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Cannes Lions-winning campaign for Hyundai at the centre of alleged copycat controversy

A Cannes Lions-winning campaign for Korean automaker Hyundai, created by Columbia-based creative agency MullenLowe SSP3, has found itself at the centre of an alleged copycat controversy.

Click for MullenLowe SSP3’s explanation of the campaign

The visually-driven campaign called ‘Speeding Emojis’ featured images purchased from Shutterstock that allegedly bore a close resemblance to the work of Dutch artist Rik Oostenbroek.

The campaign went on to win a bronze trophy at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in the print last week and a wood pencil at D&AD in May earlier this year in the press advertising campaigns category. 

Oostenbroek brought up the similarity of the work to his own. He responded to a post from MullenLowe Group on Twitter celebrating the win, stating: “Good job using stock photos from Shutterstock that are super inspired by my work. Hope you guys are proud.”

He had apparently brought up the similarity of the work to his own with MullenLowe SSP3 when the Hyundai campaign was first unveiled on the image-sharing website Behance.

He claimed in an interview with Adweek that he had even received an apology from MullenLowe SSP3 chief creative officer Carlos Andrés Rodríguez, who had clarified that the agency hadn’t intended to steal his work and had purchased it legally from Shutterstock  

Even before the controversy erupted around the campaign, there was a lot of chatter about it on Twitter with people trying to figure out what message the work was trying to convey.

The fact that a campaign built around stock imagery won at two prestigious award festivals has seen questions being raised on social media about the standards of judging that allow such entries to pass muster.

In response to a query from Mumbrella, MullenLowe SSP3 chief creative officer Carlos Andrés Rodríguez Monroy said: “We’ve recently been made aware of some discussion around one of our campaigns.

“We understand the concerns that have been raised, and have always been committed to supporting the creative rights of any author. As a company, we follow strict protocol put in place by our external auditors which ensures that we do not air any campaign for which we do not own the rights.

“In regards to this particular campaign, the images were identified as the most fitting way to illustrate the important ‘don’t text and drive’ message for our client. The appropriate rights for the four images were purchased through the correct channels and we acted legally within the terms of the licence.

“We have been in contact with the artist claiming credit for the work on social media, with a full explanation of the creative process and the surrounding legalities.

“D&AD investigated the entry and deemed it eligible on the evidence provided. We have the upmost respect for the advertising industry and we are committed to our responsibility within it.”

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