My Life. My Card. My Idea. My Lawsuit.

If you tell people you work in advertising, have you ever heard someone say, “I’ve got a great commercial idea for Coke. What do you do, just call them up or send in your idea?”
And then they don’t understand why you can’t really do that. Here’s why, courtesy of The New York Times:

A California small businessman contends in a lawsuit that American Express stole his idea for the tagline of the company’s “My life. My card.” advertising campaign, which features celebrities including Robert De Niro, Ellen DeGeneres and Tiger Woods.
Lawyers for the businessman, Stephen G. Goetz, a credit card marketer in San Francisco, said yesterday that they planned to subpoena evidence from Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising agency for American Express.
At issue is whether American Express independently conceived the idea for the campaign that began in November, or took it from Mr. Goetz, who claims he used it in a sales pitch to the financial services company in July.

Good lord. Ogilvy is attracting lots of legal attention these days. But in an age where ideas and information are becoming very tangible and valuable assets (as opposed to manufactured goods or physical stuff), are we going to see more suits like this? Plus, if consumers are starting to make their own ads, as we’ve seen lately, are they going to want some payment in return?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.

  • http://adpulp.com David Burn

    Remember the Taco Bell suit over the little dog?
    http://promomagazine.com/law/marketing_taco_bell_pay/
    Taco Bell appealed the ruling. Not sure what the end result was. Anyone?

  • stagmeiste

    Or the cog guy who never sued? WK got lucky on that one. Personally, they’re just ideas. How the hell can you own an idea?