Creative Similarities?

On the David Elsewhere stuff Tim just commented:

I liked spike’s version from a year or two ago.

With a link to this video:

It’s a different thing doing a different job. But I can see how one would perhaps make you think of the other. For sure.

Now I’ve no idea if Tim’s comment is a thinly veiled jibe or just a simple statement. I don’t know Tim. Or his intentions, so it’s really hard to tell.

He could be saying:


Or he could just be saying that he really quite likes this video and there’s just something about it that reminds him of the above Spike Jonez directed ad from the year 2000. But there’s something about the use of the word ‘version’ that makes me think there’s a hint of jibeyness about it. Or I could be suffering from blog-comment paranoia…

Ah well.

But it does relate to something that happened to me earlier on today. I met up with some lovely creative chaps who I’ve known for a while. They wanted to chat about an idea for a project. It just so happened that we’d already done exactly the same thing 4 years ago on the internet. Like totally exactly the same. So we laughed about it and moved on to chatting about some other ideas instead.

But if they’d talked to someone else about it there would be an identical thing being conceived and made at this exact moment in time. And at some point in a month or two people would be saying: “Oh my god, they ripped off that thing from 4 years ago”. And I’d never have known any different, apart from the fact that I really like these guys and I know that they wouldn’t intentionally have done that. But in another time-space scenario I’d have probably been dead cynical about it. For sure.

The Tea Buddy shenanigans a few months ago is yet-another example of a similarish thing being spotted and jumped on.

Even the Orange Balloon Race got accused of being un-original (see first comment here) because someone else had made a Balloon Race Game that existed on the Internet before (in spite of the fact it was just a Balloon Race game that took place inside one bit of flash on one site on the Internet – which seems hugely different to me).

I guess I’m taking a long way round to say:

  • In our line of work there’s doesn’t appear to be enough ideas to go round – have we run out?
  • During development it’s really hard to do global due-diligence on a creative idea (and certainly to check on an execution or production technique).
  • However, once something is live on the internet it’s very easy for well connected and observant individuals to spot similarities in things
  • Or are (un)happy creative coincidences just a fact of life? (I just remembered this great site that groups together ads that have almost identical ideas and art direction)

It’s tough. And it’s only going to get worse as we get more connected and more people see more stuff that they can make more connections between.

I guess the only answer is to try to have seen everything in the world ever. Or perhaps the creative industries should try to set up a global panel of idea guardians who can check all concepts at an early stage and make sure they don’t remind them of something else?

But for what it’s worth, as far as I know, no-one involved in the making of the David Elsewhere stuff has ever seen that Spike Jonez ad (at least not that they’re admitting).

EDIT: I just remembered another thing! My brain must be working OK-ish tonight. This point made by James Cooper ex-of-Dare now of Anomaly NY on Scampblog.

2. Be original. Same rules apply to when all you lot who moan about whether Bravia or Guinness or John Lewis was original or not. Poke’s nice unlimited site looks a little like a Motorola site, our nice Bravia site looks a little like a Pioneer site. The point is it’s not such a leap to imagine that creative brains come up with the same things. An amount of copying goes on, but these things right themselves in the end. No one is going to make a serious career out of being unoriginal – apart from The Chemical Brothers. There are trends in digital in the same way there are in TV. If you really want to stick out then you have to do something different and we all know how hard that is these days.

Well said that man.

The full, excellent, post on ‘how to do digital’ is right here.

11 thoughts on “Creative Similarities?”

  1. Wow, I really did not expect to spark such a detailed response. I did enjoy the work and find it to be as “original as possible” in this industry and in these times. Concepts, ideas, and executions are happening all the time, and one can argue that there are no original ideas. Does one video, shot in an urban environment, using a dance genre the was born in an urban environment mean “this shit was jacked yo!”…. hell no.

    I enjoyed how each spot brought elements of the phone/device to life, and meant no harm. I apologize for being so short, and shooting a vague statement out there.

    As for me I direct live action and interactive content at

    Remember. Pop will eat itself. Cheers!

  2. The concepts behind both are completely different. On one hand there is Levi’s and superlight jeans so you can move weird. And on the other someone dancing to represent features. Different. Comparing them is like saying “VW copied Mercedes ads. They have a car in there as well”. Even if it’s wasn’t the purpose of Tim’s comment, there’s always someone on the worldwideweb who might find something that theoretically could have been an inspiration for a particular piece of work. How many people are working in communication around the world? A million? And if only 1000 of them work on a product from the same category chances are quite good that they will have the same ideas…

  3. Thanks Seb.

    And thanks Tim for coming back. I’m glad I misconstrued your original comment somewhat. I’d been meaning to say something like that for a while :-)

  4. There used to be a programme on telly (before the internet) called the A Team. In the intro they used to say they were a CRACK UNIT.

    So you even ripped the title of your weblog off you thieving fucktard.

  5. Finally someone has spotted where I got the stupid domain name from.

    Ben, you’re great…

  6. Genius Steals… O wait no not that one

    Parallel or possibly convergent evolution.


  7. Hi Dave

    Thanks for the comment. It’s relatively simple.

    One is a balloon race game on the internet.
    The other is a balloon race game across the internet.

    Unless you’re suggesting that once a balloon race on the internet have been done it’s all sewn up forevermore. That’d be a bit harsh?

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