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!"