Investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas

A logo design competition for GHC10,000 in cash prize organized by Vodafone Ghana to mark their 10th anniversary appears to have been marred by foul play as some participants were unfairly disqualified to the advantage of others.

In Ghana, many competitions are characterized by corruption and “protocol” or “links” – from government contracts, to seed-funding schemes, beauty contests and job recruitments, to disaster reliefs – you name it. People’s hopes of contesting are usually shot down with statements like, “hoh, they have already selected their winners so don’t worry yourself”. One would expect that for a company of good repute like Vodafone, and for a competition as straightforward as a logo design competition, the narrative would be different. Sadly, recent events surrounding their 10th anniversary logo design competition seems to suggest otherwise, exposing them as nothing but more of the same.

Some of the events that marred their 10th anniversary logo design competition include what appears to be a deliberate attempt to mislead some contestants with wrong guidelines, claims that presume there was a malicious deletion of some logo submissions that later gained popularity on social media as the best logos, and finally, the private emailing of special guidelines to oddly selected participants for a revision and resubmission of their logos.

On the 4th of May, 2018, Vodafone, in an online video with the CEO, Mrs. Yolanda Cuba, and the Director of External Affairs, Mr. Gayheart Mensah, launched a logo design competition to celebrate their 10th anniversary in Ghana. The video was shared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Submissions were open till 25th May, 2018, after which 10 logos would be shortlisted to undergo a voting process to further cut down the number to 5. Management would then select 3 winners from the logos that emerged top 5 from the voting process. The ultimate winner would walk away with a GHC10,000 cash prize while the 2nd and 3rd would be rewarded with consolation prizes.

Two briefs outlining the rules and guidelines for the competition were published on their website. One of the two briefs published on their website left out two important rules. And for some reason, this misleading brief is what Vodafone chose to share on Facebook along with the announcement of the competition.

Brief 1. Shared on Facebook. Click to enlarge

Brief 2. With rules missing from brief 1. Click to enlarge

A concerned participant found one point (no.2) in the misleading brief (brief 1, above) ambiguous and asked for clarification from their team. The question posed shows that the participant was completely oblivious to the fact that there was another version of the brief on their website. This provided a clear opportunity for Vodafone to point out that this brief was misleading and hence participants were supposed to follow a different brief on their website. Somehow, Vodafone conveniently decided not to respond to this query even though they responded to others. Thus, right from the start of the competition, some participants were flying blind.

Participant raises a question on misleading guidelines. Click to enlarge

On the 19th of June, 2018, a shortlist of 12 logos was released in posts on their social media pages. Some participants who felt that their work looked better than those shortlisted, thronged the posts, to share their work in dismay. Some of these works immediately received massive and overwhelming support from the general public as being much better than those Vodafone had shortlisted. Many people expressed their preference for some of these disqualified logos while others simply expressed utter shock at why some of the disqualified logos were not shortlisted.

Shortlised logos. Click to enlarge

Some disqualified logos

Under these posts, discussions continued to brew as to why strikingly beautiful logos failed to make the shortlist, while other poorly designed ones made the cut. It is from these discussions that some of the apparent foul play surrounding the competition begun to surface. All this time, Vodafone conveniently decided not to respond to any of the legitimate concerns being raised by the affected participants and the general public alike. This was strange since Vodafone usually responds promptly to queries on social media.

Click here to view comments of shock and public outcry on Twitter

Click here to view comments of shock and public outcry on Facebook

One issue that came to light through those discussions is the fact that, as a rule, Vodafone did not want their logo altered in any way when used by participants. This is one of two rules that was absent from the brief that Vodafone themselves strangely shared on Facebook along with an announcement of the competition. Thus some contestants had been flying blind in the competition, susceptible to breaking a rule they didn’t even know existed. A rule that some feel may have resulted in the affected logos not making the cut for a first round of selection (however, it will later come to light that even the winner of the competition broke this rule, and was made to correct that mistake).

