“My Life, My Card” Not Original Says Man Behind “My Card, My Work”

According to the press release from the law firm of Newberg & Winters LLP, freelance art director Thomas O’Keefe has filed a lawsuit against Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Digitas and American Express for copyright infringement, trademark infringement and misappropriation of advertising ideas.
O’Keefe has been using the trademark “My Card, My Work” as an identifier for his services since early 2003. In mid-2003, he registered the domain name mycardmywork.com. The Complaint states that in late 2003, Mr. O’Keefe sent his resume and work, including all of his material from the My Card, My Work website to both Ogilvy and Digitas, seeking possible retention as an advertising designer or art director.
In mid to late 2004, more than a year after Mr. O’Keefe designed and launched the “My Card, My Work” campaign on his website, American Express, with the help of its advertising agencies, Ogilvy and Digitas launched American Express’s now extremely well-known “My Life, My Card” campaign. Coincidence, or foul play? The courts will decide.
Of course, I have no idea who is right and who is wrong in this case. The press release makes a case for the lone AD. But do creative directors looking at books really steal ideas that later become famous ad campaigns? I know that’s what it looks like, but it all seems a tad preposterous. What say you? Have you had your ideas stolen by a desperate CD?

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. All you have to do is look at his book…very weak.

  2. Actually It doesn’t matter if his work is weak. There’s definitely a similarity but I bet the AD will have a hard time in court. Everyone has had an idea stolen or appropriated. I don’t think CDs are out to get anyone. They’re just forgetful. He’s making a stink and it may come back to haunt him especially if his work is weak.

  3. It’s about time someone stands up for his work. Hmm am i missing his “BOOK” where is it?

  4. I have been reading your website for a while off and on and wondered if you would ever consider posting elsewhere? Zecco is looking for financial bloggers with sound insights for our community (and there is shared ad revenue to help offset your time a bit). If you’re interested could you email me? Many thanks!

  5. Interesting. At first I thought it was an absurd charge and a tenuous connection at best, especially after checking out this AD’s website. Perhaps the Powers were banking on the fact that this guy was relatively unknown and would keep quiet and remain in the shadows. Anyway, the danger is the precedent that the suit could set — I can see agencies demanding that creatives sign some sort of indemnity/waiver/legal whazzit before they so much as glance at someone’s work. Whatever happens, the lawyers will win. Lawyers always win.

  6. I’ve been reading about this online for the past few days! Its great. I think if people saw the screenshots they would have a better understanding of how badly they screwed him. They posted them on AdWeek.
    I hope Okeefe seariously wins! I think we all should support him. This can happen to any of us.

  7. No one stole my idea, I let them take my dignity? says:

    Do you have any idea when little people make these accusations. They get blown away with analysis from professionals that say they have over inflated views of themselves.
    It is best to keep quiet against people in powerful places, isn’t it?. They can make your life a living hell, or? That is until you have nothing left to lose. Nothing left to gain.
    What does Death Camp for Cutie sing?
    You just gotta decide heaven and hell are both all satisfied.
    the nose illuminated on the vacancy signs.
    You get this feeling of lightness into the dark. Even if it’s a couple kilos over 59.

  8. for the little people says:

    So I get it…. unless you’re bigtime you should keep your mouth shut? Only big firms can go after other big firms. This happens a little too much and its about time more people step forward. Oh thats right OKEEFE is a little person that shouldnt do anything. more power to him.
    Thanks Tim for the images…..

  9. the little engine that could even with the check engine light on? says:

    well, would you like to hear stories where i was crazy enough to believe my ideas were being stolen? Some are stories. Two, surely I could justify. But my permanent record is tainted so they’d never believe me anyway.
    Plus, lots of things are contagious memes that just show symptoms in different ways. Example: I started my first responses in the blogging world around November of 2004. All Feet stuff. The first month I hypothesized about cobblers creating a world wide market. But it was just a tiny blog that hardly no one responded to. No one was reading. I was just thinking aloud with my fingers to myself, right?
    Then in January, the gaping void came up with the global tailoring market. Now I thought the ideas were quite similar but that was silly. Hugh would have never heard of a housewife in Indiana, right? WOW, it must have been a meme in the air that I caught on my feet. I go barefoot a bunch. Hugh just caught the meme in the girth of his … yea, his jacket. So even with coincidences like that, I still thought, I have the capability of getting the idea, I must be able to do this. I can catch those memes just as good as the bigger bloggers. This is gonna be big. I just need help.
    Yet, the more I kept on reading about advertising the more I realized that everybody is pulling ideas from that idea cloud as they talk about in Ask Jancy (I have an Idea) Even if I was ignoring annuals, films, magazines, tv, we all have similar experiences. Middle aged housewife who never worked in the business world couldn’t possibly be that unique. Those “thems” must not have copied in school or from the internet. My accusation stories couldn’t be justified: right, left or centered. And come hell or high heaven, they’d drag out the cuckoos nest, anyway. Try to fly under that! (Okay—It’s not that hard if there’s water underneath and you swim like you’re on fire!:thanks for that phrase rocco deloco )
    My life is balanced with big grins and big tears about the bruises on my knuckles and noggin. So i dont know if little people can, or if they are just crazy for thinking they can.

  10. I might not know law but it seems like the courts will have fun with this. Good for him. Glad to see designers standing up to the big boys.

  11. This guy got rip’d hope he sticks it to them!!!