Asylum vs Leo Burnett London: Where Do You Stand?

By now you’ve probably read Asylum Films’ open letter to Leo Burnett London, in which the production company accuses the agency of “reshooting” a job that Asylum had already completed for them. An excerpt:

[The newer spot] 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.

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.

Leo Burnett London responded on their blog, citing “misinformation”:

We came up with the idea and the long, and highly-detailed, script for an ‘internal’ film to be played at the annual gala dinner held by Ronald McDonald House Charities. Obviously, there was a very small budget given that it was only going to be watched by a few hundred people. This meant we could only approach production companies at the cheaper end of the spectrum. Asylum’s Ben Falk did a great job for us. As a consequence, our RMHC client took the decision to invest a larger production budget to re-make the film with higher production values so that it could be aired on public media (cinema, if you’re interested). The higher production budget meant that the creative team could now interest production companies beyond the cheaper end of the spectrum.

Ouch. Leo Burnett London is basically saying that Asylum did such a good job (for the money) that they justified the client spending more money and going with a more expensive (read: higher end) production company.

Of course, the whole reason that Asylum knocked themselves out on the project (presumably losing money on it) was so they could get repeat business and be Leo Burnett’s go-to prodco for bigger and better projects.

Shifting Perspective

From one perspective, you could argue that Asylum misjudged the opportunity. They saw it as an entry point to bigger budget work, when it fact it was only a one-off gig. They rolled the dice and lost. Them’s the breaks.

From another angle, you could argue that while Leo Burnett London wrote the script, Asylum was responsible for the look of the project, and the right thing to do would have been to at least give them a shot at the bigger budget version. Of course, as LBL points out on their blog, they own the entire concept and both of its executions. Asylum’s hurt doesn’t come from business contracts, though; it comes from what they feel are ethical obligations.

Power Play?

And there’s the rub: Agencies are often justified — from a purely business point-of-view — in doing what they did with Asylum. But when they carry out their actions with impunity, they can come across as bullies.

The agency/vendor relationship is a strange one. Agencies have the ultimate power, insofar as they write the checks and manage the client. Yet vendors have power, too: the power of creation. Many agencies have attempted to cobble together in-house prodcos and studios, and nearly all of them have failed. It’s harder than it looks to run a studio, especially from within a massive corporation owned by an even larger holding company with thousands of shareholders.

So vendors are needed by agencies and vice versa. The difference? There are, in the eyes of agencies, countless vendors to choose from. They’re interchangeable. Expendable, even. That’s as true at “cheaper end of the spectrum” as it is at the expensive end.

The price for Asylum’s protest is yet to be determined, but you can be sure Leo Burnett London won’t suffer much from it.

What do you think?

There’s much, much more to be said on this general topic. What’s your take?

Make sure to read both Asylum and Leo Burnett London’s statements before commenting.


tosh (@tosh_fieldsend)

it’s unfair, but it happens a lot, and i can’t see that changing any time soon,but it’s good when cases like this, which are so blatant, are highlighted. On a side note, with regards to creative ownership, i hope Asylum gave a shout out to Anton Tang for the character design….


The agency/vendor set-up as it stands now drive me absolutely nuts as someone who enjoys both making AND thinking. The layers of bureaucracy, in my experience, only tend to water down great creative as oppose to expand on it. So often I wonder, as we work through endless conference calls and countless revisions: have we totally lost sight of our actual end goal? What the actual client is trying to achieve? I realize agencies contextualize a larger picture for the brand — working over several mediums (not just video/animation). But I can’t help but to think — isn’t the current structure counter to where things are headed? A world where we are able to be more nimble than ever. Where hardware and software isn’t cost-prohibitive. Where there are countless ways to be self-motivated and teach yourself. And where budgets are sinking. Maybe this comparison is way off — but just food for thought — could agencies be like record labels? I realize there might be gaping holes of naïveté in this whole point of view, but change feels imminent.


I trust ad agencies more than I trust my own mother. They wouldn’t do anything unscrupulous, duplicitous, or unethical. VXF shops and production companies are whiney babies that cry when treated ‘unfairly’. Well, guess what, no one in India and China cries, about anything, ever. So suck it up and ride the Capitalist express,or wave from the station like a loser. Just sit in the back so the rich don’t have to look at your sad, over-labored faces.


take the chance. Hope for the best. Expect the worst…. See where I am going with this??

