Sunday, December 11, 2011

What a brilliant (stolen) concept!

I just saw this campaign in Ads of the World:

Really awesome concept. But not an original one. The ads immediately sent me searching through my blog archives to find the originals, in an art photography series by Argentinian photographer Irina Werning:

The ad version is by an agency called Propeg in Salvador, Brazil. The creative team is Ana Luisa Almeida and Emerson Braga (CDs) and Edson Rosa (AD).

So here is my question for photographers and ad creatives alike: Is it right to rip off someone's personal art project for ad glory and profit? Is it "inspiration" or outright theft?

An Ottawa radio station is currently running ads that use the Sleeveface meme. But that's a collaborative and tongue-in-cheek project that uses already copyrighted work. This, on the other hand, is a clear ripoff in concept, style and content — with only the addition of a product placement — Irina's Back to the Future and Back to the Future 2. Is it even legal?

Opinions welcome. I have e-mailed Irina as well.


  1. It's also a concept that was developed & promoted by Ze Frank:

  2. I'm sure it's not the first time people have recreated old photo poses. Ze Frank doesn't match the original photo style, though, which is a shame. That's the part of what makes Irina's stuff so awesome and special, and what was presumably copied by the ad campaign.

    By the way, she acknowledges Ze Frank with a link on her own site to

  3. Response from Irina:

    well so many people send me stuff like this now...i just do my own thing...whatever....

    thanks for writing, really sweet of you

  4. I think there is a confusion. Irina is an artist. Advertising lives of references in art, film, music, popular culture. Just look at the Cannes winning campaign. I see no problem in the campaign. It's just an opinion.

  5. I think it's okay to rip it off AS LONG AS you use the person to execute the idea. I would've gotten Irina to shoot the ad – it's only right.

  6. I'm Brazilian CW and my opinion is: so old concept, so stollen ad.

  7. I think we have to accept that once our ideas are out there, if they have any value they will inspire other works of many kinds - sometimes indirectly, sometimes directly, sometimes blatantly. If that didn't happen we wouldn't have had the blues. Or Cubism. But it's *how* you copy that's important I think.

    It's very clear what artists can do if their copyrights (e.g. images) are copied verbatim for commercial use and so on. But I'll address your question of copying someone's concept and style.

    This is not really about copyright law anymore - it's about courtesy I suppose. Two things would be nice here:

    1. ad people somehow credit the source of the ideas underpinning their work, their influences. Ad companies now have websites and blogs where they can do just that.

    2. ad people make contact with the artists and projects from whom they derive inspiration (let's call it that) to see if they can give some kind of value back to those people. That could be financial but there are other forms of value too. I think a lot of artists would be happy with a bit of merch from the company or a credit on the web (I know I would have been).

    This isn't something we'll achieve by force or through the courts. Ad people have always taken inspiration from art. It's just that now we can see the lines of inspiration much more clearly through social media. So they'll need to adjust to the new environment and play nice.