Visit South Bend Mishawaka pulls $20k tourism spot and apologizes

 Posted: Friday, May 27, 2016 6:15 am | Updated: 7:15 am, Fri May 27, 2016.

 SOUTH BEND — Visit South Bend Mishawaka has apologized for copying another agency’s work with a tourism video centered on the theme “There’s nothing to do in South Bend,” proving imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery — especially where copyright law is involved.

The action comes in response to a letter from Love Communications, of Salt Lake City, playfully accusing Visit South Bend Mishawaka of copying its work for the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I doubt you’ve ever heard of our little agency — let alone seen any of our work — but recently we created a whole new marketing campaign for the Salt Lake Convention and Visitor’s Bureau,” the letter reads. “We call the campaign, ‘There’s Nothing To Do In Salt Lake.’”

“Anyway... I have a friend who lives in South Bend and he sent me a link to a new advertising campaign that YOU GUYS did called “There’s Nothing To Do In South Bend.”

The letter goes on to praise Visit South Bend Mishawaka for its “creativity” — “The color palette, the fonts, the headlines, the copy, the photos — they’re all so cool and really work together!” — before arriving at the point.

 “Now — I know that you guys are busy. (After all, coming up with original creative ideas all day long takes a LOT of time. Believe me, I know.) So I won’t waste any more of your time telling you how awesome your campaign is, but will instead tell you the real reason I’m writing... and I hope you’re sitting down.

“The real reason I’m writing is to tell you that the campaign YOU guys did for South Bend looks exactly like the campaign WE did for Salt Lake!”

 Chip Haskell, creative director for Love Communications, penned the letter, which includes nearly identical screenshots from the two videos.

“We decided to have some fun with it instead of calling our attorneys,” Haskell said Thursday, adding, “I hope whatever comes of this issue remains lighthearted.”

Visit South Bend Mishawaka, for its part, has apologized for the video, produced for $20,000 by South Bend-based Explore Media, and removed it from the Internet.

Executive Director Rob DeCleene admitted Thursday to innocently lifting the idea for the spot from Salt Lake City and Love Communications, calling it a “brilliant campaign we thought could work here.”

“A friend of mine (shared) the video on Salt Lake City and it instantly resonated with us … because we face similar perception issues in South Bend,” DeCleene said. “It just turned out the end result, unfortunately, did have similar a look and feel to the Salt Lake project.”

He added, “If I could go back in time, we should have reached out to them first and then proceeded with our project with their blessing.”

DeCleene apologized to Haskell by phone Wednesday. Haskell accepted the apology.

“He regretfully admitted replicating the campaign after he saw it,” Haskell said. “He said he admired it and was kind of paying homage to us.”

Reaction to the video before it was pulled was somewhat mixed.

Some praised it for highlighting all there is to do in the area. Others criticized it for focusing too much on places outside of South Bend-Mishawaka, and for lacking in diversity.

Aside from a few Notre Dame football players, the spot features no persons of color.

“It was not necessarily an accurate representation of our population, so that’s another lesson of this,” DeCleene said.

If there’s a silver lining, DeCleene said, it’s that Visit South Bend Mishawaka gets to keep all of the raw footage from the video, presenting “an opportunity to do something bigger, better and more effective next time.”

“Video is expensive, and the nice thing about the video is we have the footage,” he said. “So the footage we can use in future productions.”

A part of the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission, Visit South Bend Mishawaka promotes tourism in the South Bend-Mishawaka area. The agency is funded by hotel-motel tax dollars.

eblasko@sbtinfo.com

574-235-6187

@ErinBlasko