Was Coke Superbowl ad knockoff of Israeli ad?

Coke’s ad ranked 5th on USA Today’s Superbowl ad meter, with 7.6 popularity rating.

February 9, 2010 22:24
2 minute read.
A scene from the Coca Cola Superbowl ad

cocal cola superbowl ad yotvata commercial 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Though those watching the third quarter of the Superbowl on Sunday might have enjoyed the Coca-Cola ad in which a man unknowingly braves the wilds of Africa as he sleepwalks to get a beverage, Israeli viewers had a strange feeling of déjà vu.

That’s because the Coke ad, produced by the Portland, Oregon-based ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, is noticeably similar to a popular Yotvata ad from 2002, in which a man also sleepwalks, traipsing across the Negev on his way to a Yotvata dairy products store.

What’s more, both ads incorporate Ravel’s Bolero in the soundtrack, creating an uncanny resemblance.

This year, advertisers paid a record $2.3 million per 30-second spot during the Superbowl broadcast. Coke’s ad ranked 5th on USA Today’s Superbowl ad meter, with a 7.6 popularity rating.

But did Coke copy it from Israel?

According to Dr. Yaron Timmor, the head of the marketing communications program at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, ad copying is not a rare phenomenon. Many Israeli advertisements are partially or even overwhelmingly based on ideas from foreign ads, says Timmor.

But for an American ad from a company of the stature of Coca-Cola to be based on an Israeli ad would be “puzzling and strange,” he says.

“When a company is accused of copying ideas from an outside source, it attracts criticism from both the client and the public, who expect original and innovative ideas,” explains Timmor. “The need to copy usually stems from inferiority and a lack of creativity.”

Timmor suggests that in this instance, “there might be an ad that Yotvata also copied from.”

“Commercials enjoy copyright protection,” says Dr. Hillel Sommer, a lecturer at IDC’s School of Law.

“In general, it is legal to make use of the same idea in another commercial, but not the whole commercial,” he says.

According to Sommer, the line between the two is not clear-cut, though in the US the criterion is known as the “look and feel.”

The defense against accusations of copyright infringement is to claim that the original was unknown to those accused, and that it was just a coincidence. However in this case, adds Sommer, using the same music as the Yotvata ad weakens that defense.

Sommer wonders why Coca-Cola, if it did indeed base its idea on the Yotvata ad, could not have found a different soundtrack, so as not to accentuate the similarity.

Shalmor Avnon Amichay/Young & Rubicam, the Tel Aviv-based advertising agency behind the Yotvata ad, declined to comment.

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