Krow Communications Fiat Grande Punto ad, directed by Partizan’s Michael Gracey
Eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed the similarities between the above ad for the Fiat Grande Punto and Roel Wouters’ Grip music video for zZz. So, yet another example of an ad agency shamelessly ripping off a music video? Not quite. For once, it seems, an ad agency has attempted to do the right thing…
zZz is playing: Grip, video by Roel Wouters
Roel Wouters was one of our Creative Futures last year (CR’s scheme to celebrate new talent). His zZz video recreates digital media in an analogue fashion – a loading bar is painted on the floor, video effects are symbolised by people holding up signs while bouncing on a trampoline and the Mac’s spinning loading wheel is recreated using a multicoloured umbrella. The Fiat ad uses the same concept, albeit without the video’s inherent logic.
Had Wouters remade his video as an ad? Or was this yet another case of an advertising agency pinching an artistic idea and using it for their own ends? On calling Wouters’ production company, Nexus, the answer was slightly surprising: that after turning down the offer of directing the spot, the agency, Krow Communications, had paid a license fee to use his idea.
Now, as ideas are not covered by copyright, this wasn’t a legal requirement for Krow – they could have simply copied the original film’s style and Wouters would have been able to do little about it. So what prompted them to pay up? “We wanted to recognise that we’d been inspired by his idea,” explains John Quarry, co-founder of Krow. “Roel was unable to do the ad for a number of reasons, but we still wanted to carry on. We paid a license fee in recognition that it is an amazing piece of film and an amazing idea…. We thought it was the right thing to do, and the creative team were particularly keen to acknowledge his idea.”
It’s easy to see why the creative team might feel like that. The spot, which was directed by Partizan’s Michael Gracey, seems almost a direct copy of the video, apart from the rather awkward introduction of the bouncing car towards the end. Even Wouters was surprised by the similarity. “I was really honoured by the request of Krow in the sense that they saw so much potential in the video,” he says. “About the result, I am really amazed by the similarities. The weirdest thing is that the content seems to be disconnected from the form. In the original video the trampoline was used to simulate video effects without any digital manipulation, in order to show the characteristics of the medium of the ‘music video’. But in this ad I think the trampoline is just used as an effect.”
Wouters also points out the contradiction of introducing the obvious CGI effects on the car into what was essentially an analogue concept for a film. Despite this, he is not unhappy. “I never thought they would copy it, but I think it is quite honest, they’re not acting as if they’ve come up with the idea themselves,” he continues. “Making the decision to do such an exact copy is weird but quite strong I think, it gives the feeling of a sincere tribute.” He also acknowledges the financial benefits of the license fee approach – “It implies I could do independent works and license them, so I do not have to worry about finance all the time.”
So is this a situation of an advertising agency for once doing the right thing? Well maybe, in financial terms at least. And it has helped Krow out of awkward questions regarding the origin of the idea. Quarry feels that the original film, while well-known in the ad industry, is probably little-known to the general TV viewing audience. That’s certainly possible, but with blogs and online forums becoming increasingly powerful in forming a brand’s image, it is necessary to protect against negative coverage. Perhaps paying a fee has helped avert too many questions being asked, and has certainly made this blog post less negative than it might have been.
Yet the ad still feels unsettling in creative terms. The application of Wouters’ original idea looks lazy, and it’s questionable what appeal (aside from financial, natch) making the ad held for Gracey. Paying for the idea does place Krow on a slightly higher moral ground than many of its advertising peers, but it still doesn’t make for a good ad.