The clash over campaign credits: Who gets the glory?

Jindal Steel's ‘The Steel of India’ campaign, which was initially held back by the Kyoorius jury and later withdrawn from the awards by Early Man Film, has secured two metals at the Cannes Lions on June 18. However, the creative agency behind the campaign, Wieden+Kennedy, remains missing. 

Pranali Tawte
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campaign credits

UPDATE: 19th June 

Jindal Steel's ‘The Steel of India’ campaign has been met with a lot of controversies and now with its recent recognition at the Cannes Lions, the question arises: where is the creative agency? 

As Early Man Film entered the campaign at the international festival of creativity, the production house credited Kondurkar Studio as the campaign’s creative agency. The original brains behind the campaign, Wieden+Kennedy, seems to be missing from this coveted list.

(Scroll below for earlier developments related to the controversy surrounding Jindal Steel’s ‘The Steel of India’ campaign)

The campaign has navigated a tumultuous journey, and its Cannes Lions recognition, despite the absence of its alleged original creative agency, raises questions about sharing due credits.

Wieden+Kennedy India told Social Samosa, “Delhi High Court verdict, clearly stated that prima facie the campaign was substantially similar to what we had presented to Jindal Steel, be it the theme, imagery or the sound design. The matter was subsequently settled out of the court to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.”

We reached out to Early Man Film and Amrish Kondurkar, Founder & Creative Director at Kondurkar Studio for their statements. As of June 19, we have not received a response yet.

In addition to the parties involved, we sought opinions from industry folks on creative ownership, murky ethical areas and many other questions that this tussle raises. 

Here’s what they are saying:

Adyasha Roy Tomar, Creative Director, McCann Worldgroup:

‘Whose idea is it anyway?’ is not a fun game to play at all. There is a lot of hard work at stake - goodwill is compromised. Egos are hurt. Creative ownership shouldn’t have to be so tricky. We just need to add method to the madness. A germ of an idea can come from anyone - that alone doesn’t make them the “be all and end all” of the idea. It takes a village to turn a germ of an insight into a gem of an idea leading to a great execution. Which is why the idea belongs to not one person - but to teams of people.

Now, since those teams of people were employed at so-and-so, it became the idea of the agency when they worked on it together. You can’t dismantle a great idea and sell it for parts. Easier said than done, of course. 

Chaaya Baradhwaaj, Founder & Managing Director, BC Web Wise:

This situation highlights the importance of recognizing and respecting the creative agencies behind impactful campaigns.  I firmly believe that proper acknowledgment of rightful contributors is crucial for maintaining integrity and trust within our industry. When creative ideas are credited accurately, it not only honors the hard work and innovation of those involved but also fosters a culture of fairness and respect, essential for the growth and sustainability of our industry.

Jackie Thakkar, Creative Director:

As a Creative Professional, it’s agonising when someone else is given credit for your hard work. Creative work is sometimes hard to define. In a client-agency relationship, the amount of research, insight-finding, ideations, reworks and rebukes that a Creative Agency has to endure is often left vague. And in my experience, individuals on the business side of things have a long history of exploiting this vagueness.

My heart breaks for the creative team at Wieden+Kennedy. Like most creatives out there, I’m sure a lot of them dreamt of winning a Cannes Lion for something they created. As for those who accepted the award - I can only hope that they make things right and share credit with those left uncredited. Or at least hold the teams seriously accountable for missing out on crediting the creative agency in the first place.

Jay Morzaria, Former Creative Head,

Both W+K and Early Man Films are reputed names. One came up with a vision and the other helped execute the vision. 

While I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, I don’t think it would have been the intent of Early Man to not credit the agency. My guess is that perhaps due to legal complications, they may have avoided naming the agency in the credits. 

When it comes to giving credit, it is definitely an important part of our business. The client needs to credit the agency, the agency needs to in turn credit the real team (not just senior leadership) and all the partners they may have worked with to execute the campaign. To me, that is an ethical way of giving and sharing credit for any piece of work.

