This is getting tiresome! First there was that sexist ad. Then there was that book that quoted only men that Cindy Gallop called out. Now Leo Burnett in Malaysia has been accused of copying the work of Malaysian filmmaker Tan Chui Mui and scriptwriter John Cho We Jun.
The agency created a 4:58 ad called Rubber Boy, which was created for Petronas's Chinese New Year. The work won a Lion for Best Script in Film Craft.
Regarding the plagiarism claim, Kuala Lumpur Screenwriter's Association Chairman Alfie Palermo said: “Both Tan Chui Mui and John Cho We Jun were uncredited, and their idea plagiarized and manipulated by Leo Burnett Arc Malaysia without their consent and knowledge. Such blatant plagiarism by an internationally recognized advertising agency such as Leo Burnett is a breach of any writer’s rights and should not be allowed to persist. We would like to stage our official protest towards this act and implore the officials of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to investigate this matter immediately.”
Tan and John said their Rubber Bot idea was presented to Petronas in December of 2014 but was not selected for use. Tan said the Leo Burnett and Petronas "liked our script very much" and added: “And we were fine with that. And we just pat each other's back and say, good job anyway. Let's work together again! Anyway, there was no Petronas CNY Ad in 2015. In January 2016, we were quite shocked to see Rubber Boy.”
Defending the work in a lengthy Facebook post, Leo Burnett Creative Director James Yap said the idea was inspired by a very personal family story about his grandfather who escaped detection in the 1930's when the Japanese invaded. At the time, Yap’s grandfather served in the British Air Force.
On why she waited six months to claim the work was plagiarized, Tan added: “For many months I was just keeping quiet. As I do not like to waste time complaining. But I can't believe how an ad agency like Leo Burnett can just use the story I had pitched to them without asking my permission. And when my team Bea Meow and We Jun met them, their lawyer told them that Malaysian law does not protect idea. And the creative writer said they had only used two of the major scenes, not the whole story. For an ad agency which makes money from giving idea, that is really shocking. What had happened to our creative industry?”
Maybe. Just maybe it's possible for two different people to have the very same idea? I mean, really, every concept has already been executed a hundred times over. There's bound to be some repetition after a while, right?