PJ Richardson

It sucks to see a studio put so much passion into a piece and be disappointed, but I don’t buy the argument on biscuits part. We have all had our ideas/designs/videos stolen, copied, emulated etc. esp. in the pitch phase or small job phase when we were all trying to get in with a client. Biscuit gambled to invest in Leo burnett with the hope of future work and lost. The solution lies in making super bad ass new work people will want to copy again and again, Leo burnett may have played it safe by going to a bigger agency which is valid, but if the works rad enough other clients will come. See psyop.

here are also several pieces similar to this idea for sake of point out tho well done how

Eric Z

Probably not worth complaining about publicly.


Yes, in a mudfight like this no one really comes out on top. Asylum should’ve just taken it on the chin and moved on.


It’s definitely got to sting from Asylum’s perspective, and it is a ballsy (and risky) move to make such a public stink over it, but Burnett did nothing legally wrong here, nor did they do anything that is really out of the ordinary in the ad world. Asylum obviously put a lot of heart and soul into their version, but in the end they don’t own the work. They were contracted to do it by McDonald’s and Burnett, and that’s where ownership stays. Is it unethical that Burnett went elsewhere to remake the piece? Yes. It also happens all… the… time.

And as they say… “That’s what the money’s for!”

Ken Addeh (@KenAddeh)

In my very, very short time in the creative field, I’ve overheard comments this too often in multiple studios. It’s not legally wrong, but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth of Asylum, and can potentially be something that’s marked against Burnett in the future for any small studios that are wanting to produce solid work, while networking and building a rapport instead of just a one off job..

It’s kinda what smaller studios need to progress.


Should Anton Tang or write an open letter to Asylum?
Or… maybe Asylum “didnt see” these?

This seems appropriate;


The derivativeness of that character design is the first thing i noticed. Not enough originality here to get up in arms about. Asylum’s craftsmanship was better though. That should serve them well unless this outburst spooks potential clients.


It’s blatant creative rip off of Anton Tang by the agency who came up with the spot in the first place. That’s probably why the way the characters look was changed when the spot was redone for the public – so Burnett wouldn’t get sued by Amazon or Tang. What Leo Burnett did to Asylum sucks, but what it did to Tang is worse. Asylum shouldn’t be too proud of ripping off someone else’s work either. But their spot looks better than the big budget spot anyhow. So put it on your reel and shut up.


If Anton Tang didn’t work as a character designer for Asylum / LBI have to say: Shame on Both of them for steeling Tangs idea and concept. It is not only about the appearance of the character. It is much more about the fragile, small scale shy look and feel of the whole character.
It seems that Asylum and / or Leo B. have stolen the entire mood and concept from Anton Tang.
Both Agencies seems to take a short cut by copieng the character design of another artist.


I think this saga may have a negative effect on Asylum. This kind of thing happens all the time across different industries but that’s just business my friends. It’s not (and never should be) personal but this open letter seems to show Asylum taking this whole thing to heart.

It’s not like Leo Burnett were contractually obliged to go back to the same production house. Also it needs to be said McDonald’s owns the idea! It’s not the agency’s nor the production house. So all this talk from both sides about “owning” the idea is irrelevant. They are both ultimately paid by McDonald’s.

Small production houses do sweet work. They’re agile, versatile, value for money and think differently. However, they need the clients of big agencies to do get the money to produce the best work and more importantly the work that will get them noticed! Asylum have got themselves “noticed” here alright, but probably for the wrong reasons and in the wrong way.


Ya! Tim, your argument is a bit like, that’s just business, its a bit like saying that’s just war, were bigger and fatter, were a bully so tough luck buddy. Survival of the fittest is the law of the jungle, we have the ability to deliberate, we can show fairness, therefore we are human.

I’ve been working for over thirty years in the industry, and its just plain greed, its not business, business is a synonym for greed!


@Julian I don’t think this debacle is about greed. It’s about a “small” company who didn’t get offered an opportunity from a “big” company they felt they were entitled too.

