What Happened With The Pepsi Contest?

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.

There was also talk of strategic cross-voting to “push the DDP below 6th place” (so we wouldn’t be carried over to the next round):

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:

Dear Friends:

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

16 Responses to What Happened With The Pepsi Contest?

  1. The Internet says:

    You should have used https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome to get votes.

  2. Phyllis Jones says:

    You guys should actually be thankful you didn’t win. I’ve heard from many winners recently and come to find out, global giving (the company pepsi hired to oversee everything) went against the contract and reported all the grants as income to Revenue Canada. Contract said they would only do that if the money wasn’t spent as it was supposed to. Now everyone who’s not a registered charity or registered non-profit is screwed. $5000 winners are owing $1500, etc. Could you imagine how much you’d owe if you won $100,000? It’s pathetic what happened to everyone. So much for winning!

  3. Rustybaggins says:

    Pepsi doesn’t care where the money goes. Its a charity tax write off, and a publicity stunt.

  4. Gwen says:

    I agree. This project brings hope and unity… It’s looks awesome, and frankly, although many animal projects have a great idea and some passionate people, there are so many of these projects already, and not to say that they are undeserving but I the DDP is something that could bring people from across the country together, and you don’t get that very often.
    If they resort to cheating to win, I have to question the integrity of the organizations.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Pretty brutal to hear about that loophole with pepsi. even more brutal that they dont track ip’s, someone could mass spam email addy’s for 2-3 days and earn an easy 100K… jus sayin…

  6. Trouble Cliff says:

    Come back to S’toon please!!! If only there were a way to organize funding for DDP on its own. I know you cant go across the country to raise funds so maybe you guys can set up representatives in each city… I would love to help and work with you guys.

  7. Matt Warner (a pretty cool one at that) says:

    I find it wierd that pepsi isn’t addressing this properly. Isn’t it their money thats being scammed and partly cheated to… Cheaters causes? I agree with you that the causes are not dumb and everyone should have a fair chance, but I really dont see why up to $100000 should be thrown around unfairly. I mean, I dont know of any quick money making ideas, the only thing I can think of is maybe like a 10 dollar fee. The only flaws with that is there are some cheap dudes out there, and if you did charge, it would most likely take a long time because it would probably have to be sent in the mail or through the Internet. The profit would definately be enough if it was succesful though. If you plan on going to 12 places, Halifax (my team) had over 1000, I’m not sure what the other cities numbers were like, but if all were an average of 1000, thats $120000 if all that average of people payed.

    Just throwin some ideas out there, get those brain juices flowing. :)

  8. Kairee says:

    wow! not cool!
    I was very much looking forward to you guys coming back to Kelowna, because i was unable to go the first time.

    People trying to bring DDP down should not be tolerated, its a way for people to let loose be themselves and just have a good time, its something positive instead to something negative happening around us (especially us younger people!) DDP is like a change of pace in this world these days.

    spoken from the heart i hope this still happens!!!

    let all of us partiers come together and DANCE IN PEACE!!

    P.S Gary thanks to that picture im off to find a doughnut!

  9. Julia says:

    I will get a group of us to call in and act even more frustrated then we all ready are… then send something to our newspaper, and news in van then…. finally SOCIAL JUSTICE CLASS will get involved and Fuck shit up!!! :D

  10. This sucks… I agree with that other chick, you should bring this to the news man… people.. men. :/ lol

  11. Katya of Toronto says:

    I see this as really unfair and I believe that “partying” is just frowned upon by everyone else in the contest and is not being taken seriously as bringing hope to people. You don’t have to save the animals and build splash pads to be doing something great with the money. This “party” idea is great. It brings hope to everyone across Canada that great things can be done. PEACE is also what this party brings. No one will have beef with each other and everyone can just have fun. If people did this more often we might not have war and so much hate in the world. The people plotting to get the DDP out of the runnings clearly don’t understand the wonder of bringing everyone together and just celebrating peace. It’s really to bad you guys have dropped out of the running. Good luck getting funding elsewhere! I really hope you guys get this going and bring peace across the country.

  12. Well that sucks :(. I’m glad the party will continue on. I would suggest you keep the email list if possible. This would keep us all in the loop as to the status of the tours and what we can do to help them happen.
    Hats off for all the hard work guys. It will happen, just not with the “never to be spoken brand” as a part of it.
    Have a great day!

  13. Anna-Lilja says:

    This really is unfortunate, this turn of events. Sadly friendly (and fair) competition just is not the trend these days. Hopefully DDP will become never become ‘just a trend’ and will continue on. Have you guys ever considered creating other “party teams” in other cities (Saskatoon?!?!) so that DDPs can be organized everywhere?
    DDPO- Decentralized Dance Party Organisation ?
    Best of Luck for the future!!

  14. Pingback: Tweets that mention What Happened With The Pepsi Contest? | Tom and Gary's Decentralized Dance Party -- Topsy.com

  15. DDP Fangirl! says:

    I definately want to voice that concern! It is quite flawed in that way.
    Keep with it! 13 days-ish

  16. The Matt in a Hat says:

    I think if we really want to change the contest for the better then someone needs to send this to the news. What better way is there to gain publicity for our plight and our party? Besides, if this isn’t newsworthy than what is?

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