Copycatting? Questions raised over Kancil-winning work for Chinese liniment brand

China Skateboard project

Challenge Skateboard’s Chinese medicine-themed work

Dentsu Utama's work for Uyee Chinese Medicine Company

Dentsu Utama’s award-winning ad for Yu Lin Zheng Gu Shui

An award-winning poster campaign that helped an ad agency win top honours at Malaysia’s premier creative show has raised eyebrows because of the similarity in idea and execution to a design project for a Chinese skateboard decoration firm.

Dentsu Utama’s ‘Skateboard poster’ idea for Yu Lin Zheng Gu Shui topical liniment brand (pictured on the left) claimed more than a quarter of the agency’s total medal tally at the Kancil Awards, including eight silvers and 12 bronzes, pushing the agency to top of the medal tally. Dentsu Utama was named agency of the year at the ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on Friday last week.

However, the campaign bears some striking similarities to a series of Chinese medicine-themed designs by Challenge Skateboard, a company that produces designs for skateboards.

A link to a post on creative showcase website Behance, shared with Mumbrella, shows the same idea and similar execution used in a project called ‘What Chinese medicine’ for Challenge Skateboard’s Black Knight brand from three years ago.

Dentsu Utama’s designs for Yu Lin Zheng Gu Shui were, like the Black Knight work, used as both skateboard decoration and as posters. The designs both feature a bottle in the centre of the image and Chinese graphics.

The Yu Lin Zheng Gu Shui ads differ in that they feature images of skateboarders and body parts the product is intended to relieve pain for.

In response to Mumbrella’s query, Dentsu Utama’s ECD Chow Kok Keong said that his agency had not seen the ‘What Chinese medicine’ project before.

The organisers of the Kancils, the Malaysian 4As told Mumbrella: “The 4A’s is looking into the matter and seeking clarification from the Agency concerned. Once, we have the response, the Creative Council will make a decision.”

The campaign was intended to restore a 70 year-old brand’s lustre with younger consumers through the skateboard connection. The idea was also packaged in a case study video.

The agency claimed in its awards submission that the campaign spread in social media, “resulting in discussions among digital natives that helped extend the brand’s reach even further.”

Questions were raised about a big winner at the Kancil Awards last year too, when BBDO Malaysia’s Grand Kancil-winning ad for KFC was called out for copycatting.


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