Earlier this month, Reddit users accused Unilever male deodorant brand AXE of “stealing” their content to use in its recently-launched ad campaign without giving them due credit.
Now Unilever has spoken.
At the center of the issue was the first video in AXE’s “Shower Thoughts” series, produced by the brand’s agencies Defy Media and Mindshare Entertainment.
The ad, posted on YouTube in March, saw a man ponder in the shower: “When you’re criticized for being short, they’re really just saying the worst thing about you is that there isn’t more of you.”
However, in August last year, Reddit user “JaSfields” posted the exact same wording into the /r/Showerthoughts subreddit. The identical phrase in the ad sparked a new Reddit thread: “‘AXE is jacking our shower thoughts and not giving credit. Literally word for word.”
On Friday, a spokesman for Unilever sent Business Insider this statement:
Our intent with the Shower Thoughts series is to highlight the great creativity and conversations already happening in pop culture. As a champion for creative thought and self-expression, AXE will collaborate on an upcoming piece of content with the person who posted the Shower Thought being referenced.
As we wrote last week, it’s difficult for any Reddit user to say they they really “own” their Shower Thought idea – some Reddit users even said they were certain they’d seen the “short” meme before. And as with all social media, Reddit itself is often a place where jokes and ideas are endlessly recycled.
The “Shower Thoughts” video has now been viewed more than 800,00 times on YouTube – but it has been plagued with more than 18,000 downvotes, likely from angry Reddit users, judging by the comments.
CLARIFCATION: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the Unilever statement was from its ad agency Defy Media. We apologize for any confusion.