Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

By Emmanuel Narokobi

I feel absolutely terrible that I have to write this. I am a huge fan of BSP and what they have been doing lately and just as I was going on about how I loved their new look I was advised by a friend who came across this same look from the YWCA in Canberra.

I don’t know, but I feel really embarrassed about this. Who was the agency responsible for this ad campaign? How can a leading bank in the South Pacific be using an unoriginal, generic look? Whoever they paid for this job should be sued big time!!

So this is the web page of the YWCA:


what it is, is a downloadable pdf from YWCA, which you can see here:


And this is the new BSP campaign:

Update 1/5/09

Please Note That This Post is Not About Plagiarism. It is about An Agency contracted by BSP who failed to use an appropriate campaign to reflect what BSP is and should be about. Using a K4 template for a PNG icon is not money well spent and does not do justice to the image of BSP and its PNG stakeholders.

Update 6/5/09

Post Courier: BSP defends new advert campaign

Bank South Pacific (BSP) has denied claims that its new marketing campaign is a direct copy of an Australian media campaign.

It has been alleged that BSP, Papua New Guinea’s largest commercial bank, had copied the advertising campaign used by the Young Women’s Christian Organisation (YWCA) branch in Canberra, Australia.

However, BSP chief executive Ian Clyne told the Post Courier yesterday that the bank had followed industry norms and did not breach any Australian copyright laws.

“BSP needed to chnage its image from a conservative, serious perhaps slightly unfriendly bank to a young, bright, modern, trying hard to improve, definately going places,” he said.

Mr. Clyne said that the new advertising campaign graphics were bought from a media library in Ausralia, which contained millions of images that advertising and media companies bought and adapted to suit their communications objectives.

“YWCA and BSP obviously purchased the same image and adapted to suit their individual purposes. YWCA does not own the image,” he said.

“BSP has followed industry norms and did not breach any Australian copyright laws. The critisims are therefore based on uninformed speculation.”

Mr. Clyne said the arguement that BSP did not use local creative talent was not correct because the new SMS Banking ads were all local talent, as were several other new ad campaigns yet to be launched.

“I would stress that our advertising agency highlighted that many images and sounds in advertising and promotion by other organisations in PNG are often not copyright compliant,” he said.

“It seems quite strange that BSP has been identified for copying when we have done everything in accordance with legal requirements (as you would expect from a publically listed bank), and other less professional advertisments are accepted without question.”

Mr. Clyne added that the songs that BSP used with the “life/business/careers/dreams” promotion were all original and not re-engineered from another source.

“BSP has an advertising/promotion strategy for 2009 in which we will regularly promote BSP ‘your bank’ brand and these new products and services on an ongoing regular basis”, he said.

“The re-painting of our head office in the new  corporate bright green has in our view really truly highlighted the artistry of the story boards that form part of our building. It has brought out the unique quality of PNG talent. We have also made the building a worth seeing landmark reflecting the brightness and youthfulness of PNG.

“The new BSP logo is also an indication of the “new” BSP efforts to improve every facet of our business over the coming years.

“BSP has started rolling our new ATM “surrounds” that are uniquley PNG in design. They more than compare with those of our banking competitors in terms of design and visual impact. Again these were graphically designed with significant input from BSP’s own local design team.

“For the first time in many years a major PNG owned company has launched a major branding campaign aimed at improving the corporate image, improving product and service quality, and increasing our profile and role in terms of community and social responsibility. All done with significantly improved professionalism, and cordination.

“BSP in my view should be complimented on its creativity and effort because we are seriously committed to trying to improve.”

38 thoughts on “Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

  1. aawww! this is bad!!!! tru ya…same colours and everything!!!!they should be sued!!! did they get it from this — or was/is this some template ?
    hmmm…. this is so upsetting! Still a big fan of BSP though… maybe find out what was behind the colour change and all ….. and why they decided to go with that?

