Leo Burnett and McDonald’s reject charge of plagiarism over licence-plate ads

—Art director Zed Anwar’s One Minute Brief work appeared on social four months ago, but Leo Burnett UK says it presented the idea internally in January, and to McDonald’s in February.—

By Imogen Watson

Leo Burnett UK has denied claims its latest out-of-home campaign for McDonald’s bears a striking resemblance to work posted by freelance art director Zed Anwar four months ago.

The campaign in question—part of McDonald’s summer sequel campaign to “Raise your arches”—turned roadside posters across the UK into giant, personalized licence plates that reference McDonald’s fast-food menu.

Anwar created his work (bottom right) in response to a call-out from One Minute Briefs, which asked for posters advertising drive-throughs. One Minute Briefs is a social community that provides a platform for creatives to flex their talent, in response to spoof brand briefs.

He subsequently posted examples of his work on his LinkedIn and Twitter feeds.

Anwar told Campaign he sent McDonald’s a direct message on Twitter at the time (bottom left), asking the fast food joint what they thought of his work. He confirms McDonald’s didn’t respond.

When the new McDonald’s ads ran last week, Anwar accused the brand and agency of plagiarism. “Leo Burnett if you’re looking for more inspiration, I am looking for work and do these ideas all day long… I am struggling as a creative to feed my kids,” he wrote on LinkedIn while reposting the new McDonald’s campaign. His post has been liked 99 times.

Louise Page, head of consumer communications and partnerships at McDonald’s UK and Ireland, responding on LinkedIn to Anwar’s post, said: “Leos have already been in touch directly to clarify this work was signed off almost a year ago, long before the DM to our socials. Appreciate these things are highly complex—we have a franchisee who has had one of these number plates for many years too, it’s quite the head-turner!”

In response to the accusation of plagiarism, a spokesperson from Leo Burnett UK told Campaign: “Our team came up with this idea in response to an ongoing creative brief. It was presented internally in January and to the client in February.”

Leo Burnett has been performing strongly in the UK, winning a trio of top prizes including Creative Agency of the Year at the Campaign Agency of the Year Awards 2022 in March of this year.

Campaign reached out to McDonald’s for comment.

This article originally appeared on Campaign UK.