There is no shortage of ad agencies or ad agency models. Digital agencies, direct agencies, full service agencies, boutique agencies. Add to that the latest model: a crowdsourcing agency. Yes there has been buzz galore about crowdsourcing in the advertising business for some time. And there’s no shortage of services to provide it: crowdSpring for design, Tongal for TV spots, AdHack for freelance content.
But Victors and Spoils, a new startup lead by my good friend John Winsor, along with partners Evan Fry and Claudia Batten, is trying something new: a crowdsourcing agency. Why? Crowdsourcing aint’ easy. That promise of getting something better by inviting more people to submit ideas only works if: a. the crowd is any good; b. the strategy and management of the process is efficient; and c. the filtering systems save you from rummaging through thousands of submissions to find the one that might be right. Plus, you have to coddle that crowd a little bit, too. Otherwise those who don’t prevail may never return again.
Supposedly Victors and Spoils is going to do this. Knowing John, I have no doubts that he has a plan in mind. But it probably won’t be easy. He’s got to attract a talented crowd, convince clients to try the model, deliver the goods, and figure out how to satisfy both clients and a creative department that doesn’t work for him and could lose interest at any time. Should be fun.
I eagerly await news about Victors and Spoils adventures. Until then, I can only offer you this interview with Evan Fry, V&S’s chief creative officer, who has his work cut out for him. Being the creative director of a department in which everyone works for you is hard enough. Leading a virtual department of non-employee creatives might promises to be even more challenging.
C_U: Is the world ready for a crowdsourcing agency?
Evan: Now more than ever. The world just might not know it is all. But more and more they will be hearing about various solutions for various things coming from the community or from customers — from building designs to car paint-color naming like the Chevy Volt thing, to ad campaigns, logos, etc – and it will be more and more normal. It’s inevitable and it’s sticky already.
C_U: Do you think clients will consider you as agency of record, or only for projects?
Evan: Projects. At least at first. And especially for the larger clients. But soon that will change.
C_U: I would think some agencies might look at you as a new freelance pool. Or do you assume you’ll exclusively serve clients directly?
Evan: Great question. And the answer is this. Whether we work directly for clients or via an AOR intermediary, we want it to feel the same to the client. We have a hunch that at first we’ll probably get about 50 percent work from clients and 50 percent work from agencies of record.
C_U: Many clients are looking at crowdsourcing initially as a way to save money. Will this save clients money? Or simply give them more resources?
Evan: Absolutely both. We’re going to feel like an agency but be small and nimble. For projects that require lots of resources and lots of brains, we’ll efficiently farm the assignment out via web/crowds and a client will only pay for the thinking. They won’t pay for the lights, the desks, the electricity or the dental plan. Just the ideas. And of course, they’ll pay for the management and direction.
C_U: (To self: Does anyone really have a dental plan actually paid for by their company?) To Evan: How about the creative community itself. Will this force them to offer services for less? Or is it more about allowing emerging talent to get a chance?
Evan: We plan to reward briefs at higher levels and more levels (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc) than other current crowdsourcing platforms we’re familiar with. And we plan to reward for various other contributions and creative direction. As well as some reputation ranking and sharing of revenue. As we build our creative department and our client base, we envision the possibility for the most ambitious and talented creatives who work on V&S gigs to be able to make as much as any creative on staff out there today. But it’s also about giving emerging talent chances along with direction and grooming.
C_U: How is this different from all the other crowdsourcing creative services out there?
We’ll feel like an agency. We’ll create work like a crowdsourcing model. We’ll groom work for clients. We’ll make sure it’s always on brief and on brand. They won’t have to deal with overwhelming quantity of entries. They won’t have to direct people and they won’t have to weed through content. As we build out our own platform, they’ll eventually have the option to do some of this, but even then there will be a creative director inside the crowd who’s being paid to shepherd the brief and deliver spot-on work. So the biggest difference between existing, put simply, is that it’s headache free. And strategically managed.
Sounds like John, Evan and gang have it somewhat thought out. Kudos to them for taking the leap and trying something new. What do you think? Is the world ready for a crowdsourcing agency? As an agency are you excited or concerned? And as a client, are you ready to sign up? Please share your thoughts. This is interesting.
Photo by: striatic
During a recent 4As webinar on social media, I asked the nearly 300 participants a simple question. What is your typical clients’ view of social media? There were three choices and subjects couldn’t weight them, they had to pick one.
The greatest word of mouth opportunity ever.
A new way to get closer to customers and prospects.
Oh Sh%&, one more thing to learn.
Believe it or not 66 percent of the audience chose “Oh sh%& one more thing to learn.”
Only 31 percent reported that their clients considered social a way to get closer to their communities. And an astonishingly low three percent described their clients as marketers who recognize the word-of-mouth potential inherent in platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
True, social media is not the easiest thing for marketers to figure out. They need a clear understanding of how their customers interact with each other and their content. Are they spectators, critics, or even creators? Until they know it’s pretty hard to decide how the brand should engage.
