Last week Unilever announced the winner of its Peparami crowdsourcing contest. The client received well over 1000 ideas and couldn’t have been happier. They paid a small fee to Idea Bounty to run the contest, and a grand total of $15,000 in prizes to the winners, two old ad pros content to sell their concepts for $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.
No doubt there are many creatives secretly hoping this project fails. And plenty of agencies that still think crowdsourcing is either a gimmick or a fad. I may empathasize with the former, but I’m not among the latter.
Consider this: the client just got new creative work for a fraction of what they once paid their agency in fees. They had more work to choose from and claim there was no compromise in the quality of ideas they received.
Now that may or may not be true. The finished work will have to stand up to previous executions. But the client’s declaration is bound to echo through agency hallways.
What’s getting less attention, but is also worth noting, is Peparami’s selection of Smart Works to produce the spots. This production company, boasting an established network of offshore operations, promises to deliver high-end production for less than half what the typical London agency quotes for an equivalent job. Are you starting to see a trend here?
My guess is that Unilever is thinking about a similar approach for its other brands and that plenty of marketers and advertisers are observing this project with more than a casual interest. In fact, if all turns out well, watch for Peparami’s Noam Buchalter to become the next champion of this emerging tactic.
Granted Peparami has the benefit of The Animal, a campaign idea and character created by its former agency Lowe. No doubt this made it easier to write a brief and even pick the executions. Nevertheless even if Peparami started from scratch, chances are that 1000+plus submissions, many from talented creatives currently working in the business, would provide them with something interesting. Unfortunately for Lowe, while the voiceover talent who plays the character in TV commercials continues to receive residuals, and the photographer who may have shot The Animal retains rights to the images, Lowe probably has no rights to its idea, character or tagline. (Owning and licensing our ideas rather than selling them outright is another post all together.)
Shortly after this story broke last Monday, I had a long conversation with John Winsor, one of the founders of Victors and Spoils. Within the first three weeks of hanging out his shingle, John has welcomed more than 500 creative people into his “crowd,” signed contracts with at least three clients, and finds himself under consideration for agency of record with another.
This is the beginning of something significant, destined to affect agencies, clients and the creative community. Where it will lead is anyone’s guess, but here are a few things I expect to see.
New agency models that include crowdsourcing
It’s only a matter of time before every ad agency offers its clients some form of crowdsourcing. We may create the community or crowd ourselves, or tap into existing communities, but the smart agencies will start offering this option before clients demand it.
New production models that cost less
Smart Works and other production companies will themselves crowdsource talent and technology in order to reduce costs. The more innovative agencies among us will give greater consideration to production companies that do, and if it works, a new model will emerge.
New contracts and relationships with creative talent
Expect creative people who are gainfully employed to ask for the freedom to participate in external contests. Perhaps they’ll accept limitations if the assignment is a conflict with their agency’s existing clients, but sooner or later they’ll want a crack at those $15,000 prizes in return for the lack of job security they live with.
Creative collaboratives that pool ideas and share winnings
Groups of creative people will join forces and agree to submit ideas as a group, sharing in the winnings. Such an alliance will increase the odds of getting a return and spread the risk across the group. A mutual fund, if you will. This could, in fact, become a new kind of agency. A perfect idea for all those unemployed writers and art directors still inspired to create. Erik Proulx, you reading this?
More models that look like Victors and Spoils
They have a head start and a great management team, but someone will come along and develop a technology that makes it easier, or a niche approach that focuses on social media or Twitter, or even the same idea for strategy and research. If this becomes a new category of agency (we already have digital, integrated, social, PR, and media agencies) we’ll see even more disruption.
The emergence of a new client function: chief curator
Crowdsourcing success depends on the quality of the crowd, the platform for collecting work, and the filtering system to evaluate it. If clients do, in fact, embrace a more manage it yourself approach — mixing and matching strategy, research, digital, PR, crowdsourcing – they’ll need a new set of skills.
Where do you think it will lead? I’d love to hear what you think and how you’re dealing with change, whether as a creative person, an agency or a client.
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There is no shortage of discussion these days about the future of marketing, communications and advertising agencies. Claims and predictions abound. Outbound marketing is dead. The age of interruption is over. Mobile is all that matters.
We have ad agencies becoming digital, digital shops striving to become agencies of record, production companies going direct to client. And everyone pondering whether or not the new model is utility-based platforms, as opposed to short-term, message based campaigns.
Brands and marketers, under severe economic pressure, are keenly observing what smaller more nimble companies are doing with inbound marketing and are anxious to experiment with social media, crowdsourcing and conversation marketing. CMOs are hiring five agencies instead of one, raising the question of whether specialization is better than integration.
