The old cliche says that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, but sometimes it depends on who’s doing the imitating and who’s getting praised for innovation. If you’ve watched any TV channel for more than 15 minutes, you’ve probably seen the new United Parcel Service ads with the guy standing up at the whiteboard extolling the virtues of shipping with UPS.

These have been running off and on for the last few months, and like the ubiquitous Mac Ads, you can’t seem to flip a channel without running into them. I recently stumbled across an article on MSN that went on and on about how ‘mesmerizing’ the ads are and what a ‘refreshing change’ they represent. Starring in the ads is the ‘creative director’ himself who came up with the concept.

Nowwaitadarnminute right there. Let’s set the record straight. CNET Networks came up with the concept of whiteboard videos back in early 2005 – a full two years before UPS shipped their version. As a matter fact, you can view scores of them on TechRepublic’s sister site ZDNet. Many ZDNet and TechRepublic editors produced webcasts on many different topics. I did one myself on rootkits that was very popular. Late TechRepublic VP Bob Artner starred in many of them as well. 

Now, one of the main differences is that the UPS ads are solely focused from the front with the entire whiteboard as the background, whereas our whiteboard videos cut back and forth and include a CNET-orange wall in the background. Even so, one thing that you should remember the next time you see one of those ads is that when it comes to innovation and delivering information in new ways, it’s ZDNet and TechRepublic that truly deliver.