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Safaricom asks court to stop ad agency’s alleged corruption letters to Vodafone

Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore. PHOTO | FILE
Safaricom chief executive Bob Collymore. PHOTO | FILE 

Telecoms operator Safaricom has sued advertising agency Transcend Media Group for writing a damning letter to its majority shareholder — British multinational Vodafone —regarding a Sh208 million tender for running a youth campaign.

Safaricom has asked the High Court to stop Transcend from further linking it to tender-related corruption, arguing that the advertising agency’s allegations are an attempt to hijack the multimillion-shilling deal that was awarded to its rival Saracen Media Limited.

Transcend in its letter to Vodafone alleged that it won the “Blaze” (youth campaign) tender but Safaricom went ahead to hand Saracen the lucrative deal.

Transcend also claims that Safaricom engineered the resignation of some of its senior staff, who formed a company to partner with Saracen on the project.

Blaze is a tariff plan that Safaricom introduced recently, targeted at the youth.

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The telecommunications firm holds that the allegations are an attempt to force it to sever ties with Saracen and award the “Blaze” tender to Transcend instead.

The telecommunications giant has also protested an advertisement Transcend paid for in a local daily in which it claimed to have won the “Blaze” deal.

“Transcend was disgruntled when it lost the Blaze brand promotion tender to Saracen. Transcend published the said words knowing they were false in order to induce Safaricom to terminate the partnership with Saracen and transfer the Blaze brand promotion to Transcend. Upon Transcend’s loss of the tender, it commenced a public smear campaign to malign Safaricom,” says Daniel Ndaba, Safaricom’s in-house lawyer.

Transcend is yet to respond to the suit. Safaricom claims it owns works Transcend copyrighted as regards the Blaze brand.

The telco holds that it sent the works to Transcend in January to help the advertising agency participate in the tender but that it instead copyrighted the works as part of a blackmail strategy.

Transcend has sued Saracen in the Chief Magistrate’s Court for allegedly using its copyrighted works on the Blaze project without permission.

“Transcend does not engage in any business in which it can put to use the copyrights referred to and they were registered for the sole purpose of extorting from Safaricom and interfering with the implementation of the Blaze brand,” Mr Ndaba adds.

Safaricom in April awarded Saracen a two-year deal to promote the Blaze brand. The firm beat Transcend and four other bidders whose identities have not been revealed in the court filings. The telco says it and Saracen have already entered into contracts with third parties for implementation of the Blaze brand.
Safaricom allegedly forced Transcend’s client service director Thomas Omanga, senior art director Timla Tieng, designer Brian Oyugi and account director Christine Muchendu to resign and form Fieldstone Helms which has partnered with Saracen on the Blaze project.

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