Unoriginality: One Possible Outcome When Advertising and Consumer Expectation Clash

Portions of the blog post first appeared in my CMGT 541 blog post under the heading: “Ethical or Not,” in which we studied the ethical issues relevant to advertisements.

This summer, my Twitter feed was inundated with a video by a pop band called OK Go. After viewing the video featuring wacky stunts performed in an open-plan warehouse, I began to identify the catchy tune with creative, happy people doing cool creative things. I thought nothing more of it, that is until the release of the newest iPhone announced last week.

So, when I saw this new video from Apple, I watched it until the very end, feeling very happy about the creative vibe displayed. Happy I was, and something else. But I did not know what that else was until I did a search for unethical advertising and I came across this article in AdWeek about what appears to be a copycat ad. Apple’s advertisement seems similar to, you guessed it, the OK Go video that kept populating my Twitter feed (most likely due to the fact that I am a huge Apple fan).

No wonder why I had surrendered part of my time to intently watch the Apple Ad in total. After all, had I not already been manipulated into liking the commercial due to the resemblance to the OK Go music video? The Apple ad does seem similar to the music video that I had listened to earlier, and enjoyed. What are the unintended consequences of such occurences?

Questioning the wisdom

If Apple’s advertising continues to appear to closely to resemble the latest music video sensation, will the public simply tire and wonder why such an innovative company cannot produce unique advertisements? Aesthetically, will the advertisers and ad agencies suffer a creative slump by riding the coattails of Apple’s aesthetic success?

I agree with AdWeek writer David Gianatasio, author of the article, “Is Apple’s ‘Perspective’ Film a Bit Too Much Like OK Go’s Recent Viral Video? Band says it even pitched the company on the general idea.” Gianatasio asserts that Apple risks its cool-factor by adopting a style that appears to borrow from a pre-existing video.

Apple, do not let me down!

I cannot shake the feeling of disappointment at being manipulated by one of my favorite brands. I also do not want to see our world mediascape clouded by riffs off the Apple aesthetic, and vice versa. There are too many cool advertising agencies out there with diverse takes on communicating catchy ideas. There is no need to dive into the same well.

Apple, please do not get boring.

Reading list:

Young, A. (2010). Brand media strategy: Integrated communications planning in the digital era. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Chapter 1.
Barry, P. (2012). The advertising concept book: A complete guide to creative ideas, strategies, and campaigns. New York: Thames & Hudson. Chapters 1, 12 & 15.

Spirizzi, M. Online advertising ethics. Questionable uses of online advertising.

Elliot, S. & Vega, T. (2013). Trying to be hip and edgy, ads become offensive. behip-and-edgy-ads-become-offensive.html?smid=pl-share

Severson, K. (2013) For Skittles, death brings both profit and risk.
New York Times. Retrieved from

Now is the Time for Advocacy

What is the proper response to insult or injury? When faced with the grim reality of human misbehavior, the desire to hide a misdeed from public scrutiny often outweighs the necessity to shine a light upon an egregious incident. Think of the Rices and the NFL. Think of a board meeting, or a school conference that got out of hand. Ask the question: Who was harmed? The world is rife with examples of leaders turning their backs on individuals in need of advocacy. A rich tradition of victim-advocacy exists, but will this NFL-player’s actions lead to bold, dramatic change in order to end the perpetuation of domestic violence? I hope so. Any leader of an organization, in this case, the organization is a national professional football team, must reflect, on how company culture helps or harms employees. What services do companies provide for employees and their families who may be in need of assistance? More could be done to advocate for the vulnerable.

The NFL incident involving the couple who are embroiled in a national debate about domestic violence demonstrates how difficult it can be for women’s lived experience to be taken seriously. Yet, because this situation involves a male-dominated sport, a tremendous opportunity exists for all sports fans, men and women, to seize the day by standing against violence.

Sadly, the powerless victim often is made to feel guilty for existing, or simply for expressing needs. “Needs,” “needy,” “neediness,” are code for less than. It is time for advocates to state the truth about those individuals in need of assistance. The truth is this: Often the needy are the most courageous.

It is those in need who are often the first to speak up. Pay attention.

Cultural Studies Association Releases Statement on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The following press release was sent to members of the Cultural Studies Association:

September 1, 2014

The Executive Committee of the Cultural Studies Association (CSA), the largest network of Cultural Studies scholars, educators and practitioners in the United States and North America, hereby expresses grave concern over the decision of University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise to revoke the offer of a tenured associate professorship position in American Indian Studies to Professor Steven Salaita. The process followed by Chancellor Wise marks a serious intrusion into the basic norms of shared faculty governance.

The Executive Committee is further concerned by the rationale for these actions set out in the August 22 2014 statement by Chancellor Wise. The statement clearly indicates that the primary cause for rescinding the employment offer was Dr. Salaita’s public expressions on his twitter feed. The stated rationale substantially erodes the already shrinking space for academic freedom. Further, it uses speech from the public sphere of social media as a substitute for actual teaching records in making assessments about professional competence while seeking to justify the violation of shared faculty governance and due process.

We therefore urge Chancellor Wise and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the strongest terms possible to reverse their course of action by immediately reinstating Professor Steven Salaita as a tenured associate professor of American Indian Studies at UIUC. We also urge them to adhere to and uphold the protocols of shared faculty governance and the principles of academic freedom in this case and in the future.

Long Beach Indie Digital Edutainment Conference


LONG BEACH — Where better to connect independent filmmakers, artists and academics than the Long Beach Indie, International Film Festival, Conference and Artist Summit, Aug. 27-31st, 2014. This is the first year for the event. Participants included academics (myself, included) who convened the Digital Edutainment Conference, Saturday at the Long Beach Convention Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd. Whilst the professors pondered big questions, filmmakers and their supporters screened shorts and features across the street from the Convention Center at The Pike. The festive and scholarly gathering attracted a national and international audience.

The Edutainment session opened with a Big Question Roundtable where panelists discussed the question, “What are the limitations of Internet Freedom?” The Roundtable was followed by a dozen additional presentations and panels covering diverse topics such as Hip Hop and philosophy, sexuality, reproductive justice, mental health, pop culture and stardom, slut-shaming, fashion, and race and gender in reality TV. I was pleased to be a part of both The Roundtable and the “Fashion Politics” discussion and panel. The latter event also featured Dr. Chetachi Egwu, of Nova Southeaster University and Christina Ying of Northwestern University.

This was the inaugural event and Dr. Ebony Utley, a California State University Long Beach professor, and her team of interns, rolled out the red carpet for Edutainment Conference presenters and participants in the beautiful Long Beach Convention Center.