Nisha Singhania, CEO & Managing Partner - Infectious:

Credits always need to be given where it’s due. W+K should get credit unless in the settlement it has not been explicitly stated that they will not get credit or stake claim to this work anywhere

Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner & CCO, Bang In The Middle:

There are two issues at play here. One is the larger and more ethical issue. That the client stole the idea and used it without crediting and perhaps paying the agency. This is an ongoing and rampant issue. The very nature of business and mode of idea sharing allow for deceit and deception to thrive. It’s very tempting for clients to make it their own. Once the idea is shared, verbally or in this case visually, instantly the power has passed from the agency to the client. All that prevents and protects the idea from being usurped and made into client property is ethics and integrity. The moment an idea has changed minds, and may intellectual property and all those fancy laws be damned, nothing stops a client from standing up and telling the agency that internally that had already thought about the same idea, or another agency (smaller and cheaper option) already presented the same idea. Or they can even retain the core idea or the kind of imagery, and choose to employ similar but different visuals. If one wants to cheat and mulct an agency, clients can be very lateral and creative. 

The second point is the absence of the agency name in the list of credits. While we all now know that the agency has been compensated for the wrong doing in this case, ideally the production company should have put in the agency name. After all, it's been proven that foul play was involved. While it could be a deliberate miss - for which there can be no excuse because the production house knew the true source of the idea. The only other reason why the agency name was omitted perhaps would be that when the film was being entered for the awards, idea ownership and agency claim etc. were still murky and tumbling around in public space without clarity. And the production house couldn’t take the just and fair call. There could also be other dark powers at play, but I wouldn’t want to dwell on them. As I said, the unclear legal standing at the time of entry is possibly what prevented the production house from crediting the agency. There is always the odd chance that the production house and the agency had a lot of nasty words to share between them and the non-inclusion of the agency name was a fallout of that still smouldering lava. Normally production agencies and advertising agencies do not cross paths for the wrong reasons. Both need each other for our businesses to flourish. But this isn’t the first time that an agency has been yanked out due credits. Clients do that very often - when acrimonious air exists, or the agency has been sacked, or the CMO is pissed, or even as trivial who is paying the expensive entry fees and why give someone a free ride.

Earlier developments

This heated legal clash over Jindal Steel's ‘Steel of India’ campaign had reached a decisive conclusion, marking the end of a contentious dispute that captivated the Indian advertising industry. At the center of this storm stood Jindal Steel - the client, Wieden + Kennedy (W+K) - the initial creative agency, and Early Man Film - the production house behind the campaign.

In April 2023, a Services Agreement was executed between petitioner (Wieden + Kennedy) and respondent (Jindal Steel) to develop a brand campaign to bring out the role of steel in shaping the nation, particularly in the 76th year of Indian independence and collaterally, make respondent synonymous with steel. 

Relevant provisions of the Services Agreement essentially provided that all advertising materials prepared and presented by the agency and accepted by the respondent will be transferred to the respondent, subject to the release of all the payments; those rejected by the respondent would remain the exclusive property of the petitioner.

The agency had moved to the court after Jindal Steel released a campaign in March 2024 alleging copyright infringement and dishonouring the service agreement.

The agency had submitted evidence before the court to show how the brand used the same set of examples through a series of images.

Jindal Steel 2

Jindal Steel


In April 2024, the Delhi High Court ruled that the ‘Jindal Steel-the Steel of India’ campaign is prima facie an act of stealing the idea presented by its creative agency, Wieden + Kennedy.

Negotiations ensued, and behind closed doors, Jindal Steel and W+K reached an amicable resolution, leading the Delhi High Court to confirm on May 8 that the parties had settled their disputes amicably. 

Later, seeing a new spark in the heated debate, the campaign was entered into the Kyoorius Creative Awards by Amrish Kondurkar studio, a creative boutique started by Wieden + Kennedy's former employee Amrish Kondurkar, and Early Man Film. Meanwhile, the Kyoorius Creative Awards jury grappled with their own conundrum. Should they judge the campaign solely on its craft, ignoring the legal wrangling? The jury unanimously refused to judge the campaign as the matter was subjudice.

On May 24, moments before the Kyoorius Creative Awards, Early Man Film withdrew all their entries and announced on its social media with a post that said, ‘Early Man has withdrawn all entries in film craft (including the ones that were shortlisted) from Kyoorius Creative Awards 2024. We were forced to take this drastic step. Our request to have our entries judged on the merit of the craft alone and not matters outside our purview was roundly ignored... This was a difficult decision, but we choose to be defined by our work and refuse to be dictated by vested interests.’

The above post has been deleted by the production house.



Following this, on June 10, Early Man Film and ASAP India shared a post that said, ‘Kyoorius and Early Man Film have mutually resolved the matter at hand along with the Association of Advertising Producers (ASAP), and will continue collaborations in the coming years.’