  2. I KNEW something was not right with BSP’s “new look”! I kept telling my collegues & friends that the “new look” looked like something out of a youth website focusing on different aspects of a young persons life. I KNEW it was not ORIGINAL! This is so embarrassing! And of all the places to pick an imitation, why CANBERRA?? We’ve just made ourselves the laughing stock of the Pacific and most of all Australia. Not that we care what they think but hey we say we are an Indipendent and unique country but this shows what’s actually at the core of this nation and that is the lack of CREATIVITY & INNOVATION. The populace as a whole has the “copy cat” metality, whether it’s the meri blouses & bilums we make or the bus & taxi businesses we do. We hardly do anything original unless it has to do with our cultural practices and artifacts.

    BSP needs to be made aware of this and the person responsible for this advertisement inititive SUED. BSP should also make a public appology to YWCA Canberra for this act of imitation and pay whatever fees required for abusing their copyright laws.

    PNG let’s be original and be our own people and make a mark for ourselves in the Pacific. Don’t look to the north or south, but see what you have in your hands and be creative.

    Thelma Ninjipa
    Port Moresby

  3. I was in Wellington last year at a Melanesian Symposium where they also had an exhibition of Melanesian art. It was great to see that PNG was up there with innovation and original perspectives – Hailed as a new and vital approach for Oceanic Art.

    So how does this happen?

  4. Yes it was indeed an overseas firm who has been contracted by BSP. They were obviously too lazy to come up with anything original and hence offering up some generic templates as a design solution while totally ignoring our culture and local art.

    You don’t have to look far for design cues, that building that they are sitting in is screaming to be used for elements in creating a new look. That building was designed by a ‘thinking’ RAIA Gold Medalist architect, by the name of James Birrell.

    Consider this, when he designed that building back in the 70’s he had no precedents in PNG to go by, so where do you think he drew his inspiration from?

  5. BSP to sue whoever needs to be sued and be prepared to be sued by YWCA for plagiarism.

    Then RE-DO the whole thing.

    If they must use images, then there are enough original varieties from more than 800 different cultures in this country to choose from.

    And get rid of those girlish colours. It’s too bright I’ll change banks.

  6. Is Papua New Guinea lacking in creativity that the national bank… mouthing off as nationally owned has to seek foreign consultants on such small matters??

    How come a template is being used?? Its really a bad job for using a template on such national icons…

    I think BSP should get a reality check!!

    Maybe attend Jeffery Feeger’s exhibition!!

  7. Ummmmmmmm, can someone tell the CEO, or better yet, the Newspapers, or even better than that – THE BOARD!!

    1. as a shareholder you may want to know that BSP has had consultants from all over the world living in airways hotel at a cost of over 1000 Kinna aday.
      In fact there is at least 4 still there as we speak.

      The point I am making really is that these consultants are contracted for any frivolous position which PNGeans would be able to fill at the fifth of the cost.

  8. Manu,

    I’m so glad you followed this up. I read the article in the viewpoint section of one of our Dailies (not too sure which) and I spent 30mins trying to find out what “corporate logo” BSP had copied – i found the YWCA logo, but I couldn’t confirm it because I couldn’t find the BSP version!

    BSP as a successful PNG corporation, why not show some FAITH in PNG and hire somebody from PNG to do your marketing – after all, who bests understands the market segments of PNG?

    Utterly disgraceful, unprofessional, and inexcusable.


  9. One thing though, BSP would have to check if their contract with them permitted the use of templates and stock photography etc. If so, then it may not be a legal issue, but perhaps an ethical one on the part of the agency.

    But then again, they have made some serious harm to BSP’s goodwill and image.

    If the Agency is a member of the Advertising Federation of Australia (AFA), then a complaint could perhaps be made for the agency contravening the Agency Code of Ethics.

    An excerpt from the AFA Code of Ethics:

    Think before you act.
    The best decisions are informed decisions. And ethics requires you to think before you act. The excuse “Everyone does it” is not a thoughtful response. The explanation “That’s just the way we’ve always done it” is not good enough.

    Check with yourself: “What if this was done to me?” or “Would I be ashamed or embarrassed if this was made public?”.

    Train yourself to think: Is this in line with my company’s credo? Is this in line with my sense of right and wrong?

    Remember, the biggest challenge to ethical behaviour is unthinking behaviour.

    If in doubt, raise the issue with your colleagues. Discuss it from all points of view. Then make an informed decision.”

