Asylum Films calls out Leo Burnett in open letter for stealing their idea.

Ok, perhaps they're not being quite as blunt as calling "Stop! Thief!" in their open letter, but it makes for a snappy cliff-note type headline. Asylum films have sent an open letter to Graeme Light, head of TV at Leo Burnett pointing out the blatant similarities in Leo Burnett's Ronald McDonald film to Asylums film. They call a spade a spade:

It is essentially our piece of work reshot and redone with a bigger budget. Not only the concept, but lighting, the feel and shot selection are almost identical.

Note - Update! Leo Burnett has said that they're sorry to Asylum films and explain what went down.

Lets watch Asylum's film!

RMHC Little Box - created by Asylum

And now, Leo Burnett's.

Ronald McDonald "Little Box" currently airing in the UK.

At no point were we consulted on this or even told about it happening as a courtesy, and certainly not asked about our ability to create this new version. We feel hugely aggrieved by the situation. It is hard for smaller companies to make the transition into doing work with bigger agencies, but we feel we have the experience and showreel to do so. We take on these smaller and difficult jobs as a way to prove our abilities for future work and to start to build a relationship, putting in hours and getting production values that exceed what might be expected from the budget. Our agility and creative ability is our stock in trade, and to feel we, and it, has been used in this way is disappointing to say the least.
In short, our work and creative content has been copied and reused, without any consultation or recognition.

I can do nothing but nod and agree. That's a terrible copy-cat case. Leo Burnett should be ashamed of themselves.

Thanks Sean!

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Dabitch's picture

Perhaps they'll learn Monday why they were passed over for the second shoot of this.

DrNebulon's picture

That's unforgivable. As creatives, all we have to offer are our ideas. And when we're able to bring them to fruition, it's with a sense of pride akin to a parent holding their newborn for the first time. For someone to come along and so blatantly rip off your idea (particularly one that has clearly been so earnestly and lovingly crafted), is nothing short of an atrocity.

To Asylum's credit, their work feels far more authentic, emotional and well executed, whereas Leo Burnett's ripoff comes across as rushed and sterile by comparison.

MarkNicholas's picture

Not sure we can really judge this until we know how much input Leo Burnett had in the creative, Asylum have admitted it wasn't their concept, just their execution. I don't really see how Asylum can really claim copyright over that when they were briefed by the agency. Leo came up with the idea and paid them to make it, maybe asylum should have been consulted, but I don't think it was fair for Asylum to criticise them so publicly because they were looked over to produce the tv ad. If Asylum didn't significantly contribute to the development of the concept I would expect Leo Burnett to get legal on their ass.

Dabitch's picture

Ideas can't be copyrighted, only executions can be. And if we look at the film that currently is airing it has borrowed quite a lot of stylistic elements and shots from the Asylum one. I'm not an IP lawyer but I play one as the red TV

MarkNicholas's picture

Wouldn't Leo Burnett's contract with Asylum include the clause that 'All works produced, assets etc. remain the property of Leo Burnett...' ? Maybe ethically questionable but in the UK I don't think they would have much of a legal claim.

Dabitch's picture

That's a very good point about the contract. Def. ethically questionable territory.

kidsleepy's picture

Probably no legal claim can be made, but sometimes it helps to vent. They may have indeed gone with someone else, under their clause and it may all be legal and whatever but if Asylum's letter is spot on it's kind of pathetic either way.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Leo Burnett should have just sent them this - brilliant!

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