Like music riffs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to create unique advertisements. There are not a lot of angles that have not already been explored for different goods and services. This is a continuing trend across different industries. Sure innovation is not dead and when you see it the message sticks, is memorable, and is usually rewarded in one of the national or international Advertisement Awards.
What then happens is that the ad is copied or modified slightly? Everyone does it. It happens subconsciously or consciously. It happens across the board and across industries.
So should you start copying others? The answer is absolutely, but be discrete about it.
All advertising agencies maintain a swipe file. This is a file of messages and advertisements that have appealed in some way and are worthy of being stored for future reference and/or modification.
As with the professional advertisement agencies, these swipe files are referenced if some external inspiration may be required. It might be that the brochure for ice coffee can be shoehorned into an ad for shaving products. The framework is already there, just the periphery needs altering.
And this is exactly what you should do. If you see an ad that appears then take a copy of it. It does not need to be for the same product or even industry that you are currently involved in. But it might provide some inspiration to the next communication that you are thinking of compiling.
Swipe files are also brilliant in identifying trends. If you swipe the advertisements of your competitors, then a theme may become evident. You could jump onto the same theme or buck the system with something at the other end of the spectrum. Either way, knowing what your competitor is doing places you in a stronger more knowledgeable business position.
I can guarantee that if your competitor thinks you are a threat they already have a dossier on what you are doing.