What is it about some advertising campaigns that make them magnets for imitation?

For example, the Got Milk? imitators appear to be endless in numbers, but that is the subject of another post for another day.

For today, with respect to a different imitation magnet: There must be an endless number of creative and original ways to market a series of home and self defense videotapes, I suspect. Even relying on fear as an underlying theme to sell these videotapes, there must be only a few less than infinity still possible.

So, why the need to borrow from a famous ad campaign here — one I won’t mention until after the jump below?

Seriously, did this published print ad survive legal review? If so, was the review limited to trademarks? Were copyrights ignored altogether?

While it appears the ad substitutes TERRIFYING for the federally-registered service mark PRICELESS, avoids literal use of the federally-registered tag line THERE ARE SOME THINGS MONEY CAN’T BUY, FOR EVERYTHING ELSE THERE’S MASTERCARD, and it may be debated whether consumers are likely to be confused as to whether MasterCard sponsored or endorsed the advertised videotapes, a successful copyright infringement claim requires no confused consumers. It simply requires “copying” of an “original” work of authorship, and you can be the judge on how a copyright claim might be decided.

MasterCard certainly has enjoyed success in enforcing its copyright and trademark rights against infringing uses, but there are limits, as Ralph Nader demonstrated in 2004, by successfully defending his party’s non-infringing use of the PRICELESS service mark and the political parody and non-commercial fair use of the PRICELESS copyrighted advertisements. To view the Nader commercial in question, click here. To obtain a copy of the decision click here.

MasterCard’s long-running and award-winning “Priceless” ad campaign is said to have “entered into the lexicon of common pop culture.” Indeed, new versions keep coming and many different versions of MasterCard’s “Priceless” ad campaign can be viewed here. There is certainly no shortage of “banned” “Priceless” parodies and spoofs available for viewing on YouTube and elsewhere (many not suitable for viewing on DuetsBlog, so no links, sorry), but of those available on-line, none appear to be hawking goods or services (an important point of differentiation from the above example). Perhaps the adaptability, ubiquity and notoriety of “Priceless” is what helps render it an imitation magnet, but I think there must be more.

In fact, pure creative genius is rare, making the award-winning “Priceless” ads a perfect magnet for imitation, especially when combined with their notoriety, ubiquity, and easily adaptable format. Having said all that, I’m thinking the Clint Smith’s Thunder Ranch example might qualify as a notable “Ugly” — to quote DuetsBlog Guest Blogger Aaron Keller from Capsule.