Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Copycats

It was about ten years ago that a man phoned me up and asked if I would consider doing the packaging for an herbal product that he and his wife had invented. He had an oddball sense of humor and we hit it off, I took the job and ended up doing the whole line of Airborne products. Yes Airborne. Those are my cartoons on Airborne! Those freaky-looking germs flying around the heads of the dorky business travelers on the goddamn box you see everywhere you go are mine. My clients who started Airborne are brilliant promoters, they came up with a product that filled a niche, and nine years later Airborne is HUGE. $67 million in sales last year according to Consumer Reports. It's changed their lives dramatically and changed my life too. Now my dad and my sister know what I do and believe that I actually work.

When a product does well, really well, word gets around, and many people who never had an original thought in their lives run to hop on the bandwagon. A couple years ago a friend called and said, "Hey, you've got to get over to Walgreens, they're knocking off Airborne! You've gotta get a lawyer and sue those bastards!"

Sure enough, "Walborne," was a straight knock-off of my box. Same dimensions, same colors, mine had four people, six germs, theirs has two people, five germs. The people on theirs are trapped inside the international "no" symbol (as in no copyright infringement) and the germs look like a toddler's rendering of aquarium fish, as opposed to mine, which are obviously, scientifically, germs. One germ, pictured just below the "W" on the top flap, totally out of place from the others, looks like a jaundiced, penis-nosed degenerate in a raincoat.

A month or so later I became aware of "Longs brand Air Shield." This one has three germs, six people, and the scenario of a carnival barker sneezing in the faces of a group of onlookers waiting at a turnstile. Longs couldn't have paid the hack more than $100 for this cartoon, and they shouldn't have. The people are illustrated in a "wacky" wiggly line that's so bad it makes me look like Rembrandt. But the germs were done in a different style, tightly rendered on computer and looking a little like goblins you might see in a crappy video game.

Designwise, CVS Brand phony Airborne, also called "AirShield" breaks from the pack of counterfeiters by using a computery 3D video game look for the lead illustration. Both the people, five, and the germs, four, are creepy half-human half-space-goblin zombie hybrids. The CVS design has more in common with Longs Air Shield than it really does with Airborne, which goes to show that multiple swipes of another swipe can spawn mutations and take on a life of their own.

GNC's "Airshield" from "YourLife" features the identical germs as the goblins from those other two Airshields, suggesting that all the Airshields belong to the same family. But for the lead illustration, GNC lifts the idea from a drawing I did on the back of the Airborne box, with germ-besieged office workers sneezing in their cubicles. Somebody got fancy with the lettering and made it look all shimmery like chrome. Like a shield. Nice!


Next up was "Leader Brand's Handborn & Airborn Germ Defense." The cartoon here shows two squat little figures, three germs, and one is sneezing a disgusting torrent of snot upon the other. A blast of dark green droplets that just misses being peas. The designer made a bold deviation from running the type on an angle or an arc, instead picked a clinical-looking font and slapped it on there straight. The result: a box that looks like it contains a powerful hemorrhoid ointment.

"Air Immune Blast," offers to "Blast your System," and the cartoon demonstrates the effectiveness of Fraudborne when you are car pooling! That's new. There appears to be only one tropical fish on this package, but it's grotesque, yellow, and bears a striking resemblance to Larry Flynt, which may be a selling point to the particular demographic of this knock-off. The car looks unintentionally like it's crashing into a starburst that announces "20% More Tablets." The artwork is even worse than the crap on the Longs package, but the straight ahead view into the sneezemobile is 100% fresh and original.

My favorite of all the faux Airbornes is "Air Defender," from Duane Reade, the NYC drugstore chain. This one hews so close to the original Airborne box design––serif font on an angle, black background, cartoon featuring the identical airplane scenario––it's astonishing. "Can you draw it EXACTLY like the Airborne box, dude! There's $65 in it for you." The copying of my art on this one is abysmally bad. And for some reason, instead of hacking out pathetic copies of my germs, they chose to use three circles representing views through a microscope, one, apparently an agar dish full of mosquitoes, one ringworm larva, and, the third one, googley-eyed maggots. I wonder why they decided to take such a bold step with that last detail? Must've been popular with the focus groups.

Let's not forget "Hairy Lemon," a product from Australia that contains the same ingredients as Airborne and does the same thing, but that has a totally different and original design. Go Aussies! And you won't find a more original name than "Hairy Lemon." I'm not sure it's a wise name, but it's original. Once I suggested to Airborne that they rename their product "Succulent Scrotum," but they didn't go for it.

Our last item is, again, a highly original Airborne-like product made with similar ingredients but with a totally different design. This one is from Egypt, and there are no cartoons on the box at all. In fact I only include it here because, in addition to remedying colds, Cevitil boasts that it helps with "bleeding mouth."
"...Developed by a school teacher who was sick of getting mouthbleeds! Take CEVITIL!"