They’ve got to learn at least something about the platforms, what they can do with the APIs, and how to create content in places that are as much about participation as about sitting back and watching.
And they need more than a basic knowledge of both off–the-shelf and custom metrics to measure everything from reach to sentiment to actual results.
But there are only two ways to interpret a reaction like “Oh SH&%, one more thing to learn.” For agencies — advertising, PR, inbound marketing — it’s a reminder to do an even better job of teaching clients what they need to know. And it’s an invitation to make sure you know enough yourself to do it for them. After all, once all marketers realize that the benefits of the other two options far outweigh the burden of learning, they’ll expect you to have it figured out.
What are your thoughts? Does this quick poll represent your clients or your brand?
Artwork/painting: James W. Johnson
Last night’s Beancast guests — Crayon’s Joseph Jaffe (come on, admit you envy his self-promotional prowess), the brilliant Ben Kunz, real writer James P. Othmer (The Futurist and Adland), and yours truly — took on what appeared to be a divergent set of subjects.
Drawing on the week’s news, host Bob Knorpp’s topics for discussion included everything from the “direct marketing” dilemma discussed at the recent DMA, to creativity in the age of social media, my favorite topic. Tossed in for variety were new findings about dynamic logic, the question of Hulu’s efficacy, and the proliferation of screens in consumers’ lives.
At first glance you’d think each of these is a very separate topic. But what becomes apparent, as it often does in all aspects of marketing, branding and even life, is this: everything is connected to everything else.
The DMA rethinks its own name and identity because the label “direct” has come to stand for unpopular tactics designed to generate short-term results at the expense of long-term brand relationships.
Social media is being embraced by consumers and forward-thinking brands because of its potential to inspire word-of-mouth (consumer-to-consumer marketing), which is far more effective (though perhaps not yet as scalable) than direct.
Dynamic logic and its progeny addressable TV, with their promise of more efficient targeting, remain hot topics as marketers strive to elevate consumer engagement with advertising that those consumers often resist, bypass or find irrelevant.
Industry pundits and analysts question whether Hulu is good for the networks or making a tragic mistake by following the print industry’s failed model of giving away content for free.
And finally, Morgan Stanley announces what we all know intuitively: more screens don’t mean more opportunity for advertisers; they mean consumers have more ways to avoid those pesky interruptions.
But take all of these subjects and conversation and opinions and studies and they all come down to just one challenge: in a constantly evolving digital environment in which consumers have more choice, more control and even more influence over each other than any marketer can possibly hope to exert, how can we connect with consumers in a way that will get their attention, be remembered and drive results?
To me the solution is simple. We need to do three things: listen to what our customers really want; create advertising and content that they find wonderful enough to welcome into their lives; and make sure we invite their participation in the experience. Note the latter is the best way to achieve the former.
Anyway, if you haven’t already, take a listen to the Beancast. Or go get it on iTunes. We may not have all the answers, but we have plenty of opinions and a good time expressing them. Perhaps you’ll have fun listening. And whether you agree with any of them or not, I hope you’ll share yours in the comment section below. Thanks for stopping by.
My friend Doug Winfield was kind enough (or crazy enough) to actually take my 4As presentation from last week and turn it into something more akin to a video with a lot more motion than what I had in my original. Since a lot of people have asked for a copy of this, and since I hadn’t planned on getting around to this for another a week or so, I’m sharing Doug’s version here. You can hear my Boston accent in all its glory. Enjoy.
And Doug, thanks for putting this together. Also, my sincere appreciation to the many bloggers and Twitter friends who’ve engaged with me, shared their enthusiasm, and willingly joined me in the discussion and exploration around creativity in the age of social media.
You’ll note that it is long, so if you’re Type A like me, jump to the presentation page and you can access slides and links at your own pace.
Finally, if you like what you see here, consider subscribing via RSS or email. And if you’re interested in hearing more, either in a personal presentation or via email, you can contact me personally. Access the contact form in the nav bar above. Thanks for reading. And as always, comments are welcome.
Today, I gave a webinar for the 4As on creativity in the age of social media. Granted you could get a roomful of people a lot smarter than me and they could debate for hours what it is. But what the heck, I gave it go.
My basic premise was this: in the days of old media, creativity was epitomized by messages that were clever enough, entertaining enough and memorable enough that we didn’t mind their intrusion into our lives. Better yet they delighted and surprised us when we happened upon them in a magazine or newspaper. Basically they were stories that brands and marketers created, told and delivered. Whether they were “creative” or not was often the difference between our noticing them and paying attention, and tuning them out.
