On January 1st 2011, the refresh contest commenced. It’s an online contest where you post “refreshing” ideas that benefit communities and then people vote daily for their favorite ones over a period of two months. We were accepted into the $100,000 category and our project was to do another Party Safari; delivering joy, laughter and positive vibes to 12 Canadian cities from coast to coast.
And we did very well, quickly rising to third place (out of 100) and inspiring over 800 people to sign up to our daily vote reminder page. But before long, an unsettling trend began to emerge…
Whereas we were appealing directly to our grassroots networks of friends across the country to vote and share our idea, other competitors were “cross-voting”.
Basically, they were forming strategic alliances with people competing in other categories (there are four categories: $100,000, $25,000, $10,000, $5,000), swapping votes with each other every day (“If you vote for me, I’ll vote for you”) and encouraging all of their supporters to follow suit.
Moreover, many of the projects that were engaging in this behavior were ones that lost in the last round, yet had been carried over- so they already had cross-voting agreements in place with other groups from the past.
This put first-time competitors like us at even more of a disadvantage, and the merit of ideas became secondary to how many alliances could be formed…
One month on, the results could be plainly seen- animal-related causes leading in every single category, and 14 out of the top 20 overall. The vast majority of comments on their pages were for cross-voting with the numerous other animal causes.
And how some were voting daily with upwards of 50 email addresses:
Obviously, this was a small percentage of individuals and their behavior was not representative of any group as a whole. There’s nothing wrong with animal causes and all the ideas in the running were entered by passionate people with good intentions.
But we strongly disagreed with cross-voting and felt the contest was inherently flawed because of it. As did our supporters, who continually voiced their frustration and discouragement.
So Gary called Pepsi, and eventually spoke with a senior representative. He raised these concerns, suggesting that the comment sections be removed, and people be limited to one vote per day (instead of 10), because the integrity of the contest would otherwise be compromised, especially if people were voting with 50 email addresses.
Then he said:
“the other competitors also talk about setting up voting booths at the mall to get people to vote- is that allowed”
“Yes” the representative said.
To which he replied:
“Since email addresses don’t have to be confirmed, what’s to stop someone from moving place to place, fabricating hundreds of email addresses and voting hundreds of times every day? Really, the system should also limit the number of votes per IP address, because otherwise there’s a flaw that would allow people to cheat”.
There was a long pause.
And then came the response:
“I hear your concerns and we can certainly look into it.. but there’s really not much we can do about the alliances…”
Then Gary said:
“If you allow hundreds of people to vote from a single IP address, that invites fraud. And if you allow people 10 votes per day, that invites cross voting. Both those things compromise the integrity of the contest and I’d love to hear back that something’s being done with this final month to go in our round of voting so I could pass that on to all of our supporters and let everyone know that Pepsi is dedicated to ensuring their contest is fair for everyone.”
“I will share your concerns and definitely appreciate your bringing them to our attention.”
“Is there any chance of these things being implemented in this round of voting?”
“No, because the rules are bonded, and can’t be changed midway.”
“The number of votes people get per day is a rule?”
“It’s in the official rules.”
“Well, it’s the third time Pepsi has held this contest. I’m surprised nothing has been fixed prior to this. Cross-voting must have been an issue beforehand also”.
“Well, I certainly will pass your comments along”
We’d always been impressed that Pepsi was trying to do something new and positive with their marketing dollars, but we had put so much time and effort into the contest and were very frustrated and felt it inexcusable that the voting process was so riddled with faults and loopholes.
And Pepsi never responded to assure us they were taking any steps to correct these problems, or would in the future…
So we posted the above information and encouraged our followers to call the Refresh hotline at 1-800-510-2592 to politely voice their frustration.
And rather than just complaining, we did everything we could to energize our supporters and attract new ones; creating two Teaser Videos for Party Safari 2011, an Instructional Voting Video, the Party Safari 2010 Montage and The Party Manifesto and implemented a bunch of other vote-rallying strategies.
And while we did manage to rally a ton of late-contest support, it wasn’t enough to overcome the voting inequities…
Our Feb. 17 letter of resignation:
We currently sit in 7th position in the Pepsi Refresh contest and 10 days remain until the contest wraps. Although we’ve received incredible support from across the country, and over 1000 people have signed up to receive our “daily vote reminder” emails, we continue to drop in the rankings.
Major flaws in the voting system have led to other people taking advantage of it: cross-voting, multiple accounts w same IP address, etc. which has been very frustrating to deal with. Competing honestly has not worked out as we’d hoped…
At this point, winning is pretty much an impossibility, and we don’t want to hound you any longer with messages to vote. We have decided to refocus our energies and pursue alternate funding strategies for Party Safari 2011….
Sorry it has come to this- we did our best, and we know you did too.
The level of positive support we’ve received from across the country has truly been overwhelming. We love you guys and promise we will continue to do everything in our power to make the Strictly Business Tour and Global Party Pandemic a reality.
Rest assured, NOTHING will stop the Party Revolution!
Tom and Gary