16 Comments:

Anonymous pete Friedrich said...

Lloyd-
You're walking a fine line here because you're so good at parody (such as the dick shirking ad next to the Airborne blog) that I'm not sure all of out here are going to believe that all those Airborne rip-offs could really be real!?!?
So, give it to me straight- are all those packages - CVS- Duane Reade- all of 'em legit??
If so, that's a mighty sweet "trade dress" copyright suit the Airborne folks could bring down on all those perps.
pete

7:22 AM  
Anonymous lee marrs said...

Well, in the way fame operates, I was alerted to your Airborne efforts by a friend of mine:

" Hey, look at this box! Somebody's ripped off the style of that cartoonist What'sHisName you know who has that strip in …the East Bay Express? The Guardian? YOU know, TroubleSomething. He should sue."

Being a trained professional cartoonist myself, I immediately saw that this was no ripoff - it was you. So I replied: "No, they swiped his actual artwork!"

Glad that, indeed, it's a happy tale instead.

Cheers,
LEE-

12:22 PM  
Blogger Lloyd Dangle said...

Pete --
Yes, I know that they are parody-like, but I guarantee you they are real. And, no, I got paid, not swiped, at least on the original stuff.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Marky Mark said...

Wow! Duane Reade has enormous balls!

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After seeing at your cartoons, You must be a $35 hack. The Longs one is much better than your crappy cartoon. I even like the that ugly yellow fish than your crap. You must be a bitter man. What, you think only you can draw cartoons? Get real Mr. Original Hack.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey i'd like to hire the artist that did the longs cartoon - i think his designs are MUCH better than the original airborne childish sketches! i have a HUGE job that he would be perfect for. who did that artwork??

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the last post. The cartoon on the Longs Airborne is pretty good. That artist clearly has an understanding of anatomy, good use of color, professional technique and is funny. All of which you seem to lack.
Perhaps you could improve your artwork by swiping the Long's cartoon.
Keep practicing and maybe someday you will be able to draw more anatomically correct cartoons. Keep up the so-so work Lloyd

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Well, I've never paid a cent for anything you've ever done, Dangle, because I'm notoriously cheap-ass. But, if I weren't, I'd spend a buck or two on your stuff because it makes me laugh. Now...as soon as I saw the Airborne product near the cashier's roost, I immediately KNEW it HAD to be from your insane mind. NO ONE draws the tortured, mischievous cartoon faces the way you always draw 'em...NO ONE!! But, I want to know: does this anti-virus crap really work, and, if it does, will you send me a free sample??

5:49 PM  
Blogger PondScumEsq said...

3 anonymous posters in a row, agreeing with one another. hmm. i wonder if one of the knock-off cartonists stumbled upon this blog.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This made me laugh too--I was taken with the ways that they tried to name their products similar enough to "airborne" that customers would know if was a generic knock-off, but different enough so as not to be sued. I love your package art, but I must say that the CVS package art is also great. The facial expressions on the people actually made me laugh right in the store...!

9:07 AM  
Anonymous MEJ said...

I am pretty cheap and so instead of springing for $7.50, or whatever, for Airborne I tried the $5 CVS AirShield, and it tasted TERRIBLE!!! I mean VILE! I will never ever buy anything like Airborne but Airborne again!

... but I do love both boxes.

10:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Packages? Better ignore Egypt...there are Muslims there who kill at the drop of a hat or an affront! Cartoonwise...
At least you get PAID $35 for a cartoon!
All that half Philipino girl ever gets for her dark over-crowded "cartoons" is...affection.
And "Tom Tomorrow" is so Mod Lib that he is an attack dog blaming Bush for everything...Bush is NOT GOD...and God is not even responsible for Katrina! Furthermore, Bush BEGGED CR Nagin and the Louisianna Governor to declare an emergency DAYS before it got bad and the BOTH sat on their cans. They did not want to become Emergency Overlords so they ignored the emrgency when relief COULD have been sent in EARLIER.
If nobody can find your blog...THAT's true anonymous!

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a lot of bitterness, jealousy, resentment, and time wasted because your feelings are hurt. I'll bet CVS could sue you for calling their product "phony". It is probably made by the same manufacturer but can be sold cheaper because they didn't have to pay some over-rated hack for crummy artwork. BTW, Many of these products can cause high blood pressure spikes, headaches, and rapid heartbeat. I know of 2 cases, personally.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. (EXCEPT when IP rights are involved!!)

Hope you are well, Adele

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Hemorrhoid Relief said...

"Imitation is the sincerest flattery" [Charles Colton Lacon].
We know the original and the fakes can just go where the sun don't shine.

3:44 AM  
Anonymous sports guide said...

I really like those germs. It really gave the effect that you want them dead. Great art you got there and congratulations!

9:00 PM  

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