Sep 11

Creativity has many fathers

To have a bit of fun with Microsoft’s plans to put Windows 8 on future tablets, Daring Fireball recently linked to two car ads. The joke was that Windows-powered tablets are going to need some serious power — like the devices in these ads. Microsoft’s aspirations aside, the ads alone tell an amazing story.

When I viewed the ad for Nissan LEAF. I thought, “Wow, what a fantastic concept.”

When I viewed the ad for Renault Z.E.. I thought, “Wow, what a fantastic concept.”

I had identical reactions because, as you can see, they’re identical commercials. Even more astounding, they debuted only days apart. Honestly, I don’t recall ever seeing ads from major companies that are so stunningly similar.

This, of course, made me highly curious. So I turned to my inner Sherlock. I found that many articles have been written about these ads (they debuted back in May). Unfortunately, these articles tell conflicting stories.

Nissan and Renault did enter an official alliance in 1999. Some say it was an “industrial and creative partnership.” Others say no, marketing was never part of the deal. The two companies remain very competitive.

AdAge Global reported that “so far, neither automaker’s global agency is accusing the other of stealing its idea.” Stuart Smith says there is “fury” in TBWA\Chiat\Day LA (handling Nissan) and Publicis Conseil in Paris (handling Renault), as charges of plagiarism fly about.


However, there’s one good reason why neither side has turned this into an international incident. That would be the ad for the Mitsubishi i-Miev, which was actually created well before Nissan’s or Renault’s ad.

And all I have to say is, “Wow, what a fantastic concept.”

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  • Oli

    I noticed the Nissan and Renault ads and already knew about their alliance, so I thought it’d be ‘normal’ since they don’t really compete here in North America.

    But I didn’t know about the Mitsubishi one, nice find!

  • Jorge Carvalho

    U can check this ad also : http://www.pluginamerica.org/drive-electric/cellphone/

    Seams familiar ? :)


  • Channelling Steve

    Ads with this concept have been running in the bay area for at least a year, from a bunch of leftist assholes who want to force everyone to use inefficient (and more polluting, actually) power choices.

    They’re based on an economic fallacy. Reality is, electric power is inefficient and more expensive, and these cars wouldn’t exist if governments weren’t stealing people’s money to give to car companies to make them (or threatening the car companies with being shut down if they don’t make them, the approach varies from country to country.)

  • Riz

    Nissan is owned by Renault.

    Renault owns almost half of the shares (the maximum Japanese laws permit) and Nissan has a French CEO. They were the first Japanese manufacturer to have a foreigner CEO.

    I did TV ads for Renault for a long while and was there when that ‘alliance’ was forged. I know many higher up execs who were involved. Their marketing department may be fighting but not their boards.

  • Matunos

    @Channelling Steve:

    Are you sure you’re not forgetting about the many billions of dollars we spend every year to try and stabalize the regions that produce most of the world’s petroleum?

  • ken segall


    As I mentioned in the article, there are conflicting stories out there. In their article, AdAge went on to say, “The car makers have a joint venture to coordinate global product development, financial policy and corporate strategy. Sales and marketing are kept separate, and the two car companies compete with each either — except, apparently, in ad ideas. TBWA said they were trying to get a statement from Nissan, which hadn’t happened by press time.”

    You can read a few things into the fact that TBWA needs to “get a statement from Nissan” about this. Whatever, it’s a really odd situation — even if management knew it was happening. Assuming that one of the partnership’s goals is to cut down on redundant costs, what’s the point of having two separate commercial productions to create the same ad?

  • Riz

    It is obviously a cock-up but then again, what is new in that?

    “The car makers have a joint venture to coordinate global product development, financial policy and corporate strategy. Sales and marketing are kept separate, and the two car companies compete with each other.”

    In fact, how can you make something like the above work? I knew VPs who were fuming of the situation and expecting this to happen. The fact that it took a decade for such a blunder to happen is a testament to both boards.

  • Channelling Steve


    Two points:
    1) We aren’t spending any billions stabilizing oil supplies. All those wars and that spending are corruption, pure and simple.

    2) The preferred alternative for the “environmentalists” is coal. Of course they hate it too, but since they oppose use of oil to generate electricity, and have conniptions at the idea of generating it with nuclear, and of course windmills and solar panels are simply fantasy land, what they’re really advocating is burning coal to run the cars.

    Why not cut out the middle power plant and burn the coal *in* the cars. Like they tried to do back before the internal combustion engine? Lots of patents filed around that idea.

    The sad thing is– and here’s some of the pollution I was talking about– the average coal plant distributes more uranium and other radiation into the atmosphere during its lifetime than the average nuclear plant, and by quite a bit.

    Its like they have no concept of science.

    Anyway, my real point is that this idea is quite old, and I don’t really think it has anything to do with an alliance between car companies…. its just a cliche that is a new enough cliche that people don’t yet see it as a cliche.

  • Channelling Steve

    On the environmental negatives of electric cars, here’s one article that goes into a bit more detail. It is a rant, but the science is correct: