I have not blogged about the "Office Depot situation" until now. I have patiently waited until I have cooled off, and had a while to simmer down. In a nutshell, Office Depot and their advertising agency, Young & Rubicam stole Jeff's copyrighted story and made what has been called and Ironic Commercial from it.
Jeff has been telling his $6 hair cut story for years. People in his industry know him by that story. He has several published books referencing this example of Street Fighter Marketing, and he copyrighted it as part of his intellectual property, since he uses this as his signature story in keynote speeches. Street Fighter Marketing is based on a the principle to out think not out spend your competition and most of my husband's programs are started with this story as an example of what Street Fighter Marketing can do.
Here is a you tube clip of Jeff telling his $6 hair cut story:
After the first of this year the following commercial was launched on behalf of Office Depot. You will notice a striking similarity and an obvious portrayal of Jeff's signature story. See for yourself.
Did the advertising geniuses that pilfered this concept bother to change the price of the haircut? No. Did they use a blue and white banner? Nope. Did they call the chain store Fantastic Sam's, No, but really, they needed a random name anyhow, right? So did Office Depot swipe Jeff's material and use it in their commercial? Yes, they did. They just doctored enough to where they thought they could get away with it.
I am not alone in the belief that the Office Depot commercial has stolen Jeff's story and made it their own. When the commerical was airing on national television Jeff had other professional speakers calling, emailing and congratulating him on selling the story to Office Depot. They assumed that Office Depot bought the rights to use his concept in their marketing. People were calling him and saying, I saw your Office Depot commercial last night and I knew that was your doing. Just last week, when we had dinner with Scott McKain, he congratulated Jeff on the Office Depot commercial- we had to tell him the truth and as a speaker and author himself, Scott was outraged. Scott knew the lasting effects from having material and signature stories stolen.
Sadly, all of the praise and good wishes were for nothing because Young & Rubicam of New York, ripped off the story and did not give Jeff credit in any way, shape or form. They did not pay for the licensing of that material and they basically swiped it from Jeff and considered it theirs.
Now, as a result of this national advertising campaign, Jeff can't use that example of Street Fighter marketing in his opening keynote, because, the audience will assume he is using someone else's story. The exact opposite it true, but when you are in front of a thousand people your credibility is everything, the last thing Jeff wants to do is lose his edge with the client or the folks sitting in his auditorium.
Is it a coincidence that Jeff spoke at the National Association of Office Suppliers a few years ago? Do you think someone from the ad agency may have been in his audience? I do. I totally believe that the fine folks at the high priced ad agency realized this story would make an awesome commercial. Do I whole heartily think Young & Rubicam ripped Jeff off, YES, I do.
Jeff contacted the CEO of Office Depot right after the commercial was airing. His letter was forwarded to the legal team that represents the Agency of Young & Rubicam, who supposedly, created the spot. There have been numerous legally worded back and forth letters between the two parties and the ad agency believes they did nothing wrong. They think that there are technicalities that make the commerical vastly changed and different from Jeff's copy writed piece. It is total bullshit, but nonetheless, they covered their ass by pulling the commercial. The damage is done. The story is no longer really Jeff's and the agency probably charged Office Depot a bloody fortune to create the campaign and commercial.
The whole situation just stinks to high heaven. The thieves at Young & Rubicam ripped us off and they are not accepting responsibility. While there is a current legal mess of who owns what and how can this be undone, I am confident that Jeff's reputation as a professional speaker has been damaged. I liken this to when a stand up comedian creates his own schtick and then other comics use the material as their own. It basically makes the jokes popular and therefore not able to be repeated.
The real irony here is that the whole premise of the story is how a small business owner can compete with a large competitor, and use Street Fighter Marketing techniques to out think not out spend the competition. Ad Week even panned the spot, noting the premise was ironic. Here is the part I do not understand--- Office Depot is a large chain of office supply stores, and while they may have helped the barber compete by making the banner, they are indeed the big guy with a big advertising budget. They are not a mom and pop, locally owned, neighborhood store and the irony of the commercial left me and others, scratching our heads. I think the concept was lost on the fact that office Depot is just like the Nitro Cutz of office supply stores anyway.
Okay, so now what? I am sure the lawyers will hash it out and profit from the misfortune of my husband and his story. I just hope that at some point they make it right for him. In the meantime, I am doing my part to retaliate. I am blogging the story, and I am taking my school supply business anywhere but to Office Depot. Will my measly purchase of supplies effect them at all? No way. Will I smile as I spend money at Office Max or Staples? Yes I will.
Office Depot and their advertising agency have wronged us and I pity them. Clearly they knew a good story when they heard it. My shit list is a terrible place to be, and Office Depot is at the top of the list.
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