  10. It is not the first time BSP has done this. Several years ago, my staff and I designed the fabrics for BSP uniforms in Port Moresby. They rejected our proposal, yet they took our design and copied it with another clothing manufacturer and claimed it was theirs. SHAME!!!!!

  11. This kind of ‘imitation’ (better known as plagiarism), is rife in PNG simply because the money is not there to hire the creative minds needed to produce quality advertising work. Thus it goes overseas to an Ad Agency who can spend little to any time on it due to the tiny budget received. Some may think the job is easy, but it’s not. And the fact that Advertising Agencies in PNG don’t get the budgets and briefs of what their international counterparts receive doesn’t help.

    The frustration thing is that I can think of no more than 2, maybe 3 agencies in PNG who would be able to accommodate BSP’s advertising and marketing needs – both from a creative and strategic sense, yet they still refuse to use them. BUT, this is the case for many large companies and organisations in PNG! I don’t know whether it’s because they’ve been burnt before by these agencies or whether they just refuse to believe that the job can be handled on-shore (which it can!).

    However, I do feel BSP had their heart in the right place. BSP seems to be one of a few large organisations in PNG willing to evolve their brand with changing times. Albeit, on this occasion they got it wrong. I think Companies such as Air Niugini, Steamships and City Pharmacy to name a few, have far more to answer on this topic as to why they HAVEN’T moved their brands forward.

    Over to you Manu.

    PS. Here’s something else for you to think about. Is everyone in Port Moresby/PNG talking about BSP’s contravesial new branding? Advertising Agency… job done!!

  12. Thanks Lincoln, I feel you on that. I deal with that all the time. Before the mobile phone wars began I approached Telikom to do their website, they brushed me aside and then Digicel came in and we were trusted to do their first website for PNG. It has since gone back to Ireland as they wanted to brand all their international websites in the same way.

    But that’s a perfect example of how big companies don’t put money and trust into local agencies. Yes some here in PNG are not perfect, but if they pumped millions into the industry here then the agencies would have the money to invest in better service offerings for their clients locally with a local flavour.

    I guess its a two way street, because on the other hand though, our local artists and agencies have to be more committed and innovative with their work. Its the only way you’ll stand out so the BSP’s will notice you to give you work. Although I think all agencies can sometimes vouch for some jobs that just go wrong not because the job was too hard, but because communicating with the client was difficult.

  13. When I first saw the “New style” BSP ads in the Post Courier, I felt that the concept was somewhat innapropriate for a bank. Now I understand where the concept was copied from, I am deeply disappointed in BSP’s decision to go in this direction.

    Somebody needs to be taken to court in relation to the Copyright Act.

    In the early to mid 70s when I had the priviledge of starting up the Creative Arts Centre, along with Tom Craig and Oliver Sublette, we were asked by the architect of the then “New Bank” PNGBC downtown building, to design the cast concrete columns. We delighted in the task, depicting PNG traditional artforms into a new contemporary medium – cast concrete.

    The paints we chose were specifically selected for their long lasting durability in the UV-rich PNG sunlight, and over 35 years later they are still strong.

    PNG art is world class. Why does the new management not put its faith in PNG art and artists. A cheap plaigerised copy seems so degrading.

    Over a period of time, we’ll see which ones last!! I’m putting my money on the concrete columns – and keeping my money in the ANZ – at least their artwork is original, uninspiring perhaps, but original!!

    Long live the PNG creative artists, and graphic designers.

    Shame on the BSP mangement for being fooled so easily.

  14. BSP should come out to the public and explain how they copied those ideas. If they were using foreign artists who may not have time and simply resort to ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ option, must be prepared to face the consequence of the action. Its really a disgrace and sameful feeling for a PNG institution to import artistic concepts, while we are yet so rich with diverse forms of art. Our artist can do a better job than that…..

  15. Thank you Bob Browne for popping in, and thank you for your work on the PNGBC building. I have always marvelled at the imagination and thought put into that original building.

    People such as yourself, Tom Craig, Oliver Sublette, Jim Birrell, Rex Addisson, Golly Buase Snr, Costigan, Korowali etc…all of you in the 70’s showed what could be possible if thought was given to form and it’s relationship to the people that used the buildings.

