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

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. Dan is also a columnist for and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.