Opinion

Two continents, two brilliantly useless websites, one idea

While the industry devotes a fair bit of time to outing copycat advertising, sometimes it really is just a coincidence – and for those involved a frustrating one at that.  

Earlier in the year we talked about Jules Hall’s discombobulation when he woke up one morning to hear Australia talking about Tourism Queensland’s Best Job In The World promotion to win that dream job on the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

At the time, his agency The Hallway was days away from launching a campaign for Malibu to win a dream job as a drink taster on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

The same appears to have gone on again now, with two strikingly similar, below-the-radar, comedy campaigns getting underway on opposite sides of the Pacific.

In Australia, news sites this week have been full of ads for the Volley Warehouse Close Call – a stupid stick device for getting people (including Seinfeldian close-talkers) to keep their distance.

Volley WarehouseA bit of further investigation reveals an online store full of useless products including The Gig Viewer – a strap-on head periscope – and a washing up machine called The Dish Jockey. And of course, a pair of Dunlop Volley shoes.

It’s a reasonably deep site, with a fair bit of comedy to be discovered. Even the copy around the shoes is nicely crafted, including the following testimonial:

“I was always falling over. Then I discovered the Dunlop Volley. Who would have thought that a piece of canvas and some rubber would solve all my problems? I’ve been upright ever since.”

And there’s a blog dedicated to useless inventions such as the baby mop – a romper suit that helps the baby clean the floor as it crawls.

The site looks like the work of Victorian agency Marilyn & Sons. There’s a small link to their agency site from the Volley Warehouse site, and Marilyn & Sons was also behind Dunlop Volley’s “Exceptionally average” ads last year. (It also wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a social media agency involved. Julian Cole of The Population is among the handful of subscribers to the Volley Warehouse YouTube channel. Update: He’s not – he just got onto it early like a good social media expert should).

Which is all dandy, as it’s certainly a different approach.

But as I say, there’s a near-doppelganger campaign in Canada called The Weak Shop.

Their lead product is Chair Pants.

 

Weak ShopWeak Shop is a bit more subtle in what it’s promoting (it turns out to be milk). But the wacky products idea is very similar. Others include blocks to make your treadmill run downhill and clothes made out of towels.

Weak Shop’s YouTube channel sprang up on September 4.

Volley Warehouse went up on YouTube on September 28.

Clearly, it wouldn’t be possible to create a copycat campaign in three weeks. But the similarities are so striking that if both campaigns get entered for the same international awards they’ll cancel each other out. Both were, I suspect, inspired by the kitsch success of the same real life product – The Snuggie.

When a good idea comes, it sometimes lands in more than one place at once.

 

Tim Burrowes

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