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Experience the Rainbow That Never Ends

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When does a design cross the line from ‘inspiration’ to… something a little less comfortable than ‘inspiration’?

Some might call it ‘influence’, some might it call it ‘theft’; one thing is certain, a fine line is all that separates the two.

Honda discovered this in 2003, when Wieden+Kennedy’s award winning Honda advertisement Cog was widely accused of plagiarism, due to its similarities to Swiss artists Fischli and Weiss’s 1987 fine art film Der Lauf der Dinge. The accusations were widespread, and not unfounded, with Creative Review interviewing the Swiss artists who insisted they would never have given their permission to use their work as inspiration:

Of course we didn’t invent the chain reaction … but we did make a film the creatives of [Cog] have obviously seen. We feel we should have been consulted over the making of this advertisement.

Companies have asked us [for] their permission to use the film on several occasions, but for this reason we have always said no.

Though Fischli and Weiss never filed a lawsuit against Wieden+Kennedy or Honda UK, aware that there was little hope of success under UK copyright law, it’s worth noting that the advertising agency eventually admitted to, “copying a sequence of weighted tires rolling uphill.” The controversy surrounding the work was blamed for ultimately denying Cog a Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

What goes around comes around.

There’s no question that Skittles’ Experience the Rainbow web site, just launched by digital creative agency Big Spaceship, is a very well crafted piece of work, and the metaphor of “experiencing the rainbow” fits well with Skittles’ strapline.

However, there’s equally no question that it bears more than a passing resemblance to Poke London’s award winning 2007 web site for Orange, Good Things Should Never End.

At the heart of both sites is the idea of a web page never ends; a simple idea, arguably, but one that - when well executed - creates a talking point, or social object, that the brand can use to generate a conversation, raising brand awareness. A social object with considerable value.

Poke London’s ‘Good Things Should Never End’, created for Orange UK’s ‘Speak Easy’ pay as you go mobile plan, was shortlisted for a number of awards for its creativity, highlighted in the Interactive category of The Brit Insurance Design Awards 2008. The idea was simple, as Poke state:

You don’t always have to go over the top wrapping up your ideas in loads and loads of complicated messaging. Quite often, the simple ideas are the best ones.

A never ending web page felt like a good, simple idea. The kind of thing that the world would like to see. So we made it.

The design also centred around a ‘rainbow’, as Poke put it, “There’s a rainbow in the TV ad. That’s integration.” Simple. Ingenious. Effective.

Three years later…

You might be forgiven for experiencing déjà vu. Big Spaceship’s ‘Experience the Rainbow’ web site for Skittles, whilst well executed, seems all too familiar with the user scrolling down a never ending web page as they ‘taste the rainbow’. Coincidence?

A never ending web page? A never ending web page that’s also a rainbow?

Where does ‘inspiration’ begin and ‘inspiration’ end? You decide.

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