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RE: Changing of the guard at TBWA KL creative leadership

30 Apr 2017

Dear Eleanor Dickinson

There was NO changing of the guard involving me at TBWA KL.

Which means that your piece of “journalism” on 29 March, published by Mumbrella Asia with the headline Changing of the guard at TBWA KL creative leadership, should not have involved me in any way.

Eleanor Dickenson - Editor, Mumbrella Asia

Allow me to explain what a change of guard typically means by way of example.

When Sid Lee took over the advertising for Absolut Vodka from TBWA – that was a change of guard.

When BBDO took over the advertising for Visa from TBWA – that was a change of guard.

Actually, if you use the term “change of guard” as loosely as possible, when Gigi Lee took over the role of Chief Creative Officer for TBWA KL from Sa’ad Hussein, that is also apparently a change of guard.

But no matter how far you stretch the term “change of guard” it can never refer to my departure from TBWA KL to be replaced by Hex, Shireen and Siew Voon.

I resigned from TBWA KL in early January 2017. I had no issue concerning ethics before my resignation. I accepted an offer to join an agency that’s better aligned with my passion as a digital professional.

I was neither the brand guardian nor the creative leader for the Tealive account. My involvement in the incident was only that I am a supporter of Mutha Puaka and I had protested to the use of Mutha Puaka’s slogan “Never Fear The Strong” by TBWA KL to service TBWA’s client, Tealive.

Since I was already on the way out, I had no problems leaving before my notice period had ended. Sa’ad Hussein, Chairman of TBWA KL, personally approved my request. That should have been the end of that.

However, on 28 March, I received an email from you asking me whether my decision to leave TBWA KL had anything to do with its dispute with Mutha Puaka. I clearly informed you that it had nothing to do with it and that I had resigned in January 2017 and was serving out my notice period.

Then came your piece of “journalism” on 29 March 2017.

You have given so many people the impression that I was the one responsible for the Mutha Puaka dispute with Tealive when that is not true at all. I objected to the use of the Mutha Puaka slogan “Never Fear The Strong” when the problem was still only in TBWA KL. I objected after that and I continue to object because in my opinion, it is unethical. I may be wrong in my opinion, I do not say I am the only right one here, but at least my opinion is an honest one. Something that informs rather than misleads.

Your first publication was so harmful to me because it did not even mention that I was not working on the Tealive account.

I wrote to you and then only you amended your publication to concede that “Azman himself was not involved with the Tealive account.”

But a lot of damage had already been done. Many people in the advertising industry in Kuala Lumpur had started questioning me on whether I was the one who caused the Mutha Puaka dispute with TBWA KL. I got lawyers to write to your employers and we are still waiting for a positive response.

This open letter format that I have chosen is to let you know what you have done. People deserve to be rightfully informed.

There was no “changing of the guard” at TBWA KL involving me.

From what I know, until now, there is no change of guard at TBWA KL since the Mutha Puaka dispute erupted.

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