    In this case, I don’t blame BSP. They are doing good things with banking at the moment and if they paid allot of money to a consultant, then I am insulted by that agency. They did not think hard enough, did not work hard enough and they underestimated the market they were designing for.

    BSP is a symbol of Papua New Guinean success in the financial market across the Pacific, so the least we demand from ‘our bank’s’ consultants was that the bank’s identity reflect where we came from and who we are today.

  16. In PNG there are only a few developement structures & companies nationally owned. BSP is one of them. It would be in the best interest of PNG and the people of this nation that such structures & companies reflect the uniqueness of our culture and our people, potraying the diversity of nations within a nation. At least let’s take pride in our cultural heritage and potray that on the structures that we (nationals of PNG) own.

    How boring to have plane steel stuctures potraying the imitation of civilization in developed countries. At least I’m proud of the Parliament House, although some may disagree with the Hause Tambran stucture. It’s original and stands firm to show the nations of the world that we are a people, in and of ourselves, worthy to be counted in the Pacific and the world.

    I’ve travelled to NZ, Tahiti & Cambodia and I must be frank in stating that the Parliament house of these nations doesn’t even come close to the beauty and uniqueness of our Parliament house.

    Every people group and culture in PNG is beautiful inside. So why not show that beauty outside on stuctures that can speak volumes to the nations of the world.

    Thelma Ninjipa
    Port Moresby

  17. There is a plain and simple reason why the bank has gotten these colors and chosen this look. The designers weren’t Papua New Guineans. If they were you wouldn’t fall short of imagination, we have so much great art, culture, and style with a diversity so large, your only problem would be trying to choose one. I would think those Papua New Guineans who were part of this would suggest something more Papua New Guinean flavored but they didn’t, they missed a grand opportunity to air a true son of PNG’s voice.

    But for the part of service, am happy to see the Bank take this step, its a great achievement and we all look forward to more of its kind here in Papua New Guinea, including some new venture I have been hearing about. I hope to dig up some more dirt to this… 🙂

  18. Please Note That This Post is Not About Plagiarism as some may have alluded to. The templates used would have been bought legally.

    This post is about An Agency contracted by BSP who failed to use an appropriate campaign to reflect what BSP is and should be about. Using a K4 template for a PNG icon is not money well spent and does not do justice to the image of BSP and its PNG stakeholders.

    1. Good point Emmanuel, please differentiate plagiarism from legally attaining a a template. What you do when you buy the template is your problem because you have bought it legally.

      The good thing out of all this, is that someone is actually trying to move us forward. Apart from the look which could be changed if the bank wants, what we as Papua New Guineans want in the end is a truly Papua New Guinea flavored service.

  19. Is there any heritage listing or protection of some of png’s modern landmarks …

    Sadly many landmarks around the world have often been bulldozed or irrevocably changed overnight ….

  20. Seems a real shame that large companies in PNG refuse to use local advertising agencies, most of whom are more than capable of handling their work ………people like SP Brewery, Nestle, Coke, Colgate, BSP, Tourism Promotion Authority, and even Knights of the Realm – Peter Barter and his Melanesian Tourism Services, to name a few……. all have work produced off shore. Then there is all the Government Departments & State Owned Enterprises (and large corporates as well) who have their annual reports etc, designed and printed overseas only because the printer involved offers them a free trip to go and do the so called ‘press checks’ and stay at some ritzy hotel for a few nights all expenses paid (incl copious ‘entertainment’ no doubt).

    I thought that the Commercial Advertising (Protection of Local Industry) Act 1985 would have banned this practice and given an opportunity for a local industry to flourish….but alas, not the case for some reason. Maybe someone should mount a test case thru the courts and scare the shite out of the lot of them….think about how many PNG’s would be employed as a result and what impact on the economy this would have let alone on the countries balance of payments.

    These offshore agencies obviously lack the cultural sensitivities and indepth understanding of the market that is so important and which has been showcased in the BSP debacle you have so rightly highlighted in your blog……keep it up, I say. Go get’em !!