Those arguing the moral case that they should have been offered the opportunity are probably right and I think in their response the agency said that this should have happened and the agency has apologised for not doing so. I’ve not seen a response to the apology from Asylum.

Asylum’s initial argument just felt petty to me. It wasn’t worth an open letter. This could have (make that – should have) been settled privately.


Tim I here what you are saying, I live in south Africa not in the first world, here one is at the coal face, so to speak. Companies abuse artists on a daily basis with no recourse for the small operator. You can put what ever face you want on it to justify it, its power and greed! In this instance I personally think the Asylum did the right thing they made a public display of the immoral actions of a larger company.

More unscrupulous actions by bigger companies should be brought into question, more often. The case has often been made that they bought it therefore they own it, that argument is insidious, you cant buy morality and ethics. One has to behave in an ethical manner!


@Tim regarding “Thats Business”.

I was unaware there were exceptions to morals.

Can I invent my own exceptions too?

P.S Anton Tang love your work


LBL is wrong if they were stuck, or had to use someone’s rope to get out of the ditch, they have to credit them… it’s that simple, no bs, no agency-vendor lingual.
It’s understandable that they are doing damage control but pathetic that other vendors are finding their actions “OK”.


A video says more than a billion words.


Bob Marley Hypocrites Lyrics

Dip for diplomatic;
‘Yp for hypocratic;
Dry for dry-land tourist;
Tup for Topper Norris!
See de ‘ypocrites, dem a-galang deh!
See de ‘ypocrites, dem a-galang deh!
See de ‘ypocrites, dem a-galang deh! Man, go!

/Instrumental break/

Dem cut – cut – cut ‘gainst ’em one another;
Cut – cut – cut ‘gainst ’em one another.
Oh, dem teach to love one another;
Oh, dem teach to love one another. Man, go!

/Instrumental break/

Dem a run – come – come wid a gravalicious;
Dem a run – come – come wid a gravalicious;
Dem a run-a – come-a – come-a wid a gravalicious;
Sehd, a run-a – come – come-a wid a gravalicious.

/Instrumental break/

See de ‘ypocrites, dem a-galang deh!
See de ‘ypocrites, dem a-galang deh!
See de ‘ypocrites, dem a-galang deh!
See de ‘ypocrites, dem a-galang deh! Man, go!

/Instrumental break/

Dip-a (for diplomatic);
A ‘yp-a (for hypocratic);
Dry – dry – dry (for dry-land tourist);
A tup-pa – tup-pa – tup-pa (for Topper Norris)!
See de ‘ypocrites, dem a-galang deh!
See de ‘ypocrites, dem a-galang deh!
See de ‘ypocrites, dem a-galang deh! Man, go!

/Instrumental ending/


Tapanoris or topper norris means a person who is upper class, has the material things and is full of themselves.

Answered by Lyndsay H. – 1308 days ago at 6:15pm on Jan 31 2009


Writer Ayn Rand has argued that the protection of intellectual property is essentially a moral issue. The belief is that the human mind itself is the source of wealth and survival and that all property at its base is intellectual property. To violate intellectual property is therefore no different morally than violating other property rights which compromises the very processes of survival and therefore constitutes an immoral act.

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Chapter 11 “Patents and Copyrights” – Ayn Rand


Its kinda stinky that they went and did the same job with a bigger shop esp when they see that small shops bend over backwards to get bigger gigs to up their game.

what really sucks though is two things:

A. According to the big shops one is ONLY able to do work that is identical to what you have on your reel. Eg No matter how hardcore your shop’s reel is, youre not good for a car commercial unless youve done one already. If you’re a small shop, love your lo-fi and your handmade stuff etc, youre always gonna be synonymous with the lower end.

B. Politics/ PR will get you gigs. Ive worked for both great and not so great shops. Was always surprised how companies that totally lack the talent managed to get certain jobs. Its amazing that they did – from a business perspective – but hey, certain peoples sale skills still make my jaw drop.

I dont like being cynical about the reality of our line of work, but it’s very very simple; when it’s a purely commercial project i hate to point out that its all about the money. There is no space for ethics or anything else for that matter.



