TBWA\Media Arts Lab's latest campaign for Apple, titled ‘data auction’, to highlight how consumers are victims of data exploitation and how the iPhone can prevent that, is in the news for plagiarism.
21N78E Creative Labs had conceptualised an ad with the same idea in November 2020, for the ‘Reclaim Your Privacy’ campaign backed by Omidyar Network India, an impact investment firm.
The ad was set against the backdrop of an auction that sold the data of a young woman called Kiran, at cheap rates. It meant to make users aware of the ways different companies can explicitly access one’s personal data without their consent and use it to their advantage.
The campaign was well-received and also bagged Gold at Campaign India’s Digital Crest Awards 2021, under the online marketing category.
However, although dramatised further, the Apple ad from less than a week ago, used the same idea to prove the same point. It featured a girl named Ellie, walking in on an auction of her own data. As she sees people bidding on different types of her data, she gets an iPhone notification that helps her shoot down all the bidders trying to access her information. They magically disappear as soon as she enables the feature.
A blog post penned down by Karthik Srinivasan, communications strategy consultant, stated that the only major difference between the two ads was - the Apple ad showed it as part of the iPhone’s settings, whereas the Indian ad portrayed a generic, phone brand-agnostic call to action.
We reached out to 21N78E to get the agency's point-of-view:
In November 2020, we at 21N78E Creative Labs, India, put out a series of films as a part of the campaign "Reclaim Your Privacy", a public service initiative. One of the films was centred on the theme of unconsented data brokerage where the premise was based on how our precious personal data gets auctioned off for less than two rupees with many bidders vying for it. The campaign had a sustained and successful run with real world impact. Not to mention, recognition at reputed award shows.
A few days ago, Apple put out a film through its agency on the subject of data privacy. The highly uncanny degree of resemblance in terms of the premise of a data auction, the overall plot line and even instances in the narrative raises few questions.
While we are flattered to see our work inspiring others, this issue goes much beyond that. My team had put in a lot of effort in conceptualising and executing this campaign. It's only fair that we claim the creative ownership of it. As an industry shouldn't everyone stand up for it?
We have tagged the brand and the agency in question and we await their response.