Another issue that came to light is that, after the submissions were collated, some participants were privately contacted via email and made to correct various mistakes, and to conform to new guidelines while the affected participants who arguably had some of the best designs were left out of this process for no perceivable reason.

New guidelines privately emailed to some participants. Click to enlarge

One of the new guidelines was that participants were not allowed to use Vodafone’s speechmark in their design, nor were they allowed to add the text “Vodafone” to their design. However, one participant suspiciously made it past 2 selection phases despite flouting this rule.

Shortlist No. 4 with the text Vodafone

Totally appalled by the blatant daylight robbery, two participants who had gained overwhelming support online for their impressive but rejected work, formally complained via emails to Vodafone and were later contacted by Mr. Gayheart Mensah, the Director of External Affairs at Vodafone Ghana.

Logo of aggrieved participant 1. Click to enlarge

Logo of aggrieved participant 2. Click to enlarge

The participants were told that their complaints had been reviewed by the team in charge. Unfortunately, the reason they were not selected is that no submissions were in fact received from them during the stipulated period for logo submissions. This is an indirect admission of the fact that the said participants deserved to have been shortlisted, but their work was not received.

Per the request of Mr. Mensah, the participants provided proof that they did in fact submit their work, and on time. One can’t help but wonder why the review team would claim that they do not have the rejected logos amongst received entries, even though they were received – an excuse too flimsy to have been presented by the Director of External Affairs if it was false. This goes to suggest, without any inference, that someone may have deleted some good logo submissions, to provide others a better chance of winning.

Mr. Mensah promised to get back to the aggrieved participants whose work were being reviewed. While the said participants waited for his response, the team released a shortlist of the top 5 participants (from the initial 12) whose logos had topped in votes on social media. These 5 were said to be undergoing a final vetting process where 3 winners would be selected. Still without any correspondence to the aggrieved participants, a winner was shortly announced.

Winning logos

The winner, in a “thank you” message, shared images of the stages through which his work progressed. This revealed that his first submission also broken the same “alteration” rule that the aggrieved participants were “apparently” disqualified for. His initial submission can also be seen to have undergone significant design changes, including new features (some of which are on the rejected logos), before it was resubmitted.

Winner’s first submission

Winner’s final submission

After noticing that a winner had been announced, the aggrieved participants reached out to Mr. Mensah once again. They then received emails from Vodafone informing them that their work had been considered and included in the final vetting process (of the top 5 logos) but did not make the cut for the top 3.

This excuse then begs the question; What if the aggrieved persons actually had the best logos during the final vetting which Vodafone claims to have included them in – would Vodafone have admitted this? Vodafone admitted to the fact that these participants were unfairly disqualified, and claims to have included them in the final vetting process, strangely, without any prior notice to the public, nor, at least, to these concerned participants who were waiting to hear from Mr. Mensah and his complaint review team. Would Vodafone have genuinely adjudged any of them a winner if they truly deserved it?

The circumstances described above has cast great doubt on the integrity and transparency of Vodafone in the logo design competition, and in fact possibly on all other competitions that they organize. It is fair to admit that Vodafone reserves the right to select or disqualify any logo per their discretion as stated in the guidelines for the competition. However, it would be great to know that in a country where most competitions are marred by “kuluulu” or foul play, people can still have faith and confidence in the processes of a foreign company of such repute.

Such competitions when organized fairly go a long way to encourage hard work, innovation and creativity among stakeholders and citizens alike. Sadly, foul play in such competitions are usually engaged in by middle level staff put in charge by a clueless management. Eventually, great talents that could have otherwise been exploited remain buried under bottlenecks and stuck behind roadblocks because their only opportunities to shine were blocked by “kuluulu” staff. More and more talented people are discouraged from putting any effort into such competitions because ultimately their efforts tend to be wasted or, worse, stolen.


Posted by Hassan

Writer and editor, ff @alhassan233

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