Andersen Press has launched a trade-wide marketing campaign for Chris Riddell's classic picture book Mr Underbed, after Riddell accused retailer John Lewis of plagiarising it in its new Christmas advert.
Last week, Riddell pointed out on social media that he thought the retailer's advert, which featured a big, snoring monster called Moz living under a child’s bed, was very similar to his first picture book Mr Underbed (Andersen Press), which also features a large but lovable furry monster.
According to the book's publisher, the dispute led to an increase in sales of Riddell's title and lead to it selling out of stock "overnight". The press is now "rushing through" a reprint of the title to get it out to shops before Christmas.
Capitalising on the controversy, Andersen Press has also launched a marketing campaign "seeking justice" for Mr Underbed which it is calling 'The Battle of The Monsters'. It aims to see Mr Underbed go "head-to-head" with Moz The Monster, published by Nosy Crow which has a partnership with John Lewis, in the charts. To help achieve its aims, Andersen Press is sending new point of sale material to more than 500 bookshop and launching an illustration competition for the public to design their own monster. The winning entry will have their illustration re-created by Riddell himself.
Riddell told The Bookseller: “I think it is important for creative people to get the recognition for the work they do. When one is influenced by something, it is good to acknowledge that.”
Andersen Press, founder and publisher, Klaus Flugge said of the John Lewis advert: “We couldn’t believe the similarities when Chris showed them to us. We want our very own Mr Underbed to beat the competition in the charts this Christmas with our campaign that is available to all retailers. Stock is on the way and we are ready for battle!”
A spokesperson for John Lewis however has refuted the claim that the advert draws on Riddell's book, saying the story of a monster under the bed is a "universal tale which has been told many times over many years".
Speaking to The Bookseller, Riddell said he had "a lot of sympathy" for the retailer, but that it is important to credit influencers and creatives for their ideas.
"I have a lot of sympathy for John Lewis in many respects", Riddell said. "I love the Christmas ad - it's wonderful, creative, joyful. The issue to raise is when using ideas - to be upfront about crediting influencers. It provoked a huge response from the children's picture book community who feel under-appreciated whose ideas often get co-opted and used without credit."
Riddell added: "I don't think [plagiarism] is rife, but at the same time it's not uncommon. It might be more relevant now in the age of social media and influences being shared widely. In these situations it's good to know where ideas come from and who to credit. I hope this story encourages young creative people to carry on doing work and defending their own copyright."