MasterCard Sues Nader for Parody Ad

Thursday, August 17th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but MasterCard International Ltd. is having nothing of it.

The credit card company filed a $5 million lawsuit Wednesday against Ralph Nader, accusing him of ripping off MasterCard's well-known ``Priceless'' advertising campaign in a new TV ad for the Green Party presidential candidate.

``We feel we have one of the most successful advertising campaigns, period, and we will always do whatever it takes to protect this campaign,'' said Chris O'Neill, vice president of global marketing communications for Purchase, N.Y.-based MasterCard.

MasterCard filed its lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan Wednesday, seeking an order barring Nader from running the ad. O'Neill said the company brought the suit after a week of fruitless conversations with the Nader campaign.

MasterCard's ads features sentimental episodes of families together at places including a beach or baseball game, assigning monetary values to various activities before coming up with an activity that is ``Priceless.'' The ads conclude: ``There are some things in life money can't buy. For everything else, there's MasterCard.''

The Nader ad adopts a nearly identical format to focus attention on the role of political contributions in this year's presidential campaign. The ad opens with video clips of Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, as an announcer intones ``Grilled tenderloin for fundraiser: $1,000 a plate. Campaign ads filled with half-truths: $10 million. Promises to special interest groups: over $10 billion.''

``Finding out the truth: Priceless,'' the announcer concludes. ``There are some things money can't buy. Without Ralph Nader in the presidential debates, the truth will come in last.''

When the Nader campaign unveiled the ad earlier this month, it described the spot as ``reminiscent of the current 'Priceless' ad campaign airing for MasterCard.''

But Laura Jones, deputy press secretary for the Nader campaign, said Wednesday that despite MasterCard's complaints, the 30-second ad was still airing in Los Angeles and that it has proven a valuable tool in awakening voters.

``We've had tremendous response from viewers all over the country because the ad really does tap into the sense of outrage that the American people have that legitimate and alternative ideas won't be present in November because the two parties are beholden to their corporate sponsors,'' Jones said.

Jones said the campaign would not comment on the lawsuit until it had been served with the paperwork, but that a news conference was planned for Thursday morning.

Executives at North Woods Advertising, the Minneapolis advertising agency that created the Nader spot, could not be reached for comment.

This is not the first time MasterCard has aggressively sought to protect its ad campaign.

The company sued HBO last year after the cable television network ran an ad for its comedy series ``Arliss'' that was mirrored the ``Priceless'' ads. That suit is still in litigation and HBO is no longer running the ad, MasterCard's O'Neill said.