NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The creative community is buzzing with allegations that a Coca-Cola commercial that aired during the Super Bowl is a ripoff of an eight-year old ad for an Israeli milk brand. The beverage giant has firmly denied it copied the commercial, saying any similarities are purely a coincidence.
The ad in question, dubbed "Sleepwalker," was one of two created by Coke's longtime agency, Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., for the Super Bowl broadcast on CBS last weekend. In it, a young man sleepwalks for miles through the African savanna, narrowly missing deadly encounters with herds of elephants and hippos before finally quenching his subconscious thirst with a cold Coke he finds in a tribal village.
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Within 24 hours of the spot airing on the Super Bowl, the video below -- a split-screen comparison of the Coke ad and a 2002 spot for Yotvata by Shalmor Avnon Amichay/ Young & Rubicam, Tel Aviv, both with similar storylines and set to the music of Ravel's "Bolero" -- had been loaded onto YouTube. Subsequently the video was covered by news outlets in Israel and circulated on Twitter and e-mails among the international and U.S. creative community.
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Yotvata Dairy, which markets milk, yogurts and flavored-milk drinks, doesn't appear to have officially complained to anyone, though.
Tony Granger, Y&R's global chief creative officer, didn't respond to a request to comment. Wieden & Kennedy referred calls to Coke, which told Advertising Age the Super Bowl ad was created independently of the Yotvata ad.
"When we created the Coca-Cola 'Sleepwalker' commercial, we and our agency were unaware of this other ad," said Coke spokeswoman Susan Stribling. "Now that we've seen the ad, we think both commercials are equally entertaining. While the two share a few common elements, any similarities are coincidental and unintended."
Ms. Stribling added that the use of the same song in the ad is an "interesting coincidence" but the selection of the tune for "Sleepwalker" is "consistent with how we've chosen music for ads we've aired during the Super Bowl for the past three years."
"Our Super Bowl ads have been visually rich, epic pieces which called for big, recognizable orchestral music to drive the storylines -- 'Heist' from 2008 featured 'Peter and the Wolf' and 'It's Mine' from 2007 featured 'The William Tell Overture,'" she said. "For 'Sleepwalker,' 'Bolero' had the tone and mood that furthered the narrative of the spot."
The average cost of the media buy for a Super Bowl ad this year was estimated at between $2.5 million and $3 million. Ad Age's Bob Garfield gave the Coke spot two and a half stars out of four, saying: "'Sleepwalker' is like a warmed-over Pepsi spot from the '80s." But as he predicted, the spot fared well on the USA Today Admeter, ranked No. 5 out of 63 spots.