Meet Graham too similar to 1985 ad?

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Clemenger BBDO Melbourne’s Meet Graham didn’t win everything at the Cannes Lions Festival last week – the Integrated and Titanium juries dismissed the work because it reminded them too much of 1985’s First Natural Born Smoker.

Clemenger Melbourne’s cautionary effigy took home 29 Lions—including two Grand Prix for Cyber and Health & Wellness and eight Gold Lions.

But the sculpture created for the Transport Accident Commission of Victoria received no Lions for Integrated or Titanium, reports the latest email from Campaign Asia (which sourced its own report to Campaign US),

The site says those juries felt Meet Graham was too similar to a spot released more than 30 years ago to merit a win, a spokesman for the juries told Campaign. “The consensus of the Titanium and Integrated jury was that Meet Graham was very well executed,” he said. “However, many felt the idea was very similar.”

The 1985 public information film from FCO London was lauded at the time for its imaginative portrayal of a man whose body was evolutionarily acclimated to the damage done by cigarettes. Like Graham, he has an alien physique: a large nose, self-cleaning lungs and extra eyelids.

While Graham plays its premise straight, envisioning changes to human bone structure necessary to resist the impact of a high-speed car crash, the FCO spot allows itself some cheeky commentary — a ‘Natural Born Smoker’ has “smaller ears, because they don’t listen”.

But the creators of Meet Graham deny they were influenced by the 1985 spot. “We’d never even heard of it,” James McGrath, creative chairman of Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, told Campaign.

“Clemenger BBDO Melbourne has built its reputation on originality. We are incredibly proud of that promise. How others judge it, and their motives for doing so, we do not know, nor is it any of our business.

“The smoking ad referred to is a 32-year-old TV spot. It was absolutely not the inspiration for the sculpture and tech-based idea developed for our client.”

But others in the industry are skeptical of that position. “Meet Graham might as easily have been called The First Natural Born Car Crash Survivor,” said John O’Keeffe, worldwide creative director at WPP.

“I was sent online comparisons between the two from July last year. So it’s not ‘this week’s observation’. I suspect some involved might not have known the original. But I doubt no one spotted it as it went through the layers to production.”

BBDO Worldwide Chief Creative Officer David Lubars defended his ad, noting that the issue had already been dealt with before juries began deliberating. “We were greatly disappointed and surprised to learn it had been rejected from the Integrated and Titanium categories,” he said.

“The implication that it had drawn inspiration from a UK TV ad from over 30 years ago — aside from being preposterous—was raised and addressed at the beginning of the festival.”

Cannes Lions did not return Campaign Asia’s requests for comment about this story.

Clemenger BBDO Melbourne was awarded Agency of the Year on the final day of the festival, winning 56 Lions and helping to push BBDO Worldwide to its sixth win as Network of the Year. Omar Oakes contributed reporting to this article. Source: Campaign US.

Smoker is the only ad ever to appear on UK terrestrial TV and in cinemas without any type or logo at the end. It’s a pure public service announcement. Maybe that’s why it still haunts the internet?

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