Blaze, Safaricom’s promotional product targeting the youth population, is in the storm following allegations that the idea was stolen from one of the leading consultancy firms in the country.
The current tussle in form of a court case ropes in Transcend Media Group as the complainant and Safaricom, Saracen Media Kenya and Fieldstone Helms Limited among eight other individuals as defendants.
In the case, Transcend Media alleges that they are the originators of the Blaze idea, which they submitted to the giant telco in February 2016.
Transcend avers that in January 2016, Safaricom invited it to participate in a tender by way of a “Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Safaricom ATL/BTL Creative and Digital Services” whereby the bidders were required to conceptualize and develop a Communication Strategy and Creative execution targeting the youth market segment.
On February 12, 2016, Transcend submitted, via Safaricom’s S-Hub online portal, its bid documents under the titles and creative concepts identified as Tribe Digital, Hack it, Next Nation and Safcom 2.0.
On February 17, 2016, Transcend made a presentation to Safaricom’s evaluation panel and the second stage of the bid entailed Safaricom’s evaluation team conducting due diligence on the invited bidders at their offices.
“Having successfully passed the evaluation stage, the Plaintiff was invited on 2nd March 2016 to make a final presentation to the 1st Defendant’s Executive Committee,” court documents read in part.
Among the agencies which were shortlisted in the final stages of the pitch were Transcend Media Group Limited, Brainwave Communications and Saracen Media Limited in collaboration with 5ive Limited and Bean Limited (as a Consortium).
On April 15, 2016, Safaricom formally communicated to Transcend directors via a conference call that the company was unsuccessful and that they were not at liberty to reveal the successful bidder or give any reasons why Transcend was not awarded the tender.
However, in May 2016, Transcend learned that Saracen Media Limited had April 4, 2016, won the tender though their winning bid did not include 5ive Limited who were part of the initial consortium.
Safaricom, through Saracen Media Limited, started rolling out a youth-targeted campaign known as “Blaze Kenya” through Saracen Media.
According to Transcend, Blaze Kenya was copied from their concept “Next Nation” which “was adopted in style, presentation and layout”.
“The plaintiff avers that it later established that the execution of the In Defendant’s “Blaze Kenya” campaign by Saracen Media Limited was done in collaboration with a company called Fieldstone Helms Limited. A search conducted on the company has established that the directors of the company include the Thomas Omanga and his wife Susan Wangui Waiyaki,” revealed court documents.
In an investigation conducted differently on another case, e-mail correspondence obtained through forensic retrieval for the period from March 16, 2016, to April 15, 2016, demonstrated that there was a conspiracy between Safaricom and the defendants to fraudulently award the tender to Saracen Media Limited and to execute the creative and digital strategy by adopting Transcend’s copyrighted work.
In conjunction with Saracen Media Limited, Safaricom is said to have forced four of Transcend’s employees Thomas Omanga, Timla Tieng, Brian Oyugi and Christine Muchendu, to resign and work on the “Blaze Kenya” campaign for the benefit of Safaricom while the tendering process was on-going.
“Working in collusion with Saracen Media Limited and the Plaintiff’s employees, Thomas Omanga, Timla Tieng, Brian Oyugi and Christine Muchendu to use the Plaintiff’s copyrighted work in order to create the 1st Defendant’s marketing platform known as ‘Blaze Kenya’ campaign,” court documents read.
“In direct collusion with Saracen Media Limited, the 1st Defendant actively orchestrated the resignation of Thomas Omanga, Timla Tieng, Brian Oyugi and Christine Muchendu.”
Salaries for some of the employees were even doubled, to make them available “immediately”.
The four were to work with Saracen through another company, Fieldstone Helms Ltd. Fieldstone Helms was to be the Creative Agency providing strategy, account management and creative services. On the other hand, Saracen Media Ltd was to work as the Media Agency providing digital media communications, media planning and buying.
According to e-mail conversations seen by this writer, Saracen wanted things rectified as early as March 18, 2016, since they had secured the deal. At this time, the tendering process was still ongoing.
In an e-mail dated March 18, 2018, by George Wanjohi to Sammy Thuo and Lenny Nganga, Saracen admitted that it did not have the creative element to execute the project. This was the probable reasoning behind poaching Transcend Media employees.
The poached “team” held several meetings with Safaricom representatives, according to correspondences in our possession. Further meetings were held with Saracen Media in their offices.
Transcend is now seeking compensation of Ksh208 million for the loss of retainer fees for the Blaze Campaign for the contractual period of two years.
Transcend also laments the loss of agency fees and commissions of Ksh288 million on the Blaze Campaign based on an annual budget of Ksh800 million.
The company also cites the loss of the tender pitching costs Ksh19,560,240.
In total, Transcend Media is seeking compensation of at least Ksh1.6 billion for damages and losses relating to the tender.
Transcend also wants Safaricom and Saracen Media stopped from doing the campaign.