Leo Burnett threatens defamation suit over plagiarism claims

A scene from the Petronas Chinese New Year 2016 commercial. — Screenshot courtesy of www.petronasofficial.com
A scene from the Petronas Chinese New Year 2016 commercial. — Screenshot courtesy of www.petronasofficial.com

KUALA LUMPUR, June 29 — Leo Burnett Malaysia said today that it has issued a demand letter to filmmaker Tan Chui Mui and film production company Da Huang Pictures for a retraction of her plagiarism claims against the advertising firm over the “Rubber Boy” commercial.

Leo Burnett Malaysia reiterated that key elements of the heart-warming TV advertisement it created for Petronas’ Chinese New Year campaign this year, including the message, the characters, the setting in the rubber estate and the emotions, were very much part of the agency’s script and were not furnished by Tan or Da Huang Pictures, to which Tan is currently attached.

“Despite an earlier explanation to Da Huang Pictures by Leo Burnett that their treatment and the ‘Rubber Boy’ web-film have different storylines, Tan Chui Mui continued to make these false allegations through her Facebook page,” said Leo Burnett Malaysia in a statement.

“There appears to be an intention to cause damage to the Leo Burnett’s reputation and that of its clients through these social media postings, which were shared and later picked up by mainstream media.

“In order to safeguard Leo Burnett’s name and reputation, and that of its clients, Leo Burnett has no alternative but to initiate legal proceedings if Tan Chui Mui or Da Huang Pictures refuse to retract the statements. Leo Burnett views these allegations seriously and will leave it to the courts to decide on the matter,” the advertising giant added.

In a recent series of Facebook posts, Tan alleged that “Rubber Boy” originated from a pitch Da Huang Pictures had made to Leo Burnett in December 2014 for Petronas’ CNY campaign last year.

She claimed the pitch was not chosen as Petronas did not conduct a campaign for 2015, but that Da Huang Pictures was shocked to see the concept in the “Rubber Boy” advertisement shown January this year.

Two Leo Burnett executives have denied the claims of plagiarism; with creative director James Yap saying that the story of a poor son of a rubber tapper was a “personal family tale”.

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