes' go on a mad dance.

If there's a significant difference between the two campaigns, I haven't spotted it.

And I love them both, shameless copy-catting by Actimel or not.

Ikea: John Lewis with a different logo

"Why is John Lewis running that beautiful ad again?," a friend asked me a couple of weeks ago. "You know the one where we see a young girl turn into a young woman, then a mum, and then a grandmother, ageing gracefully thoughout the film, the nostalgia heightened by the use of a sepia effect. The one with the nice Billy Joel tune."

Er, I've no idea. But the new Ikea ad looks remarkably similar. Nice gentle music, featuring a couple painting psychedelic stuff on their walls. They age gracefully together - buying their first car, playing badminton in the garden, an anniversary party, sepia tone to convey the passage of time, etc.

And guess what? Just as John Lewis stands beside us as we move through our lives, so does Ikea. "Enjoy the little things in life, maybe they are the big things," says the voiceover - which sounds suspiciously familiar to the line peddled by Moneysupermarket and Actimel.

I found the Ikea ad confusing, partly because I was convinced it was for John Lewis. So if you want an explanation of what it's about, read this somewhat hyped-up description from AdWeek.

The question is whether any of this matters. I am not a plagiarism fascist, so if a UK press ad looks the same as one from, say, the Des Moines Bugle, I don't really care. We've all seen films and read novels with a similar plotline.

But I do believe that if the industry doesn't strive for creativity, then it is lost. The temptation to copy, especially when the client says "I want a John Lewis/Epic Strut/Meerkat" is strong, and should be resisted.

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Marc Mendoza, Owner, 360 Degree Media on 10 May 2016
“I do love an ad with a good dance - not sure whether to buy cheese, insurance, a yoghurt snack or indeed a yoghurt as they are all derivative (i.e. a rip off) of the original ad which was in turn inspired by an act on Britain's Got Talent (which was fair enough as it was a revelation when 3 French blokes turned up in high heels and started to dance)...

James Whatley, Digital Director, Ogilvy & Mather on 10 May 2016
“Look up 'Beeston's Law' - there's a tumblr for this kind of thing...”
Bob wootton, Principal, Deconstruction on 9 May 2016
“Agree, but aren't we all secretly waiting with baited breath for the first agency / media owner 'inspiredly' to liken themselves to underdogs Leicester? Zzz.

And you're right - agencies report a self-refreshing queue of advertisers naively seeking 'the next John Lewis ad' for their grommet / fluid / customer-focused utility (like, yeah). To invariably tepid results.

The key issues are good briefing, judgement, courage and preparedness to pay for quality. Ouch.”


19 Jul 2019 

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