Direct Line and its agency Saatchi & Saatchi have become embroiled in a plagiarism row over their campaign targeting first-time insurance buyers – which broke in October – amid claims that one execution is a “shot for shot” rip-off of an ad for telecoms firm NewVoiceMedia.
From the opening frame, featuring a virtually identical typeface on a black background, through to the first shot of a woman on the phone, the similarities are striking. There is then a carbon-copy “scream” shot and end frame.
While Direct Line’s “The Torment” urges young people to “survive the horror” of taking out insurance when they leave home, NewVoiceMedia’s “Voices from Hell” urges businesses to “End the Horror” of interactive voice response (IVR) by using dynamic routing.
Crucially, the NewVoiceMedia ad, devised by freelance creative duo Phil Keevill and Chris Lonie, and directed by Alex Nicholson, ran in April last year; the Direct Line ad launched six months later in October.
It is understood that Keevill and Lonie, who first met at Craik Jones in the Nineties, were unaware of the issue until Nicholson pointed out the obvious similarities between the two campaigns.
In July, Nicholson had been called in by Saatchis’ in-house production company, Prodigious, who said they were looking for a director who felt comfortable in the horror and comedy genre. He went in to see them but nothing more came of it until he spotted the Direct Line campaign months later.
However, it is not the first time Nicholson has fallen victim to such shenanigans. Back in 2016, Unicef made an almost direct copy of a short film he made in 2013, entitled Mr X.
Lonie has contacted the Direct Line client, pointing out the issues, but his concerns have so far been ignored.
One industry insider said: “Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so. Saatchis have obviously seen the original ad and thought, ‘we’ll have some of that’. It’s a classic David versus Goliath. Big agencies seem to have no qualms about ripping off freelancers but you would think clients would have more respect. They should hang their heads in shame. It’s a ‘horror show’ disgrace.”
Direct Line and Saatchi & Saatchi have yet to respond to Decision Marketing’s request for comment.