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Cannes Lions award to Earlyman Film raises ethical issue of originator of creative idea

By M4G Bureau - June 21, 2024

Wieden+Kennedy India, creator of the idea for the Jindal Steel ‘Steel of India’ ad film, not given due credit

The creative idea is central to brand advertising, as indeed it is the idea that inspires audiences and helps establish an emotional connect between consumers and the advertising brand. Hence, there is great sanctity attached to the originator of the idea, and it is vitally important to preserve the intellectual right of the ideator. 

This inalienable right of the originator of the idea was completely waylaid when Earlyman Film and Kondurkor Studio won a Silver and Bronze Lion in the Film Craft category for Jindal Steel at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

While the two wins by an Indian agency at the Cannes Lions would in the normal course be looked upon with great pride by the advertising industry, in this case it was a travesty of justice for the originator of the idea for the Jindal Steel ‘Steel of India’ ad film was creative agency Wieden+Kennedy India, whereas Earlyman Film and Kondurkor Studio had no part in the creation of the creative idea for the said ad film.

To put things in perspective, earlier Wieden+ Kennedy India had moved to the Delhi High court after Jindal Steel released a campaign in March 2024 alleging copyright infringement and dishonouring the service agreement. Thereafter, April 24, 2024, the Delhi High Court ruled that Jindal Steel “The Steel of India '' campaign as prima facie an act of stealing the idea presented by its creative agency, Wieden+Kennedy India. This verdict led the client arrive at an out-of-court settlement with Wieden + Kennedy India.

Despite that, the client’s agency Kondurkar Studios with claims to having created the idea and Earlyman Production entered the ‘Steel of India’ campaign in the Kyoorius 2024 awards contest. When the issue was brought up, the  Kyoorius awards committee, Jury and the legal team decided to disqualify all their entries across categories.

Thereafter, despite paperwork not being in order and litigation around the original idea, Earlyman Film went ahead and entered the work in Cannes Lion Film Craft Awards, whereas Kondurkar Studio was smart enough not to enter.  

Wieden+Kennedy India took up the matter with Cannes Lions organisers, but they failed to take cognizance of the issue, and award went to an agency without giving due credit to Wieden+Kennedy India (which was clearly establish as per Delhi Court and the mutual agreement /out of court settlement arrived at by Wieden+Kennedy India and Jindal Steel) 

In a statement shared with Media4Growth on this development, Wieden+Kennedy India says: “Delhi High Court verdict, clearly stated that prima facie the campaign was substantially similar to what we had presented to Jindal Steel, be it the theme, use of steel, visual imagery or the sound design. The matter was subsequently settled out of the court to mutual satisfaction of both the parties, after all got sorted and settled well, was there a need for the production house to decide who is the originator of the idea and not credit us.”

Wieden+Kennedy India explains that the visual treatment and cropping of imagery in the ‘Steel of India’ ad film is very similar to what W+K had presented to the client. The idea, and execution of the idea frame by frame matches in more than 2 dozed sequences what was presented by W+K to the client which is part of Delhi High Court verdict pdf as well.

The moot question is: should some other creative agency be given the credit for the creative idea of the ad film that was essentially created by W+K India. Especially when there is a ask/ credit section “idea creation agency” What led to the Cannes Lions overlooking a High Court verdict and many other supporting material from W+K India, while giving the awards to an agency that was not the originator of the creative idea? Why is Cannes not responding to any of the industry journalist questions in regard to this issue?

It is an established industry practice that copyright gets transferred to the client once the fees are being paid. However, the agency continues to be recognised as the creator of the idea. 


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