Cannes Lions 2023: Two leading agencies send ‘similar’ campaigns

The entries sent by Dentsu Creative and VMLY&R have a striking resemblance. Will this be a cause for concern?

e4m by Tanzila Shaikh
Published: May 22, 2023 1:26 PM  | 4 min read
Cannes Lions

Two Cannes Lions entries from India may land in trouble for striking similarities in the products and the execution of the campaign, sent by two leading creative agencies. e4m has learnt that Dentsu’s Mortein - ‘Suraksha ka Kaala Teeka’ entry and VMLY&R’s Maxx Flash – ‘Arogya Bindu’ entry appear to be replicas.

Both agencies have sent their entries to the international advertising festival in the same category - Branded Experience. One of the agencies when contacted by e4m said they were not taking any objection against the concept of the campaign but the authenticity of the product.


Mortein’s campaign by Dentsu Creative: In order to join the fight against malaria in Bareilly, Reckitt's household pesticide brand Mortein and Dentsu Creative India unveiled their new campaign "Suraksha Ka Teeka". The awareness campaign is intended to capitalise on the common practice of applying " kaala teeka" and to spread information about vector-borne disease prevention.

The common practice of placing a teeka on children's foreheads to ward off the "evil eye" practised by a majority of Indian households across the country has been reimagined as "Suraksha Ka Teeka", and is being distributed as part of a malaria awareness campaign. At Mortein Advanced Research Lab, the teeka was reformulated and given a natural ingredient infusion to serve as a natural insect repellant.

The Dentsu Creative campaign for Mortein

VMLY&R’s campaign for Maxx Flash ‘Arogya Bindu’: One of the main causes of India's mortality rate among children under five is dengue and malaria. Tribal communities that belong to lower socio-economic classes account for about 50% of all these fatalities. Their houses frequently lack sufficient windows and doors and mosquito protection. Mosquito-repellent company Maxx Flash wants to assist and offer a practical means for new mothers to safeguard their infants.

The goal was to persuade moms to develop the habit of protecting their children with mosquito repellent while maintaining their cultural practices. At a low cost of Rs 20 per household, aiming to deploy a solution in two states that would benefit about 50,000 moms.

Arogya Bindu shields the infant for up to 4 hours while being completely safe for the baby's delicate skin. It uses natural components that have been endorsed by the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research).

The VMLY&R campaign for Maxx Flash

‘Quite similar’

Highly placed sources in Dentsu Creative India have confirmed to e4m that they were going to raise concerns about the campaign to authorities in the international awards festival. “Maxx Flash - Arogya Bindu lacks authenticity and the product is illegitimate”, said a Dentsu insider. The campaign is quite similar to Dentsu Creative’s - Mortien’s ‘Suraksha ka Kaala Teeka’.

The source confirmed that Dentsu was raising concerns about the product, questioning its legitimacy since both campaigns and products are on similar lines. Dentsu India has roped in their global team and they'll soon be coming up with an official statement, e4m has learnt.

Dentsu Creative says it has been working on the concept of kaala teeka since 2020 and Mortein created the product in 2022. It was given to women as part of a public awareness drive in the Bareilly area, which is responsible for over 50% of all malaria infections in Uttar Pradesh, the largest state in India.

e4m reached out to Dentsu Creative India for an official statement but they have refused to share any comment as of now. 

Basis on our conversation, sources in VMLY&R claimed their product is very much listed and there is no evidence that the other agency started working on the product before them. "We can also claim that we started working on it since 2019, it's a matter of concern and needs to be probed".

About the product

Marketed by Maruti Platorub Industries, Maxx Flash - Arogya Bindu was launched in March 2023. The product is not listed on the company’s official website and there is no information on it either.

Asked about why they found the product unauthentic, the source from Dentsu Creative said, “Working closely with Reckitt helped the agency to understand the category better”.

The source also said that in order to get a product out in the market, which serves infants and children, it needs a number of approvals. “Since Maxx Flash has not followed the same, the genuineness of the product comes under question.” Hence, the agency feels the campaign is not a legit competitor at advertising festivals.

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