Nisha Qureshi

Dentsu and VMLY&R squabble over the legitimacy of similar Cannes Lions entry

The agencies are questioning the legitimacy of each other's campaign that have entered Cannes.

Two Cannes Lions entries from India that are both focused on fighting Malaria seem to have a striking resemblance. Now, Dentsu’s Mortein - ‘Suraksha ka Kaala Teeka’ and VMLY&R’s Maxx Flash – ‘Arogya Bindu’ campaigns have both been questioned by the respective agencies for their ‘legitimacy’. 

The campaigns 

Suraksha Ka Teeka- Mortein and DENTSU CREATIVE India came together to unveil their new initiative ‘Suraksha Ka Teeka’ to participate in the fight against malaria in Bareilly. The campaign/ awareness program aims at leveraging the Indian practice of applying ‘kala teeka’ on the foreheads of toddlers and babies. 

The practice has been revamped as ‘Suraksha Ka Teeka’  and as a part of the campaign, DENTSU CREATIVE has distributed specially manufactured ‘teekas’ in the houses of Bareilly. As per the company, the teeka will act as a repellent and save the young ones from mosquitoes. 

Arogya Bindu- VMLY&R’s Arogya Bindu campaign for Maxx Flash has also developed a ‘kala teeka’ that others can use on their children to protect them from mosquitoes. According to the company, this product is available can be purchased for Rs 20. 

Both these campaigns have entered the Cannes Lions Branded Experience categories.

While it is anticipated how Cannes will handle the situation, the agencies have responded and questioned the legitimacy of each other’s said products. 

According to sources at Dentsu Creative, the concern is not the idea but the legitimacy of the other idea.

As per the official statement from the agency, 'Suraksha Ka Teeka' was specifically designed to safeguard infants and young children from the threat of malaria, with utmost attention given to their safety and compliance with all regulations pertaining to small-scale market distribution. Recognising the significant impact of malaria in Bareilly, one of the most severely affected regions, it was chosen as the primary location of the dedicated efforts to support the local community. The product was distributed to mothers through a comprehensive awareness campaign. 

“Two agencies can come up with the same idea and that has happened before. The concern is not the idea but the legitimacy of the other idea.  If you look at the VML campaign’s release it states that it has been available for months that it is available for anyone to buy. However, the only way you can actually get the product is from IndiaMart. We called up IndiaMart and they said the minimum order will be 50,000 pieces.” 

“IndiaMart is a B2B platform and the only way you can get it is when you order 50,000 packs which cost 10 lakhs. When we called up Indiamart they said that the product doesn't exist and is not launched yet. It'll take a few months before it can be made and shared. We have recordings of the conversation with them saying all this. This is a clear sign of something not being legitimate and on the other side saying, it’s available for anyone to buy,” says the source.

“Ours was a pro-bono exercise, and we widely distributed it in Bareilly. You can visit any village in Bareilly and you can find it there. The activity was done with Mortein and ‘Malaria No More’ and since Bareilly is the most affected by malaria it was where we decided to protect children. The product is compliant with all the Government regulations/mandates as it is to be applied on infants and toddlers,” the source revealed. 

“Someone can come up with a similar creative, that is not the issue however, this also puts us in question. It’s not fair. Something that is not true should not create a shadow on something that is,” they add.

An insider from VMLY&R states that they will be flagging the timeline of the campaign to the Cannes authorities. According to them, there was no news about Dentsu’ campaign in the media while their campaign was covered by the national media in March. 

“Our product is listed on Maxx Flash’s website and IndiaMart while theirs is not and available for purchase on IndiaMart(a wholesale website. That clearly speaks volumes about the situation. Our product is listed as well as certified. It is very evident which is a legitimate product and which isn’t.” 

An official statement from VMLY&R India that comes a day after the story broke states that, "Arogya Bindu has been lab tested and certified. It has been distributed across villages in Maharashtra and Gujarat along with an education and awareness campaign. It is currently available for purchase at grocery stores in several districts, as well as on IndiaMart for wholesale buyers. This product is a natural extension of The Killer Pack, which VMLY&R and Maxx Flash launched last year. The Killer Pack is a bio-degradable and mosquito-repellent packaging solution to keep India safe from mosquitos both inside and outside the home."

"This year, VMLY&R and Maxx Flash continue their mission to empower mothers to protect their new-borns effectively. The objective is to encourage the adoption of mosquito-repellent habits by leveraging existing consumer behaviour that's rooted in culture," the agency adds.

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