Students vs Agencies: Copy or Coincidence?

Luke Edward and Marc Smit
By Marc Smit at Red & Yellow in 2009


By Publicis Joburg
By Publicis Joburg on Ads of the World Jan 2012


We’ve come across two apparent cases of copycatism involving ad agencies and student work just this week. Whether or not the accusations are justified, we can’t say. But, here they are, for you to decide for yourselves.


The first examples are two strikingly similar print ads both for Stihl leaf blowers, one by a Red & Yellow student, Marc Smit, who created it as a 2nd year project in 2009 and the other by Publicis Johannesburg.


The second example is an idea for a Kleenex campaign by an Australian student in 2008 and a new campaign by Canvas for Expert Whitening. I’d give Canvas the benefit of the doubt on this one but the call is yours.


student vs canvas
Scamps by an Australian student. Print ads by Canvas.


This subject could be debated endlessly and this kind of thing will always come up. Would you like to see posts like this on 10and5 or are you sick of having this conversation? Please let us know!





  1. Unfortunate. The local work could be a simple mistake or may have been seen in a porti and put to the back of the mind only to resurface now (i hope). However the australian scamp and the print ad by Canvas, to me, feels like a first base insight that both parties came up with.

  2. but please, let’s not make 10and5 a battleground of mud slinging. Rather approach the agency and sort it out amongst yourselves.

  3. I think not?

  4. I think not…

  5. I suspect none of these were intentional. You work with a brand and you look for correlations to show product benefits. Both these seems reasonably obvious. Fair chance that more than one creative came up with similar ideas and executions.

  6. I think it’s more a reflection on the agency and the fact that they’re happy to put student quality work out there.

  7. The Publicis ad looks like a blatant rip off.

  8. I think that as an art director or creative decides and conceptualize the brand, product and targetmarket you tend to ask the same questions. When the answers are the same, it means that the question asked was conceptually the best for that product and is thus an effective ad. The exact same cropping on the second ad is a little fishy however…

  9. I think both look fishy. If the first one was just leaves/bushes/swings or anything else being blown away it would have been coincedence but the fact that it’s 2 garden gnomes makes it fishy. The 2nd series is too coincidental because on their own the ads would have been thought out, fair enough. But to think of exactly the same 2 executions is dodgy. Why not have a guy falling off a ladder or something else. To have knife and nail in both is dodge.

    BUT, I just think people spend far too much time trying to mock concepts and find similar pieces of work. I don’t for a second condone copying concepts but that’s something poor agencies have to live with. At the end of the day, the general public out there doesn’t give a shit and will like ads regardless. Sorry but that’s the truth.

  10. Coincidence! Agency ad is better anyway.

  11. Now that the internet is in every corner of the earth, we’re all subjected to the same forms of media, art, films and music from around the world. The chances of two teams putting the same pieces of a puzzle together are pretty high. Majority of the time it is the first base ideas. The onus is on the agency to do their research and make sure the idea hasn’t been done. What’s the point in spending time and money on an idea that has already been done? You won’t get any awards and you’ll look like knobs.

  12. Coincidence of course. You’ve all seen it happen in your agencies where you go “I’ve got a cool idea” and then a short time later you open the Archive and your “cool idea” is staring back at you but the credits say Brazil. Let’s not pretend it doesn’t happen. The difference here is that agency work is published and student well… he probably didn’t get interviewed by the agency anyway. On top of that who keeps an archive of student work anyway?

  13. Trev I would agree with you but the 2 ads above don’t say Brazil. They both say SA. I think it’s a knock off.

  14. i think both ads are the same…but who am i to say who came with the idea first that is why we have to register everything we do inorder to aviod such…who has the cpoyrights….?