Safaricom dismisses Transcend Media copyright infringement accusations

December 5, 2016
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Safaricom's BLAZE campaign targets youth. The content of the campaign is the subject of court proceedings/Photo - blaze
Safaricom’s BLAZE campaign targets youth. The content of the campaign is the subject of court proceedings/Photo – blaze

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 5 – Safaricom Limited has responded to accusations that it infringed on intellectual property rights of a media agency in a campaign targeting the youth segment.

Transcend Media Group moved to court to stop Safaricom from further rolling out of the BLAZE campaign, naming Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore, 7 other senior managers and Seracen Media as respondents in the motion filed on 18th November 2016.

In court papers seen by Capital Business, Safaricom says the move by Transcend is ‘draconic’ and intended to frustrate and derail Safaricom’s business operations.

“The performance and execution of the said contracts is ongoing, is at an advanced stage and grant of any of the said Orders would occasion irreparable loss and damage to the 1st Respondent (Safaricom) and to third parties who have not enjoined in this suit,” says Safaricom’s Principal In-house Counsel, Daniel Ndaba.

Furthermore, Safaricom says stopping the BLAZE campaigns will be premature before a full hearing of the suit, and that contracted third parties – who will be affected by a ruling – have not been given a chance to respond to the filing.

The response by Safaricom offers a detailed breakdown of how the BLAZE campaign was conceptualized internally, the inclusion of creative agencies and the eventual roll out.

According to the mobile telco, the marketing department crafted the overarching theme of ‘Success is not conventional’ targeting the youth segment.

In September 2015, Safaricom invited several research companies for a brainstorm and further refining of the concept, with the companies requested to send their submissions in relation to the brief.

The process saw Youth Dynamix (YDX) identified as Safaricom’s youth research partner.

Safaricom then briefed its agency Scanad to develop the creative work and craft communication assets, but due to the scope and scale of the BLAZE campaign, the telco company decided to engage a second creative digital agency to specifically handle BLAZE.

Among the agencies asked by Safaricom to bid and pitch for the handling of the Blaze campaign included Transcend Media, Express DDB, Seven Brands, Media Edge Interactive, Brainwave Communications, Nuturn Limited, Fox 2P Advertising and eventual winners, Seracen Media Kenya.

In its court filing Transcend says there are similarities between its presentation and the final BLAZE campaign content, essentially accusing Safaricom of lifting and using sections of the pitch by Transcend.

But Safaricom says the brief sent to the shortlisted agencies had a broad, cross-cutting theme aimed for the ‘Youth and discerning professionals segments.’

The brief, Safaricom says, contained details of consumer segmentation and the brand guidelines outlining the scope and expected standards of the pitch.

“It follows from the foregoing that all the responses to the RFP (Request for Proposal) were required have similar characteristics as provided in the agency pitch brief…the difference would only occur in the respective bidders presentation or enactment of the 1st Respondent’s proposition,” says Safaricom.

“Accordingly, the applicant’s (Transcend) purported grievance that there are certain similarities between its presentation and the final BLAZE campaign content is misconceived.”

Safaricom says while Transcend ranked very well in terms of creativity, the agency failed to demonstrate the centrality of a digital strategy, a factor Safaricom had underpinned in the initial stages.

But in what might be the decisive action to lock out Transcend, Safaricom considered the agency ranked very low in terms of ethics and in breach of the Safaricom’s code of conduct.

“There were serious integrity issues as far as the Applicant and its principals and officials are concerned, particulars whereof are well within the Applicant’s knowledge,” states the response.

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