Ad agency McCann Worldgroup Philippines has been accused of copying a 2014 ad from South Africa with “Sights”, their latest work for the Philippine Department of Tourism. As a result, the Philippine Department of Tourism has ended its relationship with McCann and says it “expects a public apology.”
On Monday, 12 June 2017, McCann Worldgroup Philippines released “Sights,” an ad they claimed was inspired by the true story of “a visually-impaired foreigner who has made the Philippines his home and who has come to experience the Philippines in different ways.”
However, within hours of the video’s debut, netizens took to Reddit to blast the Philippine Department of Tourism for copying a 2014 ad by Johannesburg agency Ireland/Davenport to promote South African tourism.
Both ads are similar in that they focus on a visually-impaired man who visits another country and has a series of interesting experiences. And both feature a tourist whose disability is revealed when he pulls out a walking stick at the very end of the ad.
Initially, the Philippine Department of Tourism stood by the agency saying, “We stand by McCann; we stand by the creative execution”. McCann Worldgroup Philippines also deny the allegations of plagiarism with the agency issuing a statement noting, “We acknowledge the feedback that the way this story was told may have similarities with the South African tourism campaign.”
McCann’s statement continued, “It is unfortunate that the Philippine Department of Tourism has been called out and accused of plagiarism, for work we have done to highlight the testimonial of a real retiree. We take full responsibility, as all ideas and storyboards presented were conceptualised by McCann Worldgroup Philippines.”
The statement from McCann concludes with, “We also underscore that there has never been any intention to copy others’ creative work. McCann Worldgroup Philippines has always strived to adhere to our guiding principle, ‘Truth Well Told,’ in everything we do. We stand by the integrity with which this campaign was developed.”
The video of the ad has since been removed from the Department of Tourism’s official social media channels. The Philippine Department of Tourism held a press conference on Thursday, 15 June, to announce that it would be cutting ties with McCann and relaunching the procurement process to search for another creative agency of record.
“In the midst of this controversy, the Philippine Department of Tourism expects a public apology from McCann over the negative feedback that the department has been receiving, owing to the glaring similarities between McCann’s ‘Sights’ ad and South Africa’s ad released in 2014,” said the Department of Tourism’s assistant secretary, Frederick Alegre.
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