Is the use of rhyme a copycat crime?
If you’re not familiar with the book, Copy Paste- How advertising recycles ideas by Joe la Pompe, here’s a super quick 101. Joe is considered one of the world’s best copycat hunters in advertising, seeking out lookalike campaigns across industries and countries. From campaigns that convey ‘burning calories’ with images of burnt food, to stain removal campaigns where the stain literally flies away as teeny birds. A little inspiration here, a little inspiration there and voila, an almost duplicate campaign.
Not that I’m suggesting an agency will look out to directly copy a campaign when they first receive a new brief. But I imagine that once they start researching and thinking of what they could do, they subconsciously tie in features from campaigns they admire. And clients who don’t do the same level of research (and why would they when they’re paying someone else to?) may not notice the similarities being pitched.
While I’m no Joe la Pompe, it’s a fair assumption that New Zealand may be outside his scope. And whether it’s an unfortunate coincidence, or a case of trying to emulate a successful campaign, Countdown’s ‘We can help with that’ campaign does seem to borrow an element or two from the ‘Nova’ style of adverts.
Nova’s first punful ad graced our screens in September 2014, with a delightfully witty example of how to blend the personality of the brand and the purpose of the ad into one script. In their first ad, Nova were looking to get their name unique selling proposition into as many Kiwi homes as possible. Instead of having their logo on screen throughout the duration of the ad, they appear to have weaved ‘Nova’ into the script as many times as organically possible. 9 times to be exact. The end result was a light-hearted, funny introduction to the brand.
And it paid off, between August 2014 and October 2014, Nova’s customer base grew from 69,903 ICP’s to 71,882 ICP’s, a percentage increase of 2.79% . Which in the competitive energy industry, is no mean feat.
The other feature that you would have noticed when viewing the ad, was the use of rhyme. And it’s this feature that we’ll consider when comparing the Countdown and Nova ads.
In an advertising-laden land, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to grab the customer’s attention. By using rhyme in TV scripts, digital, and print advertising, advertising slogans come across as more memorable, likable, trustworthy and more persuasive. Which is clearly why Nova used it in their advertising, especially in their initial campaigns, where their aim was to create awareness of their brand and point of difference.
In April 2018, after a few subsequent ads, Nova was back with the delightful, ‘Nova Bill Easy’. In this ad, the two characters we’ve come to know walk through their office enjoying a back and forth of Nova’s selling propositions, and at the same time greeting people in their team.
Fast forward to July 2018, Countdown introduced their new campaign, ‘We can help with that’, which had a rhythm and wordplay that we had come to know. While Countdown hasn’t directly borrowed lines of script from Nova, nor have they intertwined their name nearly as much, I can’t help but think they sound incredibly similar when listening to them one after the other.
It’s not just the use of rhyme that is similar, but the delivery of value propositions within the script. In the Countdown ad, they list off online shopping and delivery, having cheap staples, solutions to wow troublesome dinner guests and even discount petrol prices as reasons to shop with them. Whereas Nova notes their great value energy, easy to understand bill’s, and ease of signup.
Whether the brands have meant to be similar or not, once you start digging into the ad, it’s hard not to draw comparisons. Both have overlapping themes, they discuss value and attempt to solve the customer’s pet peeves with their industry (i.e. signing up, bills, and having to go to the shops when you’re busy).
While they are in separate lanes when it comes to industry, it’s hard not to hear the Countdown ad and think ‘isn’t that the that power company that rhymes?’. That’s because Nova have built their brand around these ads, rhyming is to Nova what the triangle box is to Toblerone.
But that’s just my two cents. What do you think? Did Countdown borrow an element or two from Nova’s rhyme heavy ads, or did they simply use rhyme as a form of getting the customer’s attention and appearing more likable?
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