It would appear the old model of pouring thousands of dollars into discovering a single insight and millions of dollars into one campaign just doesn’t make sense anymore. It takes too long. It costs too much. And besides, consumers want customization anyway, whether it’s the RSS feeds to which they subscribe, the apps they install on their iPhone, or the jewelry they can now design and price in real time by doing it online.
Yet old habits refuse to die. The majority of retailers insist on spending most of their marketing dollars on a medium (newspaper circulars) they agree doesn’t work anymore. Meanwhile their customers are relying on Google, Twitter and personal networks to research every single purchase, from low-cost light bulbs to multi-thousand dollar appliances. Given that they’re also bringing that new habit with them to the store, retailers and their agencies might be better off putting the money into search, digital apps and intelligent point-of-purchase.
Contradictions abound. Chris Anderson tells us that content and information wants to be free — even though we’re willing to pay billions of dollars for virtual goods – right at the time when media margins are shrinking along with client budgets. Combine that with consumers’ intolerance for advertising and it doesn’t bode well for new models like Hulu.
Then there are the new social consumers. Determined to take things into their own hands – conversing, commenting, criticizing, creating — they feel no qualms about bringing a brand down, celebrating the products they love, or becoming brands themselves, capable of building their own multi-million dollar companies with little more than a digital camera, a folding table and a knack for leveraging a community.
A lot of people in our business are petrified by these changes. They sense their skills are obsolete. They see the market for what they do and the products they make continuing to shrink. And in the rearview mirror they can glimpse the new generation — fearless, digital, connected — rapidly gaining ground.
So what should you do? You can read Razorfish’s new Feed 2009 report and learn that digital may offer all the answers, creating opportunities for the deep engagement that builds brands and preference. You can wait for Forrester’s Sean Corcoran to complete his interviews and research and give you the collective view on where things are going. Or you can take things into your own hands.
Here’s my suggestion for what it’s worth. Four steps to making sure you’re here for the future.
Unlearn the old.
Embrace the new.
Experiment like mad.
Do that and you might be the one who solves the puzzle and figures out the answer.
Oh, and if you have better ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments.
“We’re gonna get crap. I don’t want crap associated with a brand I work on.” That was the reaction I got this morning from one creative director after proposing to an agency’s management team that they should crowdsource a version of everything they create.
I wasn’t recommending a contest or declaring that some random consumer might generate a bigger idea or better execution than the agency, though that’s always a possibility. Instead I was simply suggesting that one of the best ways to extend an idea or campaign was to invite everyone out there to create their own version of it.
Heck, they’re going to do it anyway. They’re making videos about Harley Davidson, Budweiser, McDonalds, HP even before anyone ever asks them to. Granted some of those are passion brands, but there are people passionate about almost everything.
And guess what? They want to create. They’re buying millions of Flip video cameras. And they’re uploading 20 plus hours of video to YouTube every single minute.
So why not focus them? Inspire them? Organize them? Take any TV campaign or brand idea and after it’s produced invite your community, customers, prospects to create their own version of it, maybe for fun, maybe for fame, maybe for rewards in the form of money or product. With a little luck you could end up with hundreds, if not thousands of new expressions. You might endear yourself to the community just for acknowledging they’re entitled to a say. And without a doubt you’ll learn something about how much or how little people love your brand and what it stands for. (If no one joins in you have a real problem.)
Interestingly when I’ve read through scripts or looked at videos from crowdsourcing projects, even if the videos themselves were lame, the learning and insight about how a customer described a product or related its role in his life was incredibly revealing.
Plus, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You get crap or content that criticizes you. The former can’t hurt, and the latter’s going to happen anyway.
So what do you think? Should we invite the crowd to join us in everything we make? Or keep them at arm’s length hoping they’ll be a cooperative audience?
Photo: Robert Couse-Baker
Maybe it’s time to stop talking to your clients about social media completely. After all social media is not an objective in and of itself. It’s merely a means and a tool to create deeper and more valuable relationships with customers and prospects.
What should you be talking about then? Here are five subjects that might be more compelling. Rather than asking a client if they want to be in social media, ask one of these questions.
Want to improve your organic search results?
Start the conversation here. Everyone wants presence on the first page of Google’s search results. And if you get there organically, you’re three times as likely to get clicked on. Best tactic, of course, is to create great content that gets linked to. Convince your clients to make their website a blog, create something new every day (or aggregate it), and be present and engaged on Twitter. Or do it for them. We’re not talking social media here. We’re discussing traffic, awareness, and sales.
Looking for a better way to conduct real time qualitative research?
