From Imitation to Flattery

'Time Out New York' takes a page from Continental Airlines

Continental Airlines has spruced up bus sides and phone kiosks in New York for years with its witty ads connecting the carrier's hub to various destinations ("The Big Apple to the Big Easy," "Bright Lights to Dim Sum," etc.). Now Time Out New York, the weekly "obsessive guide to impulsive entertainment," seems to have caught on to the strategy and is rolling out a dozen ads that use a similar linguistic ploy ("The Met to the Mets," etc.).

"They're pretty similar," admits Jack Cardone, who has written Continental's ads for years at New York shops Ayer and now The Kaplan Thaler Group. But he's more flattered than upset. "We've been doing these since the fall of '98, and we've done over 300 of them. So they kind of have a long way to go."

The campaigns "have absolutely nothing to do with each other," says Paul Gigante, who runs TONY's agency, Gigante Vaz in New York (and whose agency Web site, by the way, advises clients to "own a piece of turf for your brand. And guard it with your life"). He points out that TONY's ads focus only on New York landmarks and institutions and emphasize diversity of readership and editorial coverage, not flight destinations. "You're the first person who's brought this up," he tells Shoptalk. "Are you trying to start some kind of feud?"

"If [Cardone] feels some kind of threat from us, he shouldn't," Gigante adds. For the record, Cardone doesn't. "I think it's kind of funny," he says.