A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Google vs. Coogel

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 17, 2007

Google Earth, which I affectionately think of as “my little cousin’s company” (although since he is the employee and Google the employer the relationship is more likely the reverse), has become the favored mapping source for television channels around the world.

Hence when I saw this ad in the Middle East Airlines in-flight magazine yesterday, my initial thought was: wow – Google Earth is now licensing itself for use in advertising, too. And, just as when Google Earth appears on al-Arabiya or CNN, the Google name and copyright date appeared in the ad’s top right corner.


(Please forgive the terrible glare – my photography skills are not up to dealing with the twin challenges of glossy magazine paper and my apartment’s ‘atmospheric’ interior lighting.)

My second thought was: hunh. That resolution, that night-time coloration and that angle sure don’t look like the Google Earth I know.

I looked more closely at the Google logo and … :


I was appalled. I am still appalled. There is no “Coogel” – try (ha-ha) googling it. What were the creators of this ad thinking, trying to pass off a photograph of the future Abdali downtown as a Google Earth image?

Abdali is a luxury development being constructed by the Hariri family et al with the warm support of the Jordanian government. It is a massive project – millions of dollars.

Jordan is the Middle Eastern country that has benefited most from US aid and economic development efforts. Its Jordan 2020 initiative has been held up as a model of grassroots private enterprise efforts to bring best business practices to the country.

Government and business (local, regional, and multi-national): none are ignorant of the rules of international copyrights.

If this were a small enterprise unable to afford Google Earth’s licensing costs or a local firm unaware that imitating an existing corporation is not flattery but a legal violation, this example of “false advertising” would be understandable.

Neither empty pockets nor naïveté explain this advertisement. What a sad commentary on the business ethics of the region: Jordan’s for fostering the advertising agencies and businesses that created and approved this ad, and Lebanon’s for fostering an airline company whose magazine accepted it.


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