A week ago, Kentucky Fried Chicken in Hong Kong launched an ad promoting its black pepper chicken burger. The video (above) by Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong has since amassed an impressive total of more than 856,000 views on Facebook.
But that's not why we're talking about it. In the clip, a hidden camera surreptitiously snaps photos of customers while they're ordering their food, and then we see their surprise when they find their own faces (but altered to look younger) staring up at them from their placemats. The core mechanism is strikingly similar to the following 'Whopper face' campaign for Burger King, released by Ogilvy Brazil in 2010. Except that the photos in that case were printed on the burger wrapper, not the placemat, and no attempt was made to alter the apparent age of the customers.
A chief creative officer of an international creative agency, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, judged an "85% similarity" between the two ads. Chris Kyme, chief executive officer at independent agency Kymechow Hong Kong, also wrote about the similar works.
Asked about the issue, Reed Collins, CCO of Ogilvy Hong Kong told Campaign:
With views on Facebook approaching close to 1 million in only a few days, KFC has gained a lot of attention for their latest black pepper chicken promotion online. The film reminds people of both the passions of their youth and the classic taste of this old Hong Kong flavor by presenting them with a younger version of themselves in-store. The team has absolute sincerity and integrity as to the origins of this work. Still, nice to be noticed.
William Tsing, marketing director at KFC Hong Kong, declined to address Campaign's queries.
It's entirely possible for two agencies to come up with very similar ideas independently. It's equally possible that the earlier ad was an inspiration (consciously or unconsciously), because, as a Latin proverb tells us, nihil sub sole novum ("there is nothing truly novel in existence").
Whatever the case, such incidents can have serious repurcussions. For example, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne was denied a Grand Prix at Cannes for its 'Meet Graham' road-safety campaign, because jurors said it was too similar to a 1980s anti-smoking TVC. In another recent case, McCann in the Philippines got fired by its client, the Department of Tourism, for a similar incident.