Moral rights or copyright laws don’t apply in this situation? Though it’s the agency’s script, the interpretation of it would surely by Asylum’s. That interpretation would have moral and copyrights attached. If that was true and they were really ballsy maybe they could go for breach of copyright and moral rights?


Am I taking crazy pills? Burnett is acting totally unethically. Money doesn’t excuse anything. You are ethically obligated to give them a shot at the bigger budget and no amount of “business is business” speech can excuse that. Doing business doesn’t give you license to be a shitty person.


While I agree on the moral aspect of what you are saying, I doubt that morality has a whole to do with a business decision for whatever reason they want if there is no contract…


What did the contract say? Did it pass on all the rights as I presume it did? In that case Leo Burnett owns the thing and is free to do what it wants with it—especially if as they say, creative was theirs. They didn’t steal or copy the work, they bought it.

It is quite cheeky of Asylum to assume that after they sold something to Leo Burnett they still have dibs on future work resulting from it—unless the contract says otherwise, of course.

I would be frustrated if I were Asylum but I think they have no leg to stand on.


I don’t see anything wrong with what Burnett did. Happens all the time in business, especially advertising. Happened to me on numerous jobs. Do I write open letters to the client? Hell no. I suck it up and use the great work I made to pitch other clients who will eventually pull the same shit on me. All the while I keep billing. There is no such thing as a “relationship” with a corporation. People make relationships with people, and obviously the person at the agency had a better “friend” to give the big bucks to. I think Asylum took the wrong approach and will pay for it.


And below is a comment from my father who is a retired ad exec taking a look from the other side of the fence…
I don’t think they really made a mistake writing the letter; I think they made a mistake by taking it public and embarrassing Burnett. I doubt very much it will result in them not getting business from other sources… but it definitely will keep them from getting future business from Burnett, which does come out looking bad in this instance.

Burnett SHOULD have given Asylum a shot at the remake. It would have been the right thing to do. Even if Asylum didn’t get the redo job, they at least would have felt they weren’t ignored and that the work they did previously wasn’t unappreciated.

I’ve seen this thing happen over and over and over through the years. Agency people are star-fuckers and always want to work with the hottest production companies, etc. Smaller, less-prominent production companies that break their balls for agency clients often get passed over when a big money job comes down the pike. It happens.

I’m so glad I don’t do that stuff anymore.


Lets be honest here Asylum delivered a student quality piece with lots of glaring errors, and Leo Burnett rightly looked for somewhere else to make the higher end cinema version. Unfortunately for Leo Burnett they made a poor choice on studios for the cinema version as it only looks marginally better.


Actually scratch that the cinema version is a lot better quality, though the character animation is still pretty lacklustre


If Asylum never actually said beforehand they want to get bigger jobs in the future and therefore work for lower pay on this job, then Burnett was 100% right. I bet this was a major failure from Asylum`s part by believing that anyone will appreciate anything just on their own – you have to take what you want, nothings comes causally. And in the answer from Burnett you can clearly see they don`t regard Asylum as “high end” – which clearly is the case when taking this unprofessional behaviour into account.


I assume (or I would like to think) that Leo Burnett has the rights to use Danbo character from Yotsuba&! Manga? If this is not the case, then our problem is not Asylum’s current predicament but the way the advertising industry’s is producing ideas.

Justin Cone (@justincone)

Very interesting point!

Yotsuba’s Danbo:


I worked at an ad agency for 7 years and I can safely say that agencies treat EVERYONE like this. They are purely for profit ventures and treat every one they work with, internally and externally, as replaceable.

Good for Asylum for calling bullshit on LBL, but ultimately it’s going to hurt them if they truly do wish to move to the “higher end of the spectrum”. the agency players at that end don’t like to feel like they’re going to be called out just because someone at a production company gets upset.

As for LBL’s blatant rip off of Yotsuba’s Danbo, that’s also common. Frequently agencies will do the absolute minimum to alter someone else’s creative to avoid litigation and little more. I once heard an Executive Creative Director say “I like it, but I haven’t seen something like that work before” when presented with original concepts.


