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Julie Descamps 2023-05-11

In today’s issue of the Behind The Bylines series, we’re hosting the ultimate advertising copycat hunter : Joe La Pompe, author of Copy Paste : How advertising recycles ideas. Journalist, blogger, author… a man with many facets. We took a peek behind the mask for you.

What inspired you to become a journalist and how did you end up hunting copycats?

I’m a journalist by coincidence. I’m also a blogger, a book writer and a keynote speaker. I started my career as an advertising creative, working as a copywriter for different big agencies in Paris. Back in the late nineties I was working at Ogilvy Paris. The creative director was very proud of a campaign for a beverage brand that won a lot of prestigious awards. One day, I was waiting in the office of the Art Director that conceived this campaign. He was late, and I was reading some magazines. At that time we used a lot of magazines when we were looking for inspirational content. And what did I find inside one of these  magazines? I found an identical campaign done for another client (also in the beverages sector) four years before, in England. 

The exact same idea! The guy was caught red handed ! When I showed it to him he looked very embarrassed. Was it intentional? I guess I’ll never know. But, that was the starting point of my quest. I had to do something to show the world that this kind of stuff happens. I thought it would be a good idea to create something out of this, to share my knowledge.

What’s your role at your current magazine / media outlet - and what are the latest developments there?

I work as a columnist for several media publications at the moment : CB News (France), Pub Magazine (Belgium) and Arabad (Lebanon). I first started with CB News more than 15 years ago with a column named « Télescopages de pubs » which means something like « When similar ideas collide ». A page specialized in hunting and showcasing similar advertising ideas and concepts from around the world made by different agencies at different times. Copycat or coincidence? The readers can judge. 

I’m now known as a « copycat hunter » and a real pain in the ass for lazy creatives. I also handle a second column called « Culture Print » which showcases each month, on a double spread, a variety of great print ads of all times with a common visual theme.

I spend hours everyday watching ads.

As a member of the Epica Awards jury, how do you approach evaluating and selecting the best creative work from around the world?

I’ve been honored to be a member of this jury for several years now, and I gained a lot of experience there. In my point of view « originality » is a key point. That’s not the only one, but ideas that feel like never seen before and that look or appear fresher than others to me, are ranked higher.

I love the fact that I can help other jury members to appreciate if an idea is too close to something seen, and done before. That’s not an easy task to do, but I like it a lot. It’s not a way to eliminate or ban an idea, but it’s a precious input to help the final deliberation. To see how much added value there is in today's craft versus the older one, by helping and allowing other jury members to compare. We have to learn from the past in order not to repeat it!

How d’you stay informed and updated on the latest trends and developments in the creative industry?

I spend hours everyday watching ads. Maybe too much time. I start my day reading newsletters, then I read social media posts on twitter, Linkedin and Facebook and I browse through a huge variety of other sources like AdForum, Adsoftheworld, BestAdsOnTV, LBB Online and many others. I used to buy many books and magazines, and in the streets I always keep an open eye on all forms of communications. I try to stay alert and curious even if sometimes I feel like I’m suffering from information overload!

What’s the biggest challenge facing the creative industry today – and how might it be addressed?

There are many challenges right now, especially for creative people. I would say that trying not to use too much AI is one of them. Trying not to follow the trends but find an original way of thinking. The other one is to free ourselves from the FOMO (fear of missing out) syndrome and fight information overload. 

Who are your role models or mentors in journalism and the creative world? And what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?

My mentor was Christian Blachas, the founder of CB News magazine and the famous French TV show  « Culture Pub », dedicated to creative advertising on a major French TV channel (M6). He was the reason I chose an advertising career at first, and then he was the first to offer me a regular column in his B-to-B trade press magazine, back in 2004. 

He encouraged me in my fight for a more creative ad industry. He understood that my work was positive. A very bold move, very courageous because my column is a critic of the system, a critic of the agencies even though the agencies are its main customers! He died a few years ago and I really miss him.

There are many challenges right now, especially for creative people. I would say that trying not to use too much AI is one of them.

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