After plagiarism claims, Malaysian ad firm disqualified from Kancil awards

A screenshot of the contentious Dentsu Utama WWF ad, titled ‘Cross River Gorilla’ and depicts the critically endangered animal in circles, strikingly similar to Anders’ design.
A screenshot of the contentious Dentsu Utama WWF ad, titled ‘Cross River Gorilla’ and depicts the critically endangered animal in circles, strikingly similar to Anders’ design.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — Malaysia’s most prestigious advertising awards, the Kancils, has disqualified two submissions from local advertising agency Dentsu Utama following allegations of plagiarism, industry portal Mumbrella Asia reported today.

One of the works was “Professional Man”, its campaign for Internet privacy awareness firm Web Privacy Watch, which advertisement industry body Malaysia 4As found contained “almost identical images” to an optical illusion piece titled “The Architect” by Swedish artist Erik Johansson.

The other was “Cross River Gorilla”, an anti-poaching campaign for World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, which Malaysia 4As said was similar to the work of a UK-based design student whose complaint was publicised on the Reddit link-sharing site.

“An investigation was initiated by the 4As following various complaints of the obvious similarities to the original creations.

“This action is being taken to remedy a contentious situation while upholding the principles of eligibility for the Kancil Awards,” Tan Kien Eng, Kancils jury chairman and chief executive of advertising agency Leo Burnett Malaysia, told Mumbrella.

Tan confirmed that both original artists have shown that their work was published prior to the two submissions by Dentsu Utama.

“Cross River Gorilla” won 26 bronze awards and three silvers at 2015’s Kancils last month, while “Professional Man” won six bronzes, resulting in Dentsu Utama winning the agency of the year award.

Last month, 21-year-old Tom Anders Watkins alleged that Dentsu Utama had copied his artwork for the then award-winning WWF campaign.

In response, Dentsu Utama told Malay Mail Online that it took Watkins’ claim seriously and was trying to contact him on the matter.

However, earlier this month, Watkins tweeted that Dentsu Utama had rejected his allegation of intellectual property infringement because its works has “added crosshairs”, compared to his original work.

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