Viewers Know a Fake George Clooney When They See One, Court Rules

Nespresso loses suit over humorous ad featuring Clooney lookalike by competing Israeli coffee service.

George Clooney (or to be exact, a look-alike) leaves a coffee store with a bag of coffee to take home. He stops to look at a young women before he’s interrupted by a man who tells him his car is being ticketed and advises him, “With Espresso Club, you could have got a coffee machine and get it [coffee] delivered straight to your home.”

The problem is that Clooney is the spokesman for Nestle’s Nespresso brand of coffee and machines. The Swiss food company asked Israel’s Second Television Authority to order the ads off the air and filed a lawsuit in Tel Aviv District Court against Espresso Club, an Israeli company.

Nespresso claimed Espresso Club tried to capitalize on Clooney and Nespresso’s reputation, even worse by making him into a laughingstock. It claimed the Israeli company violated copyright, damaged the Nespresso brand and misled the public into thinking that the A-list actor was somehow endorsing its competitor.

The commercial shows Clooney dressed in a suit somewhat too small for him and impressed by Espresso Club and mistakes a meter maid for a valet. “Wow, I never heard of that,” he says when he’s informed by the man about the rival option.

Nespresso ad with 'fake' George Clooney

But Judge Magen Altuvia didn’t accept that.

“One must remember that the average viewer today is sophisticated viewer who is exposed to all kinds of media, a lot of information and advertising and knows how to distinguish when he is looking at an entertaining broadcast, when something is meant to humorous and when it is really defamatory,” she wrote in her decision and ordered Nespresso to pay Espresso Club 100,000 shekels ($27,000) in legal costs.

Nesspresso ad with real George Clooney

Espresso Club defended its ad on the grounds that it was acceptable form of freedom of expression and that it helped promote competition in the coffee market. Espresso Club’s attorneys said using similar themes in ad between competitors helps differentiate brands in the same market and is a widely accepted marketing strategy.

No viewer would think the look-alike is the real George Clooney because the ad says so, Espresso Club said.

Altuvia agreed. “The central idea of the ad is nothing but that Espresso Club offers a simple alternative to drinking coffee made using capsules ... The main message is the unique sales model.”