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Appropriation: The Struggle for Creativity is Real
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Let's take a look at the music industry. There has been a rise in new, young talent, and some people are getting excited to hear the variations of music that are rising to the top. 

But that is exactly what they are: variations.

After a study done by some music-streaming services, the most popular songs have common rhythms to them. There is a repetitive theme underlining the overall music. Once we pick it up, it gets popular. It is not unlike the virtual dancing Spiderman; it mimics its dance moves to the most common beats, so at times it looks perfectly in sync (plus our brains are searching for patterns, so once the Spiderman and beat match, we block out all the times they seem apart).

Advertising faces a similar situation. Many brands, instead of creating something brand new or totally original, are resurrecting old concepts and making it their own, or slightly modifying a previously existing creative concept.

Is it laziness, the lack of creative ability, or something else?

Just recently an article on Forbes came out looking at Super Bowl ads and showing us which ones are not entirely original. The writer gloomily recounted the number of other ads his readers suggested were unoriginal.

Unfortunately, none of this is new.

We remember when Goodby, Silverstein & Partners adopted a "new" logo. They got a lot of flack when it was revealed that the agency had adopted the logo from a defunct manufacturing company, and the shop modified it slightly to make it a better fit.

Goodby, rightfully so, was not apologetic.

In his response to the flack, he mentioned how "appropriation" was par for the course in the advertising world. He basically told the rest of AdLand to deal with it.

It makes sense why appropriation, or, as the Forbes writer called it, "kleptomania," is so popular in advertising. At a time where big-time investors and CEOs are saying that there are "no more new ideas," it can be a stressful situation when you are put in charge of showcasing one. Plus, advertising must find and disseminate a salient message, and in many cases, the best message is one that was received well once before, just in a new package.

Do we agree with the Forbes writer that AdLand must get better in terms of creative content? Absolutely. The guy was speaking to the choir. But does the system that allows such activity to be the easy way out need to change in order for creative content to flourish? Absolutely.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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