The game isn't on yet, but a brand is already in trouble for their super bowl ad. The good news is that this will end up as another spot.
When the Cetaphil - "A New Sports Tradition for Dads & Daughters" originally launched, and we tweeted it out, people liked it. It rushed quickly to becoming a fan favorite and was even compared to The Farmer's Dog - “Forever” ad from last year, because it was a simple idea that tugged at people's heartstrings. No celebrities required.
As Taylor Swift is dating Kelce, Cetaphil’s Super Bowl ad claims it's influencing dads and daughters to watch American football together. https://t.co/hOiKcZdlAT #superbowl #adland #SuperBowlLVIII pic.twitter.com/pHsdvF7q10
— adland ® (@adland) February 9, 2024
But soon people noticed that this daddy-daughter story was very similar to what Tiktok creator Sharon Mbabazi, also known as @sharavinaaa, has been sharing on her channel, where some of the clips have reached 2.6 million views, like this one.
On social media, all of the goodwill that was initially building up now quickly turned into badwill, with people expressing shock that a brand would "steal ideas" during black history month. Keyboard lawyers declared that Sharon Mbabazi absolutely had a case to sue Cetaphil, and thousands of people agreeing with her.
Cetaphil stole this idea from my tiktoks with my step-dad but OK! https://t.co/as9rRa2eA6
— african polly pocket (@sharavinaaa) February 10, 2024
Sharon Mbabazi was upset enough to share her thoughts in a now deleted video - which also went viral: “Like y’all could have at least given us some credit. What’s up? They have a mixed-race girl in the video and a white guy. I’m a Black girl. My stepdad is white. And in the video, she’s doing her makeup, her skin care on her vanity and her white dad walks in. I was doing my makeup on my vanity, and my white dad walks in and tells me about football,”she said, and then she recaled the under-eye masks that her dad and she wore in another one of her Tiktok Videos.
“I thought, OK, maybe it’s a coincidence, until I saw the dad walk into her room and put skin care under his eyes, like what my step dad and I did in our video, and he put eye patches under his eye. Like literally bar for bar it’s the same concept, same idea.”
Sure, there are similarities. And it isn't inconceivable that someone saw one of her popular videos. But as an American football reference, we've seen people smear all sorts of stuff under their eyes in advertising past.
Ideas aren't born in a vacuum. Successful campaigns have been built on referencing memetic jokes - like the Chuck Norris jokes that became the Most Interesting man campaign. Pop culture feeds advertising and vice versa. And as usual, you can not copyright an idea - as much as we'd like to.
Plagiarisation cases are notoriously difficult to win, worse than defamation cases, just ask any advertising agency who pitched a detailed 360 campaign and lost it just to see another agency produce the exact same creative ideas.
And on a positive note, people have been complaining for years that they don't see themselves in advertising. Here we are seeing an unnamed real dad and daughter, and another real life dad and daughter recognizes the scene so much she thinks it's actually hers.
As word spread, the agency /prompt contacted Mbabazi and announced “We are going to do some work together,” on Twitter. Ad age reports that chief creative officer Craig Elimeliah and Mbabazi have gotten in touch.
“Part of our job is to make people feel seen and that’s what we did. It was a coincidental casting decision that was made last minute.”
For Cetaphil this spot have become an unexpected home run. Not only did people find that the story resonated with the viewers, with this extra controversy people are talking even more about the brand.
And now, it will become more content for the campaign! Cetaphil will be laughing all the way to the bank. They also told Adage: “We absolutely love that this beautiful and universal story between dads and daughter connecting over football is something so many others loved.”
Elimeliah said that Mbabazi and her dad would appear in a follow-up to this spot.