Introducing The Agency Plagiarists

Ben Kunz is vp of strategic planning at Mediassociates, a media planning agency. 

Plagiarism, that spineless beast of creative sloth, is back in the news. U.S. Senator Rand Paul is accused of lifting bits of speeches from Wikipedia. Commentators are revisiting old claims against Joe Biden, Jayson Blair and J.K. Rowling. For writers, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Oops.

The agency world, sadly, is no different. Yes, it’s supposed to be where originality reigns supreme, but that is not the case. Look no further than agency websites.

Try this. Take a block of copy from your site that you are certain is original, drop the entire phrase into Google, and see what pops up. On a lark, we searched for this copy from our own Mediassociates’ website:

“Sound is still huge. With people listening to news and music everywhere from cars to gas stations to running treadmills, radio remains a rich format — but must be planned and measured carefully…”

And thanks to Google we found another agency that used 191 words from our website in exactly the same order. They took the stolen copy down immediately when notified, so we won’t embarrass them here, but we wondered what other agencies are being plagiarized? Turns out several.

Hello, Razorfish. You’re smart, so we’re betting this copy on your site is original:

“Today’s consumer expects seamless, multi-channel digital experiences across desktop, mobile, tablet and in-store. Not only do they want integrated engagement — they also expect high personalization, utility and instantaneous gratification relevant to their specific needs…”

Razorfish, did you know the guys at Esatech think like you?

Today’s consumer expects seamless, multi-channel digital experiences across desktop, mobile, tablet and in-store. Not only do they want integrated engagement — they also expect high personalization, utility and instantaneous gratification relevant to their specific needs…”

What a coincidence. Speaking of similarities, 360i, recently named No. 2 on Ad Age’s 2013 Hot List, has this copy:

“Our world is always changing. When you think you’ve got the latest version, it’s time for an upgrade. You share a link, and it’s already old news. You’re tagging, while everyone else is pinning…”

Apparently, the Smith & Surrency digital marketing agency is trying to knock 360i off the list:

“Our world is always changing. When you think you’ve got the latest version, it’s time for an upgrade. You share a link, and it’s already old news. You’re tagging, while everyone else is pinning…”

Hm. Wonder if 360i or Smith & Surrency have seen Krish Media’s website:

“Our world is always changing. When you think you’ve got the latest version, it’s time for an upgrade…”

And 360i, Smith & Surrency, and Krish Media should party with WaayOut Business Solutions, whose ability to mirror copy is way out. Sorry, pasting that phrase again is just too boring.

Finally, let’s visit Mullen, whose site brags, “culture is entirely about limitless possibilities and a relentless belief in a future that is bigger than the past.” Mullen should meet At Limitless Videos Bank, whose “culture is entirely about limitless possibilities and a relentless belief in a future that is bigger than the past.” (UPDATE: Mullen would like to make clear that it got there first with the “limitless possibilities.” Edward Boches, the agency chief innovation officer, testifies he was there when the line was written 20 years ago.)

Apparently, plagiarism has limitless possibilities.

So. Why would any agency in the business of being creative be so lazy? Perhaps writing platitudes is tough. Stealing copy may be tempting given the recursive nature of communicating about how you communicate. But based on my experience, I can’t help but wonder if such “efficiency” is bought at the expense of others. (Oops. I stole that last line from Digiday’s Brian Morrissey.)

Perhaps the best safeguard is to emulate social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk, whose VaynerMedia agency site lists only its locations and job openings — with no other copy at all. Gary V, that’s smart. But don’t you want to share, too?

Image via Shutterstock