Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The politically correct way to copy ads

About 10 years ago, I learned a very valuable lesson regarding ad design from my dad, that has stuck with me throughout my career....which is, there is a right way to copy something, and a wrong way to copy something.

We raise Brahman and Shorthorn cattle. There was a Shorthorn bull at the time named "Tomcat", I think he was owned by the McFarlands possibly. There was the coolest ad on this bull in the Shorthorn Country and it had a headline of "Every barn needs a good Tomcat."

We all thought that was just the catchiest headline and such a neat name for a bull. We wanted to use it too. So here is what my dad did. HE CALLED THE BULL OWNER. He asked the man if he would mind if we named one of our Brahman bulls Tomcat, and if he would mind if we used the exact same headline, because it was so good.

The Shorthorn bull owner said sure, no problem. He was actually flattered we thought it was so cool. So we named our bull Tomcat, and used that headline. What that lesson taught me, amongst the many other life lessons I've learned from my dad, is that there is a RIGHT way to copy someone, and a WRONG way.

People copying our work is nothing new. It's happened to us for 10 years. We work hard to come up with creative concepts that are really cool for our clients, so it's no suprise that people want to copy them. And with the readily available backgrounds, fonts, and stock photos on the internet, just about anyone can copy someone else's work.

If you see an ad you like, or a headline you like, call the person who ran it. I would put money on the fact that if you call the person who ran the ad you like and say "I really like that ad you had, would you mind if we used that same background?" "Or, I love that headline, can I use it on my ad this spring?" ...that of course these people would readily say sure, no problem.

People in agriculture like helping each other out. Especially if they are in a different breed or different species where totally different people see the ads. It's just the fact of when you copy someone else's work behind someone's back, and try to claim a concept as your own, that's pretty downright sorry.

Among the many things that make RHD different - and better - is that we're the original. Who wants to be a knock off? What client wants to know that their ad was actually someone else's ad 6 months ago that a designer copied? We constantly look for new design ideas, new fonts, original backgrounds, creative and powerful headlines, and layouts that are different. Because that's what we are: DIFFERENT. 

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