In social media, creativity is something else. It’s not the stories we tell, it’s the stories we get others to tell for us. Better yet, it’s the stories we get others to create on our behalf. Obviously this consumer-generated content happens without us. Everyone’s a creator these days. Yet if we encourage this new word of mouth, if we both stimulate it and welcome it, it may work to our benefit as marketers.
But creativity in the age of social media begs lots of questions. Should it be a gimmick, no matter how good (think Whopper Sacrifice) or a long-lasting platform? Is creativity in the execution or the thinking that encourages participation? Should it be determined by applying the old media criteria – award shows that cite executions – or new criteria that have yet to be established?
I asked a few folks who spend a fair amount of time in the social space, or who think about it, for their opinions. Here they are.
As I think we’ve discussed before, I believe “creativity in a social media age” is about two major shifts in how memes are seeded and spread in the public. First, marketers can shapeshift the channel — beyond the message. And second, marketers can create a more-human brand.
The “creative” channel shift is obvious. We’ve gone from three networks to the “hundreds” that Jack Trout worried over in 1969 to thousands of cable companies to millions of blogs … to social media. It’s as if singular nodes in the mindhive of humanity were suddenly connected, and the ability to manage (or manipulate) those connections is here at last. We see laborious, ugly attempts with companies such as IZEA (yes, I dislike them more than Starbucks with no Wi-Fi) who try to buy influence among the threaded connections; not just by paying for posts or tweets, but with link-spamming-jamming tactics such as contests to retweet, comment, or reblog crap as long as you spread the message in a chance for a prize. We also see more authentic approaches, still a form of paid manipulation, with Tyson doing goodwill “cause marketing” creating networked contests in exchange for manipulating the network. Others don’t pay to get in, but create shocking buzz to try to seed the memes … CP+B with their secondary shock effects are a good example, or all the hyper-sexed-shocking “viral” seeds planted by agencies on YouTube. What all have in comment are “creative” attempts to manipulate the infrastructure of the communication system, not just the message. It’s somewhat easy to do in the short term, but very difficult to do in the long run … the viral rise and fall of such campaigns is short. Skittles lasted but a moment. And each new attempt to create authentic, genuine buzz tends to be a one-off success, because uniqueness is the driving force of creatively spreading throughout a channel.
The second “creative” more-human brand is most interesting. Yes, Scott Monty gets too much press, but he is the best example of a staid, stodgy old brand (Ford) becoming a human I somewhat care about. Dammit, if my wife needs a new minivan, I will feel guilty now if I do not test drive a Ford. (And from a Toyota family, that is a revelation.) The ability to recast a cold hard brand into a warm human face is a miraculous change, yet it takes immense creativity to pull it off. By creativity, I don’t mean a brand position or message or high concept, but a creative use of a real team of humans to get on Twitter and other channels and present themselves as the real heart of a brand. It’s creativity with a shitload of effort. It’s risk and human souls. Perhaps that’s the most creative endeavor of all.
Creativity in the age of social media is all about sparking and participating in conversations. Success is making something go viral. Ideas must not only be great stories that want to be shared but also are shareable. In this new age creativity has been unshackled. No longer does the elite own it; it is now a commodity. It’s what you do with it and how you communicate it that counts.
Creativity means that everyone and anyone can participate in the power of collective inspiration that was once exclusive to artistic communities. It means creativity no longer need be a “vocation” or a “calling.” It can be a behavior. We’ve long been saying that everyone is creative, but the structure and roles didn’t change, so we didn’t really mean it. Now, social media has enabled a true democratization of creativity.
Creativity doesn’t change, but it certainly evolves. In today’s world I think we have even more tools with which to get creative. When it’s done right it invokes a reaction in the viewer (or now the participant). In the past creativity was solid and stagnant. You created it and people reacted to it. Now you create and it can evolve, continue, be built upon, torn down, mashed up or remixed. The creative process in social media isn’t something that ever ends.
I think it goes way beyond marketing communications. It’s about driving the top line with ideas: product ideas, content ideas, channel ideas, distribution ideas. It’s about insight and understanding what people really need.
You can think about a matrix where the x-axis is what people need, and the y-axis is what people know they need. If people need it and they know they need it, they’ll tell you. So listen.
We’ve spent the last 50 years in the lower quadrant, getting people to “know” they need stuff they really don’t. I think great creative people will live in the upper right quadrant in the age of social media… figuring out what people do need – products, content, connections, even emotions – before the consumer even realizes it.
There are new aspects of the online experience that are being created all the time. How the consumer interacts with a brand, how a company speaks to its customers, and how customers can contribute is always changing. The creative challenge is to contextualize it in a way that makes all three aspects work seamlessly.
Creativity is the same thing it was before social media. But I could never define it then and I wouldn’t want to now.
So what’s your take? Got a definition of creativity in an age of participation, crowdsourcing, and social media? If so, please leave a comment. And as always, if you like the stuff you find here, subscribe either by RSS or email. There are buttons for that on the upper right of this page. Thanks for stopping by.