After being accused of plagiarising a 21-year-old European design student’s work for a WWF ad campaign titled “Cross River Gorilla” which went on to win a Silver Award for “Outdoor Advertising” at Malaysia’s Kancil Awards, it opened up a can of worms for local advertising agency Dentsu Utama.

The news quickly led to an investigation by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As), which resulted in the disqualification of a number of Kancil Awards won by Dentsu Utama.

Marketing Magazine quoted Creative Council Chairman and CEO of Leo Burnett Tan Kien Eng as saying, “This action is being taken to remedy a contentious situation while upholding the principles of eligibility for the Kancil Awards.”

According to him, all awards won in relation to the creative work – an anti-poaching WWF (Indonesia) campaign titled, “Cross River Gorilla” and a Web Privacy Watch internet privacy awareness campaign titled “Professional Man” – will be disqualified given the sufficiently close similarities. On top of that, the original creators also shown proof that their works were posted much earlier than Dentsu Utama’s entry submissions.

Note: “Professional Man” appeared to contain “almost identical images” to an optical illusion piece titled “The Architect” by Swedish artist Erik Johansson.

“The decision to disqualify the awards for both creative works was taken after we had explored all possible scenarios. In the end, the facts were overwhelmingly in favour of the original creators,” Kien added.

But Dentsu Utama wasn’t going to take this sitting down, no siree! The agency decided to not only return the recent awards, but all 71 Kancil awards that it has ever won – including “Agency of the Year”. On top of that, Dentsu Utama and its representatives have also resigned from the 4As with immediate effect.

Source: bastion-design.com
Source: bastion-design.com

The agency’s official response to Marketing Magazine reads:

“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.

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As a result, Dentsu Utama and its representatives will resign from the 4As with immediate effect. Dentsu Utama is also returning all 71 Kancil awards including Agency of the Year (AOTY).

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

No further statements will be made at this moment in time.”

Upon hearing the news, Organising Chairman of Kancil Awards 2015 and Group CEO of FCB Kuala Lumpur T. Renganathan told Marketing Magazine, “It is regrettable but I can understand their position.”

Source: Dentsu Utama's Facebook page
Source: Dentsu Utama’s Facebook page

The recent annual awards event was the 20th anniversary of the Kancil Awards. The slew of awards won by Dentsu Utama helped the agency cinch the “Agency of the Year” title at the Kancil Awards 2015.

Sources: Dentsu Utama’s Facebook pageMarketing Magazine (1), Marketing Magazine (2), Kancil Awards’ website, Mumbrella.

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Lainey
Eats, sleeps, & breathes music, but drinks mostly coffee & okay, some wine - sometimes, a little too much. A little too obsessed with the number seven, is deathly afraid of horror movies, believes that she writes better than she speaks, & currently feeling a little strange writing a profile about herself.