Of course its common and that’s exactly my point. We all know advertising and other industries has been working that way for quite long now. I know this is one of the many consequences of budget reductions and democratization of information, but my comment was more towards it’s time to start opening a discussion regarding that point and as creatives we should start working on new ways of creating and presenting content.

Here’s a more recent example and article:


leo burnett were essenially looking to get paid twice for the same thing. In making it a second time with a different company but insisting its high end they could polish it and charge higher margins, more animation, shooting, editing, theatrical masters, expensive grading, dub etc all of which leo burnett would have added a margin to. The people really getting ripped off in this affair is the client, macdonalds, but since it’s them, who cares


You’re all wasting your time anyway. You’re all working in a dead marketing paradigm and the big bullies will always win.

So, small guys, go direct to client with your ideas. Big agency, R.I.P.


its difficult to present yourself as both budget-friendly and high-quality. this goes for individuals, small companies or large corporations.

asylum, who admitted that they’re small and up-and-coming, maybe should have been given an opportunity to prove themselves on the big stage. but thats also a big risk for leo. with so much money at stake, they may not want to take a chance on someone who has yet to prove themselves on that level and go with a trusted vendor.

sure its a catch 22 for a company like asylum, but unfortunately thats the breaks of being a production company. you cant be everything to everyone.

what im curious about is how much leo brought to the table in the first place. did they bring a concept and general visual style or did asylum create the entire thing?


In these cases, the customer has the power. The grievance is already done and he can only protest Asylum … but surely, in a month it will have been forgotten.

And sad, because, because of these things, the creators are maltreated. And creative minds should not have price.


If you wanna cause a big stink, at least spell it right. Then maybe other “organisations” will “recognise” that you can handle big projects and the work will come, regardless of the the burns.


This is a really complicated one, I done an animation in my second year of uni which I actually designed in first year (2008) perhaps not as striking similarity as Amazon BoxHead, but I’d be very interested to know when the amazon ads were made.

Huntington Durp

You have a good point Sam, very similar.

Bottom line is it’s an industry that borrow and borrows and borrows and you can probably trace most things back and back and back.

Your mind is largely the sum of what you feed it with anyways so it’s all borrowed from somewhere.

Chris Phoenix

Sadly this is a fairly common practice. You do roll the dice. The part of this that tends to hurt more, having had both happen to us, is when you do work for an agency, they win awards with your work and take all the credit, giving you none. Again, it’s the way the industry works, but I think you might be a bit surprised by how rampant it is.

Dalton G Crosthwait

It’s all about the dollar, rather than the people. Such a shame.

Seems like a wasted opportunity by Leo B to save some money and still get amazing work. They could have gone back to Asylum, offered them a bit less than what they offered the expensive studio along with a longer production timeline, and probably would have achieved the same exact result – not only rewarding Asylum’s hard work but saving some scratch along the way.

David Johnson

What strikes me is I’m having a hard time seeing the better production value. There isn’t a profound night and day difference between the original Asylum version and the redo. Not sure where the money went or how they could have justified the expense.


While this kind of thing happens all the time, it does not make it right.
Without getting into the ethics of the situation, the second, more expensive film does not seem appreciably better than the first, less expensive film. I feel relatively certain that given more funds, Asylum could have done a film equal in quality to the film they were not invited to make. It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall to know if anyone at the agency argued to let them make the more expensive version.
I have found that very few people in our business have confidence in their ability to judge new talent and are only interested in working with directors who have “proven themselves” or have the backing of an established production company.
The real pity of the plight of the Asylum director is that the agency, after working with him and seeing him deliver a very nice film, failed to reward him for his efforts.


Unfortunately this is the way the world works. Asylum was hired on based on the original budget for the project, when the budget was increased so was the range of production companies they could go with. From my experience, a production company gets hired on once an idea is already approved and all of the pre-production is completed. The time it takes to get to that idea and art direction sometimes gets overlooked. It sounds like this was Leo Burnett’s brainchild that they had to hire another company to complete, in which case so long as they got paid there should be no issue. Leo Burnett paid for a ‘product’ which was delivered as promised and they should pay the company for. From there they can do whatever they want with said ‘product,’ and in this case they chose to re-shoot it. The very least Leo Burnett should have done was keep Asylum in the loop and credit them, but they don’t have to stick with something they weren’t happy with. I also think writing a public letter like that was in poor taste. The comments on the final version linked in that letter are funny too, Leo Burnett didn’t steal the idea, they paid for the work to be done.


