Members of a local ad agency were surprised to see a presidential candidate using their design and ideas without credit.

  •  Ad agency did a creative exercise highlighting the Johnson campaign
  • They sent their work off to his camp, hoping to get a response
  • Months later they noticed an eerie similarity between their exercise and Johnson's new marketing efforts

SPARK, an ad agency in Tampa, created a mock campaign a couple of months ago as a creative exercise. The point was to show how they would approach a campaign for libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson.

“We didn’t want to get into politics,” said Art Director Alex Coyle. “It was just a different kind of project that we thought would be interesting and challenging to explore.”

The agency published the mock campaign in a newsletter, then shared it with the Johnson campaign.

“We did not initially get a response, it was something we were hoping for, but again it was just an exercise in brand,” Coyle said.

A few days ago, the Spark team noticed very similar branding across the Johnson campaign’s website and social media page. The design used similar colors, similar fonts and had another similarities to Spark’s design.

Spark CEO Tony Miller said he estimates the company spent up to 200 hours and $30,000 dollars creating that work.

“I think there was some surprise that they hadn’t contacted us first and said ‘hey, do you mind if we use this’ or ‘hey, we are going to use this,’” Miller said.

Spark says even with their exercise to go off of, the campaign didn’t get it quite right. So, in response, Spark created a style guide at The style guide maps out what fonts to use, what colors, and even provides downloadable designs.

“There is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek approach to it, but again, we want it done right,” Coyle said. “If it’s going to be copied, at least execute it correctly.”

Miller said his company is not looking for money and is not planning to sue. He said he wants credit given to his organization.

“It would be nice if they recognized that ‘hey this is something that Spark did,’ and give us a little acknowledgment for the work,” Miller said.

Miller said he thinks the campaign doesn’t realize that they swiped Spark’s designs.

“I think they are probably using that thinking it was out there in the public domain for them to use and probably don’t have a full understanding (of what) creative license is all about,” he said. “You just can’t take somebody’s work without permission or without potentially paying for it.”

We reached out to Gary Johnson’s campaign and have yet to receive a response.