Spot the Difference

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Raheem Akingbolu seeks experts’ interpretations of the similarity between the campaigns of Wema and Providus Banks currently running in the newspapers and other platforms

Brand analysts have gotten fresh issue to feed on. To a layman, it is nothing but a mere clash of ideas but to those sharp minds who understand the chemistry of creativity, the similarity goes beyond that.

A quick look at the campaigns currently being run by Wema and Providus Banks bare it all. Though the messages of their campaigns are different, their layouts are the same. Perhaps what makes the issue exciting is the fact that both concepts come from players in the same sector of the economy –Banking.

In an advertising material placed by Providus Bank, one of the most promising financial brands, in some national newspapers recently, with the message; ‘welcome to future forward banking,’ a mimic of its pay-off line –Future Forward Banking, the bank emphasises its determination to use innovative product advancements to create better banking experience. It went on by stating that; “This, along with personalised service and a tailored delivery, allows us to put our customers and their businesses at the heart of everything we do.”

For Wema Bank that appears to be currently doing away with its regional toga, the last few weeks can be said to be season of campaigns. Though the messages in various ad placed by Wema Bank are different, it maintains the same layout in all the campaigns. Among other products, the campaign touches on issues like WEMA USD Travel card and its various online and mobile banking products.

The concepts
A close look at the layouts which are now in the press and out-of- homes platform reveals two similar creative concepts. Though, Wema’s colour of pupple and Providus’ deep blue are maintained respectively in the two ideas and the messages are different, the layouts are the same.

Since it was discovered that the two organisations are using the same layout, a lot of questions have been asked by analysts and creative minds. While some people are curious to know which of the organisation first used the layout, another set of people are keen to know if it is wrong for two companies (especially when they are competitors) to use similar layouts.

Whether they are competing brands or not, some have maintained that only few organisations in Nigeria stick to a particular layout as their brand characters. Few years ago, Glo and First bank got enmeshed in a similar controversy. Glo had developed its own creative through its in-house creative department, while FirstBank’s was handled by a South African firm, Brand Union (then known as Enterprise IG) in conjunction with Lolu Akinwumi’s Prima Garnet in Nigeria.

Experts’ views
Reacting to the issue, the publisher of Marketing Edge Magazine, Mr. John Ajayi, described the similarity as unethical. According to him, there should not be stereotype in creativity, adding that a situation where an agency verbatim copies another brand’s creative concept deliberately is unethical and it runs against convention.

He said: “Coming up with the same creative design and layout in creative effort is something that cannot be explained away. While it cannot be impossible for convergence in terms of creative thinking operating in the same creative environment, it cannot be said to be defensible. Agreed, the brand that first did it may not patent it but still it is bad for another creative agency to copy it verbatim. What this simply means is that there is dearth of creativity in the industry.’’

One of the experts, who hold the belief that no organisation has exclusive right to a particular layout, Mr. Mike Obiajulu Meze, said it would be difficult for anybody to castigate any of the parties involved because there is nothing unusual about what they have done.

“When you have ad practitioners that belong to the same school of thought, chances are that they think alike. In advertising, we have two schools of thought -The Unilever and the P&G school of thought. For instance, I belong to Unilever school of thought and if another person from the same school is working on similar campaign as mine, our background could influence our thought. What I’m saying in essence is that when the people from any of these agencies are working on different things, there are possibilities of coming up with similar ideas. Another thing is if two guys passed through Insight or DDB, they might have taken with them their agencies approach to layout and this will influence their thoughts.

To Meze, who was a former staff of UAC and later an Account Director with Insight Communications, it happens occasionally on both local and on the international scene to see organisations adopting the same layout. “There is nothing wrong about it, since the campaign and the message are different. Again in an evolving market like Nigeria, we cannot entirely run away from things like this when we are all looking for an idea that would sell”.

The practitioner, who is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Winning Concepts Public Relations Limited, however, appealed to ad practitioners to adhere strictly to the rule of the game. “There is no word, phrase, or a combination of words that can be said to be new, except if you are talking of slangs or jargons that come and go out of fashion every now and then. Creativity, in the main, is about finding new idea combinations. Ordinarily, there is nothing wrong with two distinct organisations or non-competing brands using similar layouts to pass their messages across. One thing I will emphasise is that agencies must give necessary advice to their clients and adhere strictly to the rule of the game”, he said.

Another analyst, Mr. Samuel Ajayi, who corroborated the position of Meze, said the fact that all creative minds are out to make sure their ads are read, it pushes them to go extra miles to come out with layouts that will bring out the visual, caption, headline and other elements in the best way. “Since it has not been disputed anywhere that great minds think alike, it will be difficult to say two creative directors cannot come out with the same idea. Take for instance, Rio de Janeiro’s new logo in Brazil that was developed in anticipation for the next Olympic was discovered recently to resemble a logo of an NGO in South America. After investigation, it was discovered that the NGO has been using it for long. It was also found out that despite the colour and logo similarity, none of them plagiarised. The two were simply products of two independent creative minds”, he said.

But to Olamide Bakare, a media analyst with Indigo Public Relations, ‘’The question to ask is; which of the organisations first came out with it? If it was Providus, then Wema must have copied or adapted it carelessly and if Wema was the first to come out with it, it simply means that Providus and its creative agency also copied”.
This is also the position of Mr. Aniete Udor, the Chief Operating Officer of Media Edge, a PR firm. According to Udor, the similarities simply confirmed that there is decline in the nation’s creative industry.
‘’One wonders which regulator approved the two concepts. To me, it is unethical, especially when we consider the fact that the two brands involved are operating in the same sector,’’

Responses
To clarify which of the brands copy from the other, THISDAY sent questionnaire to the corporate affairs department of the two banks. Wema bank responded by stating that the concept was conceptualised by Wonderbrand for the bank when it was rebranded in 2015, an indication that it adopted it before Providus which was established few months ago. A senior staff in the Corporate Affairs Department of the bank, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, insisted that the bank was the first to use the layout but declined further comment, arguing that Wema Bank was not willing to be part of any controversy.

In his response, the Head, Brand & Corporate Communications at ProvidusBank, Mr. Dafe Ivwurie, stated that the bank’s brand visual language, indeed, the entire DNA of the Providus Bank brand, is built on the graphic device referred to.
He said: “Our clients and customers are quite familiar with the device because it has been deployed on relevant brand materials including, but not limited to, adverts, debit cards, cheque books, stationery, PowerPoint template and staff ID cards. We have used it extensively across many touchpoints since 2015,’’ he said

He added that in good corporate identity design, the visual language and graphic devices for a brand should always be inspired by some aspects of the corporate identity. ‘The graphic device for Providus Bank is directly related to the shape of the Providus Bank icon. The movement upwards of the graphic device, mirrors exactly the movement upwards of the Providus Bank icon. In addition, the graphic device for Providus Bank was developed in October 2015, presented to us and approved by the management team and Managing Director/CEO on the 5th November 2015.’’

He further stated in the statement that the style guide was presented to Providus Bank on the 29th March 2016, clearly showing grids and the representation of the graphic device, in relation to the identity icon.
‘’November 2016, the brand launched, and all collateral was made available to customers, containing this graphic device. Following on from this, another advert appeared in THISDAY and Businessday on March 15, 2017 when we published the Central Bank of Nigeria mandatory FX Utilisation.’’

With the two varying positions, the question of whether it is ethical or not for two organisations to use the same layout, thus, remains hanging.