Im tired of seeing studios bend over backwards for an agency or director in hope of getting more work or a better job in the future. All it does is let the agency know that they can pay said studio less for a job, and know they will get far beyond what they payed for because the studio is always trying to impress.

People can throw around ‘this is just what happens’ all they wan’t, but it doesn’t stop it being wrong, it doesnt stop people from feeling mistreated, and it doesn’t fix the problem – it’s simply a weak excuse to do nothing.


It looks like that Apple chillin’ against Samsung’s patents infringements..

Jonathan richter (@Bobtilton)

There are so many other factors that an agency takes into consideration when hiring a studio in addition to quality of work. Simply the population within a studio, and thus the number of people to see a higher profile project through a very stressful process can be a dealmaker. Asylum may have given Leo Burnett a very positive experience making a low visibility, low pressure, low stakes video, but possibly presented still too much of a gamble for a higher profile project, even if it was a shot-for-shot repeat.

Cagan Yuksel

Tell me something new… Please.

John Smith

Without morals and ethics we are no better than the animals. This is not capitalism, it is just a society depleted of moral values.


Asylum Films just looks like a little bitchy dog who got his ball taken away. They got a shot they should have been happy with that. Why all the fuss… The client obviously ASKED for a higher profile team to make a higher quality version. A level of quality was requested that Leo obviously did not believe could be attained by the people at Asylum. The fact that this even made it onto this site is hilarious. This reeks of the rantings of a spoiled brat. How about you stop posting the misfortunes of people who feel they deserve more but are only willing to bitch and post some talent from people who work hard everyday and develop their craft…

you know stuff about motion graphics…

last time I checked this was…

not some gossip column for design nerds… WTF




I would never do a job for McDonalds. It comes down to money and greed which destroys everything creative and pure.


sucked in Asylum
you stole someone elses work and gambled with it – and lost….
stiff shit

don’t see what complaining on the internet is going to do
no one knows or cares what Asylum does tbh

Priceline Negotiator

Man this is tragic. Moral is to shut up and play the cards properly. They fucked up and now they look like a raggety shop. I understand how they feel but am guessing they will lose work over this. It just makes them look dificult to work with. They were trying to hijack the clients decision making by going viral. Unfortunately they only embarrassed themselves. They definitely ripped off Danbo. No question. I personally believe this industry is going to implode. There’s no way to stop the artists from ripping off stuff.

Artist think they are the shit, meanwhile 85% of them use, rip off and/or trace stock elements, type tricks or other spots in some way. And they act like gods, but they really aren’t REAL artists. Thoughts? Is this industry a sham?? LOL?

Priceline Negotiator

I love how no one is denying this. I bet many of you are hack artists. You just know how to tweak knobs, cut out stock elements, pasting layers. And you call yourself a god. Thoughts?

Manuel Martin

The exact thing has happened to mystudio on several ocasions. We work on almos no budget and turn out great work, with big losses the result works out great for the client and then just moves on. Im 100% certain that asylum wouldve surpassed Leo Burnett with more budget. It unfair but business is busness in the end it`s clear that small studios have more ethics than these mega corporations and eventually our mutual support and these ethics will make us much stronger so hang in ther Asylum and always keep things in perspective because you guys are clearly growing.

#1 Never bid on future work. Bid on the job at hand. Not the maybe.

#2The new spot is definitely more polished and edited better. However, I feel the creative concept is off point all together for the client. Cardboard boxes as a sick child? uh, ok.

#3 If I were McDonalds I’d be made that double money was spent.


Really good article about a similar topic here.

Give it a read. Some much casual plaguarism going on.


I am led to believe the “little box” character was licensed for the Asylum Films version of the video, so no copyright issues there… Although, how ‘original’ the ‘idea’ was from Leo’s creatives was in the first place is a different matter… They are paid to come up with ideas and had to use someone else’s but hey, there is a fine line between inspiration and plagiarism, I guess.

