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Plagiarism row: HDFC Bank’s Vigil Aunty campaign accused of being lifted

The campaign titled ‘Vigil Aunty’ is accused of being plagiarised from author and artist Appupen's character that was created in 2016.

By  Saumya TewariAug 22, 2022 4:46 PM
Plagiarism row: HDFC Bank’s Vigil Aunty campaign accused of being lifted
Created by advertising agency Kinnect, HDFC Bank's ‘Vigil Aunty’ is accused of being "plagiarised" from author and artist Appupen's character that was created in 2016 for the Indie satire comics called Halahala.

It is an irony of sorts that HDFC Bank’s campaign that talks about fraud detection and prevention is now being accused of plagiarism. Created by advertising agency Kinnect, the campaign titled ‘Vigil Aunty’ is accused of being plagiarised from author and artist Appupen's character that was created in 2016 for the Indie satire comic called Halahala comics.

Users have been flagging the uncanny resemblance to Appupen's original character across social media.

The artist has also taken to Instagram to mock HDFC ad campaign through his comic strip which also includes HDFC campaign’s protagonist Anuradha (Anu) Menon, well-known for playing the character of Lola Kutty.

His caption read “Vigil Aunty’s journey from indie satire comic to mainstream bigbucks advertising is all about power and fear. And it changed her. Adspoof."

The resemblance in HDFC Bank's Vigil Aunty and Appupen’s creation ends at the name though.

Appupen’s satirical character is a saffron-clad, moral policing Vigil Aunty, while HDFC Bank’s protagonist (played by Menon) is a good samaritan who takes it upon herself to protect people from online financial frauds.

The HDFC campaign is a long-drawn initiative which will feature Menon in a series of videos, reels, and chat shows, as Vigil Aunty as she creates awareness on safe banking do's and don'ts. The new awareness initiative is targeted to complement the bank's popular 'Mooh Band Rakho' campaign which urges people not to share their confidential banking information with others.

While advertising agency Kinnect has declined to comment on the issue, an email sent to HDFC Bank remained unanswered at the time of publishing this report.

Sambit Mohanty, creative head, McCann Worldgroup thinks that ‘Vigil Aunty’ is a great pun on ‘vigilante’ - and admittedly Appupen was the first to use it for a character - as part of his ‘Rashtraman’ comic series on Instagram.

“I feel the agency should’ve been more careful in its choice of nomenclature as it’s a well-known online satirical series. In a world where everything is perennially under scrutiny, such instances of intellectual property infringement can be glaring,” he notes.

However, Mohanty is quick to add that to give the agency the benefit of doubt, if the name wasn’t ‘inspired’ it ought to put out a disclaimer in this regard.

First Published on Aug 19, 2022 6:05 PM