Ogilvy India has taken smartphone maker Vivo and creative agency Dentsu Impact to court over allegations of plagiarism. According to the lawsuit, Ogilvy alleged that Vivo had approached its agency Brand David last year to pitch ideas to advertise their phones. Vivo eventually informed Ogilvy that they would not be going ahead with the ad that they pitched, to which, Ogilvy responded and informed Vivo that the intellectual property rights of the proposal still belonged to Brand David. Last year, Ogilvy claimed to have shared a detailed storyboard with Vivo before they rejected their “amusement park” idea.
Mumbai Mirror reports that Justice BP Colabawalla has directed Vivo to pay either deposit one crore rupees or furnish a guarantee from a reputed bank. Below is the ad in question.
Before the Bombay High Court where the petition was filed, Vivo and Dentsu Impact refuted Ogilvy’s claims. Mumbai Mirror reports that representing lawyer, senior advocate Venkatesh Dhond argued that a similarity in an idea could not amount to infringement, despite the court observing that there were quite a few similarities between Vivo’s final ad and the proposal sent by Ogilvy’s Brand David.
Aamir Khan replaced Ranveer Singh as Vivo's brand ambassador in 2018 and in that same year, Ogilvy and Vivo worked together to create a series of ads.
KV Sridhar aka Pops, founder and chief creative officer at Hypercollective points out that plagiarism is just a symptom, but the disease is bigger than this. “Sometimes agencies fight; sometimes the client fights — depending on who is bigger. If the agency is bigger, they want to be politically correct and they remain quiet. If the agency is small, nobody really bothers about the allegations.This has been happening for a while. During a pitch, a brand calls for pitches from six to 10 agencies and the client has no idea what they want. They use these pitches to scout for new ideas, not for new agencies,” he says.
Pops opines that the issue is not just about dishonest agencies, but also dishonest clients. He mentions that every agency out there would've faced a couple of cases like this in the past, wherein a creative idea is stolen and used by the client.
We ask Pops if he has experienced something similar during his career as a creative person and he replies, not before 1990. He recounts that at the time, the pitches used to happen on a strategic level and they were not that frequent. There were hardly any price negotiations either. “There used to be a standard 15 per cent levied as a pitch fee and there was no negotiation on that front. There was no negotiation on the creative either since the entire pitch was not based on a creative. The brands understand the work that an agency has done and there is a certain synergy between the brand and the agency,” he remembers.
“There was this one pitch for a retail giant, some 10-12 years ago, when I was working at Leo Burnett and we were one of the participating agencies. We did not win the account but we came to know through somebody that the winning agency is working on an idea similar to ours. We wrote a strongly worded letter to the brand and they apologised and ultimately told us that they wanted to produce the film and they requested permission to produce the same with another agency, paying us a fee. The client was grateful to know and understand our half and pay us for the same,” Pops recollects.
He is of the opinion that industry bodies such as AAAI (Advertising Agencies Association of India) must do something and help agencies by penalising clients who misbehave. “All clients are not bad but if few names come out, they will start behaving properly. Senior people should stand up and talk about it. Creative directors of agencies should also be vigilant of the source of ideas that are pitched to clients and they need to act as gatekeepers, in a sense,” he says with conviction.
Pratap Bose, chairman and co-founder of The Social Street and former chief operating officer at DDB Mudra Group is unsure why the issue is escalating to this level. “That’s the thing about the nature of our field — communication — that these coincidences are not uncommon. It’s not done with intentions of cheating someone, but it’s part of the creative process. Sometimes, individuals have coinciding thoughts. We believe that our work is truly original until we find out that this has been done before in some part of the world,” he says. “There is a limit to the English language,” he continues, “there are only so many letters in the alphabet you can use to make words. Similarly, there’s only so many instruments you can use to create a particular type of music,” he explains.
Bose endorses Pops’ opinion when he says, “Nowadays brands call for a pitch between multiple agencies, shop for ideas and work with the agency that gives them a good deal.”
“Agencies don't mind this either, as long as there is some business coming in. Now the added confusion is what they should do on the digital front too. So you call six digital agencies, six mainstream agencies and six content agencies. So you've got 18 agencies fighting for the same brand! At the end of the day, neither the client nor the agency knows where this idea has come from. Clients pick an idea they like and assign it to the agency that will execute it inexpensively,” he concludes.