Never underestimate the power of the dark side of branding: Powershop removes Darth Vader ad after Lucasfilm complaint

Australian electricity retailer Powershop has been forced to remove an ad featuring a likeness to Star Wars character Darth Vader, following a complaint from the film’s producers, LucasFilm.

The billboard campaign parodying the iconic Star Wars villain drew the attention of the studio, which owns all the rights associated with the franchise created by George Lucas, as it had not licensed the use of the likeness, according to Mumbrella.

The ad featured Powershop’s power socket logo wearing a black helmet and cape, styled on the Star Wars baddie, with the words ‘Rebel against your evil power company’.

The ads first appeared in September around Australia.

In a statement, the New Zealand-based power provider said: “Powershop Australia Pty Limited (Powershop) acknowledges that some of the images and text previously appearing on our website and on Powershop’s advertising and promotional material could be similar to copyrighted artistic works owned by Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC and its affiliated companies.”

“Some members of the public may have believed that Powershop was authorised to use Lucasfilm’s intellectual property. In light of this, Powershop has removed the material from the market and apologises for any inconvenience caused.”

Digital marketing expert Michelle Gamble, of Marketing Angels, told SmartCompany any business considering using a likeness of a well-known brand should seek legal advice.

“These brands are worth a fortune and the people that own them are very protective,” says Gamble.

Gamble says she recommends contacting an intellectual property lawyer before proceeding with such a campaign.

“If you think it’s a great idea and will give you marketing cut through, it make sense to get advice. These guys have spent money on an ad that they can’t use now.”

But it’s not the first time Powershop has come under fire for using the Darth Vader likeness.

According to Stuff.co.nz, the company was forced to pull an ad in 2011 featuring Darth Vader styled as Maria von Trapp from The Sound of Music.

At the time, chief executive Ari Sargent said he responded immediately to the request from Lucasfilm by withdrawing the advert but was surprised the company had caught the studio’s attention.

“Powershop is not a member of any rebel alliance. I’m surprised the Empire considers small companies like Powershop to be a threat; perhaps our force is stronger than we thought,” Sargent said.

SmartCompany contacted Powershop but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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