From my understanding, the problem for Asylum was never about copying of the ‘idea’ – anyone in advertising will know that the creatives within the agency come up with the basics of that, plus a script of some sort. The production company then develops the script, artistry, storyboards, animatics etc. to give a look and feel for the film… Asylum, by the sounds of it felt this ‘treatment’ (inc. colours/ mood/ tone/ shot selection etc) and later their ‘execution’ of Leo’s idea was regurgitated and therefore, this caused them offence. Rightly so. The films are undeniably similar and in some places, identical.

The second issue is about respect. Asylum worked hard, for very little money (definitely not making anything on this job) and were given a pat on the back by the agency for doing so… Regardless, of what may or may not have been promised by the agency, Asylum would have hoped to be considered for future projects, let alone their own project being awarded a bigger budget for TV because it impressed the client so much. Would Leo have one a TV campaign had it not been for Asylum’s effort? In short, Leo stabbed Asylum in the back when they had bigger fish to fry. Bad form. This is not a good look for them and by no means are they the only agency doing this. They have simply been called out for doing so. Bravo!

The difference is, most small production companies keep their mouth shut ‘for their own good’, so this problem does not get noticed or cared about by the wider public. Asylum standing up for themselves is what has pissed Leo’s off. It’s unprecedented. Agencies aren’t used to it and so they don’t like it. It was a bold and risky move on the production company’s part and that should be applauded.

The bottom line is, without one creative body standing up for something, change can not exist. This has flagged up that something must shift within the industry, quite simply – ethics. More specifically, arrogance and bad morals from agencies. It borders on plagiarism and does nothing for the greater creative spirit.

Anyone that says ‘but that’s just the way the ad world works’ is surely making excuses… and it certainly doesn’t make it right.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope we get heard and that some sort of change in perspective occurs.

Asylum have received nothing from Leo apart from a ‘sorry’. A bigger gesture surely could have been mustered.

Justin Cone (@justincone)

Thanks for a very thoughtful response, Katie.

Jon FitzSimons

So, if I were an ad agency, and let’s say I had an idea I wanted to make into a promo or whatever. I approach Widget Productions who create for me a style and budget with their pitch.

I love their pitch, but their budget is not jiving with me. So, I guess based on this precedent, I can then go to ACME productions, have them remake this pitch, with their budget that’s cheaper. Hooray! I’ve legally stolen an idea!


It’s a pitty Asylum’s was better than the final high budget piece! Sorry to whoever did it, it was still good, but didn’t capture the same emotion.

I run a Production and Post house and I get this often. You do a job under budget to prove your worth to a bigger player, do a fantastic job and then the next job with bigger budgets goes elsewhere. If it goes to another party because they can do the job better and for a comparable price, so be it, but most of the time you’re not even given the opportunity to pitch. As Leo Burnett said young talent is the lifeblood of this industry, but I fail to get a sense that most agencies actually follow up on this thought!

I don’t think the crux of this should be that Leo’s stole anything (this is a complex argument and both parties have a point) but that Asylum should have been given all the opportunities available to fairly pitch on the job. Perhaps if Asylums version was rubbish, there would be no reason to go back to them, but the low budget results was absolutely fantastic.
It’s a shame.


Both Ads are shit and un-original. Get over it and move on Asylum dude.

The Wilberforces

Agency’s are lack-lustre wankers and thieves.



I blame the clients who are too stupid to understand where the ideas come from and get their wallets bootie plundered for middle management and brokering services. Their ignorance forms the market into this idiotic shape.


studio’s should know their own place, if they got to play in the big league, should expect a few blows, same relation they have with freelancers. @ the end of the day is about who you burn bridges with, and who are their friends.


I think studios should ditch agencies and put all efforts in to bypassing any middlemen. It seems a drain to have a separate industry that charges thousands of pounds for sending a few emails back and forth, and then try to take all the creative credit.


Mark, obviously u work in advertising. The ‘know your place’ mentality is the exact issue!!! Your arrogance is acceptable because it is legal (for now) not because it is ethical. Note to you: money doesn’t equal power ~ there is no disability in this world except a bad attitude. Which you have.

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