Former Creative Director at Pocket Aces, Abhinav Krishna is an extremely talented digital artist and animator who also creates beautiful content on his Instagram. Recently, he has accused Google India of plagiarism saying that their new Pixel 8 Pro ad with the Mr. India theme shows an uncanny resemblance with an animated reel he created and posted back in June 2023. He claims that the brand has copied his idea having frame-by-frame similarities.
The Google India ad stars actor Anil Kapoor reprising his role as Mr. India from the iconic 1987 movie. The ad in question is the fourth one in the series showing the actor promoting the Pixel 8 Pro smartphone. These series of ads were created by FCB Ulka, a creative advertising agency. The two videos in question follow a similar script where a potential tenant is shown a home with the promise of a sea view. However, upon reaching the flat, there is nothing but buildings outside the balcony with a spot of the sea seen far away.
What differs between the ad and the animated video is the tool used to spot the sea. Google India uses the zoom feature in the new Pixel 8 smartphone, and the animated video uses a pair of binoculars to get a glimpse of the sea. Abhinav decided to take the social media rant route to speak up about this issue. He posted about the copycat job on his LinkedIn, Reddit and Twitter. “Mr. India ki tarah mera credit bhi gayab” is how he started this rant. Here’s the reel in question:
In June 2023, I released an animated reel on Instagram called ‘The Worst House Ever Saw’. It’s a video about the first house that I had seen while house-hunting in Mumbai. A true story that I have been narrating to friends for many years. Except this year, I decided to make it an animated retelling and release it.
Here’s how that story goes: I go to see an apartment because the broker has listed it as a “sea-view” apartment. After he shows me around the house, I can’t find the sea-view anywhere. So he takes me to the edge of the balcony. I strain my eyes as I skeptically look on and the broker gives me a pair of binoculars. Then I see it. Then beyond a few hundred buildings, somewhere far on the horizon, I finally spot the sea.
Last week, Google India released their new ad for Google Pixel 8 starring Anil Kapoor as Mr India. It’s called The Rental. Here’s how that ad goes: Mr. India is showing a “sea-view” house to a woman. When she arrives, she can’t see the sea view anywhere. So he pulls out his phone and zooms in a bit. The woman then strains her eyes as she is skeptical of what he is saying and Mr India zooms in again. Then beyond the buildings, really far away there is a sea view.
Sounds familiar? (hint hint, compare it to the story above)
Now, you might say that two ideas can be similar. Sure, but even keeping that in mind, watching the Google ad is like watching a frame-by-frame recreation of my video. It flows exactly the same way that my story flows. The shot composition and storyboard are very similar. Even the expression the character makes as she tries to find the sea is the exact same! It doesn’t stop there. The final reveal, the final zoom-in to show the sea is done the same way.
Abhinav then proceeded to showcase the frame-by-frame comparisons between the two videos and also played them back-to-back, asking people to decide for themselves.
If screenshots don't convince you, here's the two videos one after the other. pic.twitter.com/lldr3p8qOY— Abhinav Krishna (?/100) (@Kibitzer_01) November 13, 2023
Agency Officials Respond
John Thangaraj, Group Chief Strategy Officer at FCB Group India responded to Abhinav’s LinkedIn post. Since he was personally involved in this project, he was able to give an insight into their thought process which was not inspired by Abhinav’s reel but rather by the scenes from the original Mr. India itself which was released back in 1987. John urged Abhinav to be more circumspect rather than accusatory going forward and to reach out to him directly in case he wanted to discuss this any further.
He wrote, “I’m not sure if you’ve watched the original, but if you have, you’ll recall a scene early on in the movie, where Arun (Anil Kapoor’s character) is hard selling his room for rent to Seema (Sridevi’s character). He does so as follows:
Madame, kya kamra hai.
Kamra ke aagey balcony
Balcony ke aagey garden
Aur garden ke aagey samundar.
This is what formed the basis of the film you’re claiming we copied from you. Having only seen screen shots of your animated short and not the video itself, I can’t comment on the framing of our own film vis-a-vis yours. What I can say however is that both FCB and Google adhere to the very highest standard of creative integrity and if there is at all, even the slightest similarity to your own work, that similarity is wholly coincidental.
Manish Kinger, Executive Creative Director, Schbang also supported the Google Pixel campaign calling it an homage to Mr. India and his universe. He wrote, “Every ad in the campaign uses nuances from the original and plants the product in the centre to create a nostalgia-infused brand integration for today’s time. The setting in the ad shared here is an extremely popular scene from the movie. In fact, the dialogues in the ad are actual movie dialogues from the original.
Where is the plagiarism in this? They have, to the barebones – stuck to the narrative, setting, visual movement, central character caricature from the MOVIE. It is so evidently a recreation job. Your visual tale is just a coincidental cousin of the final product. When you see the Movie, the campaign idea, and final execution of the ad in a sequence, they are clearly in a straight line. Open your eyes please.“
The Internet seems divided on this one. Some are calling it blatant plagiarism and are expressing shock at the fact that a brand like Google can do something like this. While some cannot really see the resemblance and are calling it a coincidence. The joke about “sea-facing flats in Mumbai not actually being sea-facing” is an old one and not something new or recent. One Reddit user broke down or rather summed up the people’s take on this issue in their comment:
Another user commented, “I might be the minority but it doesn’t seem like a copy but a mere coincidence. The dialogue is a very famous one from the movie Mr India itself. Since your video was also after the movie, one can argue the video was a rip-off of Mr. India movie.”
What do you feel? Is this plagiarism and the brand and agency is running away from it or is it a mere coincidence? This does raise questions like what are the boundaries of inspiration and how sure can you be to define them in order to accuse someone of plagiarising.