We all know the artificiality of focus groups. You spend many thousands of dollars on travel and recruitment assuming that in return for $50.00 and a ham sandwich a stranger can tell you whether your storyboard, product idea, or brand positioning is any good. Introduce your clients to better, faster, cheaper and more reliable feedback about their category, brand and competition. Let them know they can ask questions and get instant answers. Or listen in on ongoing conversations. Eventually you may have to tell them it’s called Twitter and Facebook, but what’s the rush?
Would you like more out of your advertising creative ideas?
Don’t argue against advertising. Clients love their TV spots. They’re big, they define a brand, and they get talked about. (If they’re any good.) But TV spots and campaigns come and go. Start by reminding them that the reason to put everything on Youtube is so bloggers and others can embed it on their sites. But go a step further, too. Encourage clients to invite customers and prospects to create their own versions of the campaign or execution. Heck, in a lot of cases they’re going to do it anyway. But an invitation, a crowdsourcing contest, or just a little encouragement might extend a campaign far beyond the two or three spots in the campaign. Not to mention develop deeper relationships with prospects than if you only allow them to watch.
Interested in stretching your media dollars?
Who isn’t? Even if an advertiser doesn’t want to “do” social media, they still want greater reach. Yet another reason for embeddable code and presence on YouTube. But why not turn a company’s employees — if they’re willing — into a distribution channel. Give them the means to email Quicktimes of your new spots. Encourage them to share work with friends and family by posting it on their personal social networks. Take advantage of YouTube annotation or something less intrusive like Klickable so the content can actually work for you. Sure this will turn into “social media,” but perhaps starting the conversation with “stretching the budget” will get them more interested.
Looking for ways to increase positive word of mouth?
Even marketers who’ve resisted social media are aware of the fact that a word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or peer is 200 times more convincing than a TV commercial. Who, then, could resist an opportunity to create a word of mouth marketing plan? You could hire one of the really good buzz marketing companies like BzzAgent or Street Attack. But you could also do something as simple as introduce all of your customers to each other, on your site, on Facebook, even on Twitter. Doesn’t matter. But letting them – customers and prospects — ask, answer, respond and share ideas or recommendations with each other is the easiest way to ratchet up word of mouth. Amazon, Dell, Best Buy, American Express are all proving it.
So far I’ve yet to meet a client who isn’t interested in accomplishing all of the above. And guess what? As soon as they say “let’s go,” and you launch a blog, put them on Twitter, invite fans to co-create, make it possible to share video and creative, and introduce their customers to each other, you’re doing social media.
What do you think? Are you still talking about social media? Or something more compelling?
You could answer that question in words. But it might be far more interesting to see your answer in a picture. Even more interesting to see a picture that aggregated thousands of people’s answers. And even more interesting than that to see if where you want to be touched is the same place that someone wants to touch you. (Note, women want to touch and be touched on the back of the neck; men don’t really focus on that particular body part.) All of which you can experience on fleshmap.com, a site that represents just some of the work being done by data visualization master Martin Wattenberg.
I had the privilege of sitting through one of Martin’s captivating presentations on data visualization at last week’s Future Forward gathering of marketers, CEOs and venture capitalists. Martin demonstrated how the visual portrayal of everything — from congressional testimonies to music lyrics – enhances understanding, simplifies communication, and reveals insights that ordinary words just can’t capture.
For example, he loaded the lyrics of 10,000 songs, identified the 83 body parts mentioned – head, eyes, lips, hands, knees, etc. – and then created graphs and charts to show the prominence of each body part in a particular genre of music. But here’s the catch: bar charts and graphs were boring. However, place an image of each body part in one of 83 circles, then let the popularity of that body part in a genre’s lyrics determine the relative size of the circular images, and you have one amazing visualization. I don’t have to tell you what body part grew to dominate the screen for hip hop, but you might be surprised to know that knees were huge when it came to the blues.
So what’s the point of all this in a blog about marketing and social media? Simple. Data visualization shouldn’t simply be a means of communicating facts, trends, or research results, which is how it’s primarily used today, augmenting magazine articles or business reports. It’s greater potential is as an interactive social media tool. Everyone’s a data junkie these days. We want to measure ourselves, whether it’s our calorie intake, our running performance or more recently our sleep patterns.
With the real time web, data visualization can entice us to participate, enter data, compare ourselves to others, and share those results across our social networks. That’s presuming we get the rush of seeing instant results in a format that is fun and interesting. Thanks to creators like Martin we can. Check him out if you haven’t. You can create a picture of your name, your blog posts, and virtually anything else you can imagine.
And if you’re like me, constantly looking for new ways to engage your community, create genuine utility, and allow for participation, you might discover numerous untapped opportunities in this art form. I’ve got ideas already. What about you?
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