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Leo Burnett faces plagiarism claims in Malaysia for Petronas ‘Rubber Boy’ film

Leo Burnett's 'Rubber Boy' ad for Pertronas

Leo Burnett has been called out by a filmmaker for using an idea she pitched in 2014 as the basis of the Cannes-winning film ‘Rubber Boy’ for Petronas tires during Chinese New Year this year.

Tan Chui Mui, the filmmaker, claims that her pitch and involvement for the work has been copied by the agency and should have been taken out of the final film.

She has launched a social media campaign aimed at highlighting the issue in order to make changes and improvements in the creative industry, rather than compensation from the agency.

The tussle between the filmmaker and Leo Burnett is being played quite publicly online as Tan Chui Mui is posting correspondences between herself and Leo Burnett creative director James Yap. Likewise, Yap is also posting responses online, alongside business director Eswara Van Sharma.

Leo Burnett says it has made efforts to contact the filmmaker, despite some posts on social media claiming otherwise. The complaint and conversation has now moved on to involve lawyers.

The news comes not long after another Malaysian agency, Dentsu Utama, had to pull a win in a 4As award after a British artist called it out for plagiarism.

It’s also hot on the heels of multiple incidences at Cannes Lions that involved agencies creating fake ‘scam’ work in order to win awards. Grey Singapore has defended its work on an app that helps identify ships carrying refugees, claiming it’s still in beta. Later in the week it transpired that a controversial ad for a painkiller was created and paid for purely for the awards show by BBDO, rather than the client.

UPDATE: Leo Burnett has issued the following statement (28.06.2016)

"Leo Burnett does not condone or endorse plagiarism of any kind. Credit is always given, wherever it is deserved.

The allegation made by the individual on Facebook post "But I can't believe how an Ad Agency like Leo Burnett can just use my story without asking my permission” is baseless.

The creative team at Leo Burnett that worked on Rubber Boy for the Petronas CNY short film has affirmed this and we stand by their version of how the Rubber Boy story and script were developed.

The Rubber Boy story is based on an idea that our internal pool of talent at Leo Burnett, in close collaboration with our client collectively worked on.

As part of the creative journey from idea to shooting script, the client-approved script is shared with the prospective directors, and we guide them to evolve a treatment of our script. The purpose of this treatment is to add details and nuances to the script. Key elements such as the setting in the rubber estate and the character of the child and his motivations and circumstances, along with the key message, are always in the agency script that was briefed to all the directors involved.

During this process, many suggestions are exchanged back and forth, and the treatment is evolved under the close guidance and supervision of our creative team.

The final decision is accorded to the treatment which best meets our and our client's objectives. After this, we work closely with the chosen director, from the actual shoot to the post-production process, to ensure the best possible outcome.

As such, we reiterate that the allegations of plagiarism are baseless. Leo Burnett nees to protect its trade and reputation and we have sought legal advice to determine next steps."

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