While such disputes often ignite industry discussions and are typically resolved behind closed doors, the conversation persists. Here’s what industry leaders are saying:

Emmanuel Upputuru, Founder & Creative Chairman, EFGH Brand Innovations, said, “Multiple layers are involved in it. The subject of ownership of an idea is complex because sometimes agencies claim, 'This is my idea, and the client has bought it.' But if you delve a little deeper, suppose the creative people who worked on the campaign have left the agency, and the agency continues to use the idea, and then those creative people use it at another agency; that also becomes complex. We've seen stories like that in different agencies. So, the issue of ownership is very complicated, and many people try to protect it with IP etc. But it's not possible in a realistic sense. You can file lawsuits and legal cases, and perhaps in one-off cases, the decision can go one way or the other.”

KV Sridhar, Global chief Creative Officer Nihilent Limited, said, "This is a complex issue. For the last 48 years that I’ve been in advertising, ideas have often been treated as freely given. When working with a client, the ideas generated for them tend to remain with the client. There is usually no written contract specifying ownership, only an agreement that the agency will generate ideas and collaborate with the client.

This lack of clarity has made the concept of idea ownership nebulous from the beginning. Unlike in other industries where copyrights and royalties are established, like music or film, advertising ideas have no such protections. For example, a music director gets paid royalties for the use of their compositions, and filmmakers have legal agreements specifying usage rights. However, in advertising, ideas are often provided without any formal protections or respect for their value.

Historically, advertising agencies and their creative staff haven't valued their own ideas adequately. They often operate under the assumption that whatever ideas their employees generate belong to the agency, especially if they are being compensated well. As a result, the ideas have been given away very freely.

The respect for creativity is diminishing because everything has become transactional and it is fragmented. It is no more based on the idea but on the opportunity to see (OTS), the number of impressions where what the impression is doesn’t matter but the numbers do. Creativity is taking a back seat. 

One needs to understand copyright and then articulate, protect, nurture, and benefit from their idea. Additionally, it’s important to be careful about how much credit is given to others. Often, anyone who was present during the process will claim they contributed to the ad. However, the idea typically originates from one person, and then perhaps two people refine it with considerable effort. Despite this, everyone tends to take credit. Proper idea management should precede idea evaluation.

To address these issues, the advertising industry needs to revamp its approach to intellectual property. This might involve implementing mechanisms similar to those in the music or film industries, where ideas and creative contributions are formally registered and protected. Until such changes are made, the industry's handling of creative ideas will remain fragmented and undervalued, often leading to conflicts and unresolved disputes over ownership."

Neville Shah, CCO, FCB Kinnect, said, “When discussing intellectual property (IP), it's important to remember that an idea wouldn't exist without the initial brief. Whether I or an agency came up with the idea, it wouldn't exist without the desire for it, so it's a chicken-and-egg situation. In advertising, this leads to conflicts over who truly owns the idea.

Consider the scenario where ideas are being bought and sold. If someone were to buy the Mona Lisa tomorrow, does that make the buyer the owner, or is Da Vinci still the owner because the transaction took place?”

Ram Madhvani, Filmmaker, Producer, Founder - Equinox Films, Ram Madhvani Films & Equinox Virtual, said, “This gets into a legal conversation, and legally, I’m not an expert on the specifics. Then it becomes a moral and ethical discussion. Ethics and morals are personal—they're not legally binding. For example, when I interact with an agency or a client about an idea, I always encourage them to use it, even if I’m not going to be a filmmaker. I believe in the democracy of ideas and don't support the tyranny of the idea, which is the notion that the idea must strictly belong to its originator. This is my personal moral stance: if you came to me, we discussed it, and now it’s out there, it’s fine. If it works out, great. If somebody else develops it, I’m interested to see how it turns out. Whether others share this view is open for debate.

But should a production house get the contest for a campaign in an award show when the client is blamed for idea theft brings us to the importance of verifying the chain of events. In OTT and movies, we have a scriptwriters' association where ideas are registered. If someone steals the idea, you have proof of ownership. In advertising, there should be a similar method to establish ownership. Perhaps the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) needs to address this. If there's a dispute, it should go back to who actually created it.”

Jindal Steel Campaign idea theft The Steel of India Kyoorius Early Man Film Earlyman Film