Brand Blunder #75: Blind to the Similarities?

Can the same original idea occur independently to several advertising creatives…?

Sure, it’s possible.  Just as it’s possible that an advertising creative might be tempted to plagiarise someone else’s good idea.

We’ll never know which of the above led to the new ad campaign “Experience the Philippines“, created (sic) by McCann Worldgroup Philippines for the Philippines Government’s Department of Tourism.  

However, there’s something of which we can be absolutely certain…  The new campaign, a heartwarming tale about a blind tourist who regains his other senses as he tours the Philippines, is an awful lot like a 2014 ad for South Africa’s tourism department.

In that ad – “Rediscover South Africa” – a blind man holidaying in South Africa also has his senses reawakened as he tours the country.

If the similarity between the two ads is a coincidence, then it’s certainly a very specific coincidence.

McCann rejects any allegation of plagiarism.  In a statement, they said their concept was original, having been based on a true story.

“Our latest film was particularly inspired by the story of a visually impaired foreigner who has made the Philippines his home and who has come to experience the Philippines in different ways. It is unfortunate that the DOT has been called out and accused of plagiarism, for work we have done to highlight the testimonial of a real retiree. We take full responsibility, as all ideas and storyboards presented were conceptualised by McCann Worldgroup Philippines.”

But what does the client think about the controversy?  Philippines DOT’s assistant secretary Frederick Alegre, interviewed on a local news network, said:

“You know how the creative agencies work, they’re able to present it in different manners. I think it’s safe to say that this was presented in a different manner because we really have retirees in the Philippines that enjoy staying in the Philippines.”


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