Dentsu Utama resigns from 4As over 'unfounded' Kancil disqualification in Malaysia

Dentsu Utama has announced that it and its representatives have resigned from the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) in protest at what it calls an "unfounded" judgment of plagiarism that led the organisation to revoke Kancil Awards for two of its campaigns.

Left: Work by Tom Anders Watkins; Right: Dentsu Utama's 'Cross River Gorilla'
Left: Work by Tom Anders Watkins; Right: Dentsu Utama's 'Cross River Gorilla'

Tan Kien Eng, creative council chairman and CEO of Leo Burnett Malaysia, said in a statement that the 4As initiated an investigation following various complaints about the obvious similarities of three award-winning campaigns to earlier creations, initially reported by Mumbrella late last year.

"We take a serious view of work that are deemed sufficiently close to works created originally elsewhere," he said. "This action is being taken to remedy a contentious situation while upholding the principles of eligibility for the Kancil Awards."

Dentsu's statement, provided to Campaign Asia-Pacific, reads as follows:

On 29 December Dentsu Utama was accused of plagiarism, a claim it strongly disputes. Responding to these accusations, Dentsu Utama began an internal investigation into this allegation, supported by independent legal advice. The conclusion was that such accusations are unfounded.

Throughout this period Dentsu Utama has been openly cooperating with the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As) on this issue. Dentsu Utama, without being given the opportunity to defend itself, has now been informed that eight of the Kancil awards related to the WWF Anti-Poaching Cross River Gorilla, and the Web Privacy Watch – Professional Man campaigns won in December 2015, will be revoked. A decision which we believe is unsupported.


As a result, Dentsu Utama and its representatives will resign from the 4As with immediate effect.

Dentsu Utama will continue its dialogue with the individual artists on this issue and continue to support its opinion that the allegations are unfounded.

'Professional Man' (above) was found by the 4As to be remarkably similar to the work of Swedish artist Erik Johansson's optical illusion piece called The Architect. And 'Cross River Gorilla', when compared to the work of British design student Tom Anders Watkins, was found to be almost identical (both works are pictured at the top of this article).

Tan said the decision to disqualify the awards for both creative works was not taken lightly as the 4As had explored all possible scenarios.

"In the end, the facts were overwhelmingly in favour of the original creators," Tan said. "The foreign works were posted in public ahead of the date of publication, as notified in the entry submission by Dentsu Utama," said Tan, adding that the original creators have also shown proof that their works were posted much earlier.

The 4As ruled that a third award-winning campaign that had drawn criticism did not breach any copyright laws, and the awards for that campaign will not be withdrawn. ‘Skateboard poster’, on behalf of Yu Lin Zheng Gu Shui (a topical liniment brand) drew fire for similarity to designs by Challenge Skateboard, a company that produces designs for skateboards. 

This article first appeared on campaignasia.com.

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