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Can you put a price on “an idea” or is it the ultimate execution that has value?
If you watched Super Bowl LVI you would’ve seen a Coinbase ad during the fabled half-time ad breaks.
A simple floating QR code that many say lacked any creativity. Yet it’s gone on to smash records!
But if it lacked creativity, why were we all so obsessed with it?
I’d argue it lacked creativity because simplicity is one of the hardest tasks to achieve.
Sometimes, less is more as the old adage goes. Coinbase’s ad was a single message, with no other disturbances and a little QR code just had “scan me” literally oozing out of it – without saying it.
So it’s creative, right? Subjective to some I guess, but it hit the mark and delivered. Nobody can argue with that.
However, people are now arguing over something else about this little QR code.
Whose idea was it?
“Yeh, your idea was similar but we took it further to create our ad.”
The Martin Agency CEO vehemently states it was theirs and they showed it to Coinbase not once but twice during the pitch process.
Coinbase says it’s “back was against the wall on timings” because none of the pitch work it saw made the cut, they had to work something themselves. This indicates to me that Coinbase didn’t feel they had the time to engage any of the agencies to deliver a piece so took it on themselves for speed.
The one thing lacking from The Martin Agency’s responses is an image of the actual work they pitched.
That’d kinda prove it was theirs right?
Was it 100% identical to what went out during the Super Bowl ad break?
I’d take a guess at maybe it wasn’t bang on. But the ad was close enough to what the agency pitched for them to take to Twitter and claim it was their idea when Coinbase’s CEO was waxing lyrical about the success of his team and the ad.
Coinbase could (but haven’t) simply say:
“Yeh, your idea was similar, we took it further to create our ad.”
And then where does that leave us?
The “idea” for the final ad wasn’t what they were shown but what they saw did inspire their own “execution”.
So where’s the “value” and therefore the ownership of this piece?
Does it belong to the guys and gals who came up with the initial approach or does ownership sit with those that actually developed it on, brought it to life and executed it?
Clearly The Martin Agency wouldn’t mess up any future relationship with Coinbase unless they felt justified to do so… would they?
Coinbase surely wouldn’t be so bold to take to Twitter and compliment themselves on an idea they knowingly nicked from an agency… would they?
I’d suggest it’s a case of joint enterprise here…
For me, the morals of the story are:
The Martin Agency – if you pitch strong campaigns to big outfits for big money, register your work with a governing body. It’s worth it.
Coinbase – if an execution smells similar, works similar and is going in a similar place, you’ve kinda copied an “idea” from a partner who’s spent time and money creating it. That’s not really a nice thing to do…