Holsten calls for BACC action over Lotus’ Denis Leary ‘copycat’ ads

Holsten UK has complained to the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre alleging that IBM-owned software company Lotus has copied its beer ads featuring Denis Leary.

The ads for Holsten Pils through GGT use Leary as a wry observer who makes cutting one-liners. Holsten claims Lotus’ new campaign by Ogilvy & Mather in the US uses Leary in the same way, copying the sardonic persona that it created.

One Holsten insider says: “Leary was unknown in the UK before he appeared in the Holsten ads. We created his character, just as BMP DDB and Barclaycard created the Richard Latham Rowan Atkinson character.”

A Holsten UK statement says Leary is free to work with any advertiser outside the drinks industry.

But it adds: “Lotus’ campaign is not so much a case of borrowing a great idea, but pinching the scripts too – a point we have strenuously made to the advertising authorities.”

A Lotus spokesman says: “It is Leary’s style being advertised, rather than Holsten’s style of advertising.”

The BACC pre-vets all ads. Its guidelines say: “Treatments which so closely resemble another advertiser’s commercial as to be likely to cause confusion in the viewer’s or listener’s mind as to which commercial is which, are not acceptable.”

It goes on: “Treatments which plagiarise the execution of another advertiser… are acceptable only provided the advertiser concerned gives his express permission.”

Uisdean Maclean, director of the BACC, refuses to say if Holsten’s complaint will be referred to the BACC’s copy committee.

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