'Viz' challenges McDonald's over TV money tips

David Lister; The Independent 12 September 1996

Press Index

"Don't waste hundreds of pounds on expensive carpet. Simply buy two small pieces - attach them to the bottom of your feet and get that quality carpet feel throughout your home." This is one of the "money saving tips" in the current TV commercials for McDonald's. "When out shopping, glue carpet tiles to the soles of your shoes. They make Sainbury's feel like your living room." This is one of the "Top Tips" published by Viz magazine, the cult comic, in 1987 and included in a compilation book in 1994. Lawyers representing Viz are now studying the McDonald's campaign and have written to the burger company's lawyers expressing their concern.

In the McDonald's radio campaign listeners are counselled on how to "save money on expensive binoculars". They are told to "stand closer to the thing that you are looking at and then it will seem bigger."

In Viz issue 36, published in May 1989 and then in a compilation paperback, was the following Top Tip: "Don't waste money buying expensive binoculars. Simply stand closer to the object you wish to view."

Two of the Viz tips which found echoes in the McDonald's campaign were next to each other on the same page of the Viz issue of this year. One McDonald's commercial is almost exactly the same as a Top Tip, only using the phrase "second hand shop" instead of "Oxfam". Viz's tip in March of this year was:
"Save money on your laundry bills. Give your dirty shirts to Oxfam. They will wash and iron them and you can buy them back for fifty pence."
The money saving tip from McDonald's urges:
"Save a fortune on laundry bills. Give your dirty shirts to a second-hand shop. They'll wash and iron them and then you can buy them back for 50p."

Two other "money-saving tips" in the McDonald's campaign bear remarkable similarities to the Viz Top Tips, leading some Viz readers to think the magazine has given McDonald's permission to use the tips.

One Viz reader in Gloucester has written to Viz with a new Top Tip. He advises: "Geordie magazine editors, continue paying your mortage and buying expensive train sets ... by simply licensing the Top Tips concept to a multi-national burger corporation."

Viz's publisher, John Brown of John Brown Publishing, said last night: "We're actually getting quite a few complaints. Readers think we licensed the Top Tips to McDonald's and have accused us of selling out. It's extremely surprising to have anything you publish used by somebody else virtually word for word. Our lawyers are in touch with their lawyers. McDonald's didn't ask our permission or approach us at all."

A spokeswoman for McDonald's said: "They are suggesting that we have perhaps taken the idea from Top Tips. We say we haven't. Our campaign is called "Money Saving Tips." We just took the concept of weird and wacky ideas. Our creative people went to a number of books and publications to get the ideas. Viz was not one of them. Some of the ideas were just taken from jokes people have heard over the years."

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