Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Office Depot is on my Shit List

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.


loren said...

WOW!!! That's aweful. What's crazy is I rarely comment on commercials and I remember saying to Mike what a great idea that was (the "we fix $6 haircuts") selling quality over price - something we were taught in sales. I don't even have to watch the commercial to remember it.

I feel for you guys. If that commercial imprinted on MY mind, I'm sure it did for many many others, and there's no way you guys shouldn't have been consulted and/or compensated!

Misty said...

I'm totally de-lurking just to make a comment.. I'm a married 24 year old without children (yet) but an avid reader of your blog. you totally crack me up and your kids are just too cute!

anyways.. my husband got a good laugh out of hearing me say, randomly, "those F***ers totally ripped him off! babe, we're never going to office depot again!".. after explaining to him that I was "blog-surfing" as he calls it.. he agreed and we will discontinue business at the (already overly priced) office depot.


Michele S said...

I am shocked Helene. SHOCKED. The stupid part is that the commericial doesn't even make sense. I loved that part of Jeff's speech. It left such an impression on me, I went home and told Greg and then called my sister and repeated the whole story.

I hope those bastards have to pay. I never shop there, thank God.

eecoelus said...

I totally agree that the Office Depot commercial plagiarizes your husband. But why then shop at Office Max or Staples? Go to a true Mom and Pop store, pay a little more, and help them stay in business!!!

Bethany said...

I have to admit, Helene, I am not typically one to join in a boycott. However, you got me with this one! They will not receive a penny from us. What a rip!

(Hope to see you soon, btw.)

Teaching Tess said...

WOW, that is some serious theft. I hope the media gets a hold of this story and lets folks know the real deal

Sue Sullivan said...

I found your blog from the facebook link from a friend of mine, and WOW.=

I actually saw your husband tell this story in person about 10 years ago at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I vividly recall that presentation as he was a very powerful and hilarious guy. I did see that commercial and it made me recall hearing the same exact story years and years before, from the source.

How sad is it that the ad agency did not have enough street smarts to come up with a fresh idea, and instead they ripped you guys off.

I believe Office Depot is just as guilty as the ad agency in this because you made them aware of the problem and they did nothing to make it right.

Let us know how this turns out. I hope you are eventually satisfied.

And tell Jeff that after ten years I still remember his amazing speech to our group in Vegas.

You are married to a very entertaining guy.

sbsthedds said...

The commercial from Office Depot does not make sense because here they are talking about helping the small business owner compete, yet they are a BIG BOX store, not a small locally owned store. I would be that my office supply retailer with two locations would not begin to identify with the Office Depot mentality.

too bad they missed the whole notion with this ad, and worse yet, they stole the concept from a small business man. Shame on Office Depot.

Helene Eichenwald Slutsky said...

My blog readers and commenters are awesome.

I was really upset by the turn of events with this situation, and it is so nice to know you guys got my back.

As they say at Staples, That was Easy!

S said...

Let us know when you are going to be on the Today show! Baby I see clouds of falling money above your head! They do not have a chance in hell to win this one.

MA said...

I'm a random blog reader, but my husband is a loyal former Office Max employee, so I felt the need to comment. He's never liked shopping at Office Depot and now we certainly won't.

Office Depot sucks. Their marketing scheme is illogical. If you're shopping at a big box store, the aim is usually savings.

Keep on rocking, Slutsky's and don't let anyone cramp your style.

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