BBC rejects accusation of plagiarism over Winter Olympics ad

London animation studio This Thing of Ours said it took its concept to the BBC in March 2020.

BBC Creative: worked with animation studio Blinkink on ad and said neither was aware of This Thing of Ours' concept
BBC Creative: worked with animation studio Blinkink on ad and said neither was aware of This Thing of Ours' concept

The BBC has denied claims of plagiarism made by animation studio This Thing of Ours against the broadcaster's Winter Olympics ad.

The London studio claimed the ad – "Extreme by nature", which earned a Campaign Pick of the Week – bears similarities to its stop-motion animation “Sub surface”, which was created in February 2020.

However, in its response, the BBC said This Thing of Ours emailed the idea to BBC Marketing, a separate department to BBC Creative, which was responsible for creating the spot.

The production company, Blinkink, said "Sub surface" was not mentioned during the briefing process but acknowledged it did use it as a reference, alongside many others. However, Blinkink also highlighted the similarities between "Sub surface" and a music video directed by "Extreme by nature" director Balázs Simon four years ago.

In the BBC ad, a figure encased in a block of ice switches between different winter sports.

In the This Thing of Ours' film, an astronaut is encased within a cube of ice as it runs and jumps. Alex Robinson directed the This Thing of Ours work with animation by Norik Imami and photography by Chris Stevens.

A spokesperson for This Thing of Ours said: "In March 2020 we proactively took ['Sub surface'] to the BBC as a potential approach for a Winter Olympics ad, including a rough storyline and art direction. Our small test was self-funded.

"The BBC responded to say they hadn't started planning for the Winter Olympics, and that it would be best to pick it up in the new year. So, you can imagine our surprise when we saw their spot drop at the weekend.

"We totally appreciate that people take inspiration from everywhere, but having presented this idea to the BBC in the first place, and to have not even been invited to pitch to deliver it, this seems very unfair.

"It reflects a wider issue in our industry around the IP presented to prospective clients and a lack of respect towards agencies when it comes to the use of their ideas."

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The BBC responded to the claims after a query from Campaign with the following statement: “BBC Creative worked closely with animation studio Blinkink – who is well known for the use of 3D printing, sculpting, and animating – on the original concept and design for the BBC’s Winter Olympics trail.

“We receive a high volume of ideas from external agencies every day and, while it is not uncommon for ideas that come from different creatives to be similar, neither BBC Creative nor Blinkink had any knowledge of this contact to BBC Marketing.”

Bart Yates, executive producer at Blinkink, said “Sub surface” is a “beautiful piece of animation” but added it was "never mentioned"  during the briefing stage of the project.

Yates said: “We developed the final script, our animation technique, and the aesthetic of the film during creative development and pre-production, with a team of artists and technicians led by director Balázs Simon.

“During our research phase, we explored different 3D printing and animation techniques on the internet. We found 'Sub surface' and used it as a reference, alongside many, many other references.

Yates further highlighted that Simon made a music video of a similar style four years ago for artist Yoe Mase.

He said: “Funnily enough when we saw 'Sub surface' for the first time, we noted the conceptual similarity to a music video for Yoe Mase that Balázs created four years ago, and wondered whether that had been an inspiration for them.”

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