Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Leo Burnett Robs Budding Filmmaker

now clap like zis.As I noted back in early December, Nick Andrews of Helena, Montana created a viral sensation with his video "My Hands are Bananas" a great spoof of German techno, which Andrews says was inspired by the Mike Myers character Dieter of "Sprockets," back when SNL was funny.

So, late to the game and armed with a ripped off idea comes Leo Burnett with this ad for Altoids.

Advertising for Peanuts asks, "But what I really want to know is who's hands were bananas first? And does it really matter?"

I think it does matter. When a copywriter as celebrated and awarded as Bob Winter (who gave us genius moments like "Real Men of Genius") goes and borrows (synonyms: pilfer, filch, lift, appropriate, embezzle, pocket, purloin, thieve, rob, pinch, nick, whip) an idea off some kid trying to get into film school, credit is due the kid. Someone owes Nick Andrews a check - or at least an internship.

The original My Hands are Bananas was posted to YouTube in August of 2006 and was filmed in June, if I remember correctly. The new Altoids spot is from this month. Who's first? Short of a check, at least give the guy acknowledgement. George Parker would call this an "homage." I call it a hosejob.

But it is after all, only an idea; a guy with bananas coming out of his sleeves in place of hands. The original has been seen 2.6 million times on YouTube alone and was featured in an article in the Chicago Tribune, which surely is delivered to the offices of Leo Burnett daily. How long before some sort of appropriation happened? Maybe Andrews can just put this homage on his college applications.

Then again, if we track back, Winter gets his idea for an Altoids spot from the Andrews viral video and Andrews got the idea for his German techno guy from Mike Myers. I once heard Mike Myers say in an interview that Dieter was modeled after a German waiter who frequently served him in Toronto.

Someone find that waiter and we'll settle this.

"You have disturbed me almost to the point of insanity. There, I am insane now."

- Dieter

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  • I think the question is, are they ripping the idea off or are they trying to make an insider cultural reference to a hip audience. It's shady ground because while the banana hand music video has been viewed almost 3 million times it's still fairly obscure. I got it. But I'm not sure the rest of the world would have. Regardless, it's borrowed interest. And a good rule of thumb is to steer clear

    By Blogger Littlejohn, at March 20, 2007 at 2:08 PM  

  • Give me a break. You think this kid is the first one to ever think of putting bananas in place of fingers??

    More importantly, though, you suggest giving that kid an internship. Then should CP&B give some sort of restitution to DDB for the VW ads they just created that pay homage to the '60's Bernbach ads? Should Wieden pay restitution to MTV for all the music video ads they create for Nike? How about CP&B paying MTV for their Pimp My Ride ads?

    Get off your high horse, Jetpack. Advertising isn't about creating something that no one's seen before--that's merely the icing on the cake. It's about moving product. Whether these Altoids ads will help do that is a topic for another day.

    By Anonymous jetsucks, at March 20, 2007 at 4:09 PM  

  • Of course he isn't the first to have done this, but right on the heels of his video getting huge play an agency comes along and uses the exact same idea? Coincidence? Come on.

    All I'm saying is give credit where it's due. People know the new CPB VW ads are DDB derivatives and that Pimp My Ride was an MTV idea. I'm just calling attention to what was likely the inspiration for the Altoids ad. The internship was an off the cuff remark. I'm sorry you took it so literally.

    I appreciate the lesson in advertising and what it's all about. Yes, of course. It's about sales. I'm pretty sure I've heard that before, I just keep forgetting.

    As for my high horse, it's more of a hobbyhorse.

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at March 20, 2007 at 4:52 PM  

  • if i put plantains on my digits, would that be original? what about citrus fruits?

    By Blogger thompanilla, at March 20, 2007 at 5:15 PM  

  • This might not be the most important ethical question -- but the main question to me is which is better?

    It's like they tell every junior who is putting together a spec book. If you're going to put a "Just Do It" ad in your book, it had better be pretty damn good.

    Watch both videos side by side and decide which is better. To me, with all due respect to the creators of one of the greatest and longest running campaigns in advertising history, it's not even close

    By Blogger Corey, at March 20, 2007 at 5:27 PM  

  • If the idiots who came up with the Doritos SuperBlow spots should be considered ready for hire by Doritos marketing execs, then Nick Banana Hands should also get a shot.

    By Blogger Make the logo bigger, at March 20, 2007 at 6:00 PM  

  • Interesting argument, but I'm with Jetpacks, just. It feels less controversial if a burst of creativity is stimulated by the environment. Could be a film, a walk in the park, whatever.
    But if you can draw a straight line between a creative ad idea and one other person's work, then it's personal.
    It's like buying the old widow's teapot for £5 and selling it in an auction a week later for £500,000. Not against the rules, but it still stinks.

    By Blogger FishNChimps, at March 21, 2007 at 12:58 PM  

  • Tragically, all this probably comes back to the need for some kind of intellectual property rights scheme. The wild west we have now just can't last. Still, i see no reason to punish the kid with an internship.

    By Anonymous captain flummox, at March 21, 2007 at 2:28 PM  

  • And yet if you read the comments of jetsucks above, it's a Smash and Grab Wild West World out here - and he likes it that way. Move the product. Move the product. At all costs and ANY cost, Move the F-ing Product.

    Gangsta wannabes.

    Update: Nick Andrews sent me a note regarding the appropriation of his idea. Said Nick, "That's pure EVIL!"

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at March 21, 2007 at 2:38 PM  

  • i don't recall mentioning anything about "any and all costs". but you're right, jetpacks--remember lesson #1?--move the product. if you're in it to do something else you're in the wrong industry. we sell shit. don't delude yourself.

    anyway, at what point can you determine that an idea has been "stolen". as thompanilla points out, if the bananas had been on his toes instead of his fingers would it still have been considered ripped off? the point is there's no objective point at which you can say "yes, that's definitely been ripped off".

    the consumer doesn't care if an ad has been done before. heck, most times they have no idea if they've seen an ad that's similar to something else. us losers in the biz are the only ones who can say "yeah, i saw that in the '99 One Show".

    don't get me wrong--having an idea ripped off by someone is no fun. but sometimes it's impossible to tell when or if someone actually stole the idea. who knows what mr. winter's inspiration was for the spot. maybe he never saw the kid's video. maybe they started production eight months ago before the video was all over the internet.

    By Anonymous jetsucks, at March 21, 2007 at 6:02 PM  

  • Thanks, jetsucks. And I do know it's about sales. Trust me - I'm not deluded.

    I appreciate your point about it sucking to have your idea ripped off. It is possible that Mr. Winter coincidentally came up with this idea at the same time that Mr. Andrews video was hot - but very unlikely.

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at March 21, 2007 at 6:14 PM  

  • No, you're not deluded. Good post. I'd never seen that one before.

    Great blog you've got going here. Sorry I got a little uppity before. Certain topics just strike a chord with me.

    By Anonymous jetdoesn'tsuck, at March 21, 2007 at 11:01 PM  

  • No blood, no foul.

    Toad, is that you?


    By Blogger Jetpacks, at March 22, 2007 at 12:28 PM  

  • what are the chances a guy called "Jetsucks" and a guy called "jetdoesn'tsuck" would both comment on your blog, Dave? That is just NUTS.

    By Blogger James-H, at March 28, 2007 at 10:29 PM  

  • James - was that you posing as jetsucks?

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at March 28, 2007 at 11:00 PM  

  • Nope. But he sounds like a fan.

    By Blogger James-H, at April 2, 2007 at 11:01 AM  

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