  21. As a Papua New Guinean, I share the same sentiments as expressed by Kakarukus.

    But at the end of the day, business people are just that and they’ll make decisions on whom they think are the most appropriate suppliers of what they want based on mostly a set of commercial criteria. Very few businesses are run on emotions and those who do run the risk of running the business down over the long term. eg Dick Smith and his ‘Buy Australian Made’ campaign. Rightly or wrongly, profit has long taken over loyalty, pride and commitment as a key determinant of business decision making.

    I am giving the PNG businesses the benefit of the doubt here, but I equally understand the superiority with which anything coming from borders outside of PNG is considered over local products. As disgusting as it may sound, I doubt that legislating the operational business decision making processes is the solution.

    Maybe the local service providers need to do a little bit more to attract attention.

  22. Mi sori tumas long dispela spoilim long BSP bank blo Papua New Guinea.

    Mi white meri blo Melbourne, Australia, na taim mi stap long Port Moresby, mi laikim tumas BSP building Downtown… na olgeta markim em stap long dispela…

    Mi tingim hands em wokim dispela nuipela piksa long BSP bank em undermining Papua New Guinea cultural representation na pride. Plenti traditional na modern Papua New Guinea designer stap long Port Moresby. Wotfo em nogat resis long kamapim nuipela lukluk blo BSP bank?

    Em orait sapos Papua New Guinea people wokim dispela piksa – ol kainkain em gutpela… tasol, dispela piksa em kamap long autseit kantri!

    Em mi filim sem long dispela less wok i kamap long Papua New Guinea… BSP em makmak long Papua New Guinea na em mas holim pasim dispela piska.

  23. Thanks again everyone for your comments, na gutpela long harim tingting blo ol wantok autsait lo kantri.

    Kakarukus, thanks for pointing out the Commercial Advertisment (Protection of Local Industry) Act. I had a read through it and also had a good think about it, I must add that ‘wokim ken’s comments also influenced me in thinking that, although the legislation is there, perhaps it could be counter productive for us to attack a large organisation through legislation. I’m sure that we can get our point across without being vindictive or coming across as though we are seeking ‘pay back’ for their past doings.

    Yes I get absolutely frustrated about the situation, like TV ads done by a foreign company called Murdification, which could clearly be done here in PNG to develop our industry, but if I have any pride in myself as a creative company in PNG, then the only thing to do is to prove people wrong by putting your hand up to be counted. I have been knocked back by large PNG companies and government bodies before, but if you knock enough times doors do open. So in my example of how Telikom had knocked me back, I ended up picking up work with Digicel. I’ve been knocked back as many times as I’ve won jobs so I’d like to see our artists fight our way to these jobs.

    Yes it is grossly unfair at the moment, but pick yourself up and do something be it small or big to show PNG and these big companies what you can do with your creative skills.

    But back to the point at hand, if this Agency and if BSP cannot understand why we are complaining, then they have totally missed the point in creating an identity that we can identify with and be proud of. I just came back from the ‘Opim Eye’ exhibition tonight, and I will make sure there are invites for BSP for the next round of PNG contemporary exhibitions in Port Moresby.

  24. Can the new CEO of BSP get a clue? I am really pissed off after reading his statement in one of the dailies today. Emmanuel, can you post the article, it’s in the business section?

    This import, from where ever the hell he’s from, has no conception of the fact that we as Papua New Guineans are unique, and “Our Bank” is exactly that, our bank, an icon of this country – and any re branding exercise must capture this key component.

    I know that this is not a copyright issue, never the less, it’s an issue of understanding public opinion enough to know that the i-pod, YMCA, logo, is not appropriate for a symbol of this country. BSP is the first PNG company to expand it’s reach overseas, and therefore, is a symbol of this country.

    I LIKE THE STUFFY OLD IMAGE! It was tru tru PNG, none of this manufactured crap from some over priced advertising agency in Australia has any individual appeal.

    Stop trying to be like ANZ, and other generic looking organisations. “Our Bank” has to be a reflection of our country, our ideals, and most importantly, our identity, and any re-branding push has to contain elements that the PNG population can identify with.

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