A tabloid Web site has sued the Florida Department of Citrus and its ad agency, The Richards Group, over a stolen sandwich.
Specifically, San Francisco based 'zine Tabloid.com last week filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court claiming the Dallas shop stole the sandwich character used in Florida Citrus spots. It seeks unspecified damages and an immediate halt to the $20 million effort.
In last year's Florida Citrus spots, a talking ham sandwich (shown at top) imparts heavy-handed advice about orange juice's health benefits. Tabloid.net claims that Richards copied that image from "Vodka City," a 1997 column with a similar smartaleck sandwich.
Although Tabloid.net claims computers from Richards visited the site at least three times before the campaign's launch, shop president Stan Richards said the plagiarism charge is "somewhere close to their imagination." The creators of the citrus ads denied prior knowledge.
Tabloid.net attorney Paul Kiesel declined comment. --Glen Fest
and Joan Voight