A crowdsourcing ad agency: can it work?

Picture 4There 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

57 comments
Algevis
Algevis

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Mackenzie Ward
Mackenzie Ward

being a computer programmer myself makes me very proud of my job-:;

Chrisile from Ad Agency
Chrisile from Ad Agency

Crowdsourcing is one of those wonderful concepts that only exists because of the internet. A decade ago it would have been unthinkable that a small company in Brisbane could have tapped into the huge pool of brilliant computer programmers in India or cutting-edge designers in Russia.

DF HOBBS
DF HOBBS

I'm thinking that if crowd sourcing was REALLY a brilliant idea for an advertising business, if they REALLY believed in it, Victors & Spoils business plan would have been put together by "the crowd."

Simon Baer
Simon Baer

Interesting to see an agency dedicated to this.

How do they plan on filtering the content to avoid scanning through submissions (hopefully lots of submissions)?

It seems to me like there is no one way of filtering without passing a human eye.

We are a software company that does approximately the same for bands, brands and media properties.
Some of our campaigns receive thousands of submissions a month. Most of our client's primary use for the software is engagement rather than crowd sourcing creative content but we are working on a 'favoriting' function on the back end so. The person approving can flag a submission to check out later.
.-= Simon Baer´s last blog ..Blog tips from HubSpot, Newpapers and Al Gore =-.

edward boches
edward boches

To everyone:
A great conversation. Thanks for joining in. I'm sure it will continue, but for now suffice it to say that we'd all be wise to watch this experiment and see what happens. Someone much smarter than me said that it's possible to be an expert in what's been, but not in what's about to come. Victors & Spoils has its work cut out. It may or may not succeed or may succeed only to some degree. But there will be lessons for all: agencies, clients, participants. Excited to see where it leads.

Ally Polly
Ally Polly

As far as building a career as a curator, it is too soon to tell how this will affect an ACD in an agency who wants to run his/her own shop one day. I am a former Creative Manager of a huge global ad agency, and retaining and developing talent that is online has a whole different life of its own, on the side of the Curator/Creative Director and on the side of the participant/creative. I can tell you what works is transparency, communication and building a community of practice. And having the flexibility to change your business model as the industry evolves. The creative directors we've worked with are still very hands on - if they want to be - but then again, that's our business model.

Ally Polly
Ally Polly

I have to disagree with Anthony Butler on how crowdsourcing works- it can help creative folks with substantial careers, and it does not depend on who curates as much as it depends on how good the work is. We, at Filmaka launched a business over 2 years ago that follows many 'crowdsourcing principles'- the good ones, anyway....

Ally Polly
Ally Polly

Anthony, I'm a former creative manager, now an executive with Filmaka, a global entertainment studio with 'crowdsourcing principles' as John Winsor would say. It's an interesting challenge to grow a 'virtual' career. I think you will find most of us doing this now, on the management side, have had years of experience offline- and if anything, are far behind many of the creative folks who have been living online for years. The role of a 'curator', as the industry has named it, is not fully formed and certainly will have to adopt to the needs of the creative community as it now exists which is far different than running down the halls of an ad agency to review work. I do think, however, that the power of the model is not in the curator, as much as it is in the crowd.

Anthony R. Butler (aka Anthony Butler)
Anthony R. Butler (aka Anthony Butler)

Couple of things to be noted about this discussion in terms of how people are defining it.

1) The Hollywood Model. Most people brought in (or crowdsourced) for projects in Tinseltown are not the idea originators. Depending on the arrangement under which a project is financed, responsibility and control for seeing a movie or TV show through to fruition can vary between the rewrite hacks on a Lifetime movie of the week and the Coen Brothers and Woody Allen, who are responsible for every frame of their original vision and have final cut approval. i.e. no 'client input'. In the vast gap between these two scenarios, creative careers are made.

In the model utilized by Crowdspring or with V&S the people who make the creative asset a project revolves around have the same amount of input and influence on the final product as the Assistant Wardrobe Supervisor on a movie set. If your nascent creative career is dependent on crowdsourced projects, it would be almost impossible to get the management, people and technical experience you need to sheppard a project through a client approval process. How will the next generation of creative managers or 'curators' come out of a crowdsourced world?

2) Client benefits. As an earlier commenter said, the only thing that really changes in the crowdsourced model as currently constructed is the number of options presented to the client and the amount they pay for these options. In the final wash-up the value the client gets from allowing their marketing problem to become a 'community challenge' is highly dependent on the people doing the 'curating'. If they simply apply the same judgement criterion they've used before to select the 'finalists' for their client... and utilize the same client/agency dynamic and value system to refine and finalize the work an audience will see, the only value created is that you have provided the appearance of operating a 'content supermarket' and delivered very few of the benefits a creative community can offer. The whole thinking around defining the project, selecting the idea and producing the work has to change for V&S or any similar entity to be meaningfully different to business as usual.

Dailycatessen
Dailycatessen

i understand the value of crowdsourcing activated by a brand as it enables it to connect directly with its followers / consumers in various ways such as product design, communications etc. but this is not the case with the Victor & Spoils model which relies on a broad talent pool recruited primarily for their creative marketing skills rather than their love of the brand...so where exactly is the added value here? ( apart from the obvious financial ones for both parties...)

Steve Noxon
Steve Noxon

This is very much the Hollywood model suggested by Marty Neumeier. ( think of credits at the end of a movie ) And pretty much a good way to go these days particularly as the strategy seems to come from the client more and more. Not always, I know.
My thought is that, however final selections are made, everyone gets paid. So no spec work.

Anyone can do this really. I am.

best
Steve

Ally Polly
Ally Polly

My outsourced hat is off to V&S !

As a tried and true, in the trenches believer in "working differently" I can truly say this is the smartest model I've seen yet.

BRAVO !

Ally Polly
Ally Polly

My outsourced hat is off to VICTORS and SPOILS !
BRAVO
As a tried and true, in the trenches believer of "working differently' I can say this is the smartest model I've seen yet.
To date, most crowdsourcing offerings have been used as replacements for the creative department, without any input on the brief, let alone strategy or execution.
Therein lies the genius of this new model-
Love it.
Go get 'em.

Ally Polly
Ally Polly

My outsourced hat is off to VICTORS and SPOILS !
BRAVO
As a tried and true, in the trenches believer of "working differently' I can say this is the smartest model I've seen yet.
To date, most crowdsourcing offerings have been used as replacements for the creative department, without any input on the brief, let alone strategy or execution.
Therein lies the genious of this new model-
Love it.
Go get 'em.

Ally Polly
Ally Polly

My hat is off to Victors and Spoils !
As a tried and true, in the trenches believer of 'working differently' I can tell you that this is the smartest model I've seen yet.
To date, most crowdsourcing groups have been replacements for a creative department - without much or any impact on the brief or assignment, let alone the strategy or execution. Therein lies the genius here -
BRAVO and Congratulations.

Arafat Kazi
Arafat Kazi

This is exciting!!! If you think about it really, with the high level people curating and refining (beautiful phrase from Tom Cunniff), a crowdsourced agency isn't _that_ different from a traditional agency. I guess they'd have to work out kinks like secrecy etc, but other than that, what keeps an agency consistent? Our industry is notorious for employee turnover.

An agency stays consistent by building a culture and by creating a shared body of work. If the culture remains and the shared body of work is something you can believe, emotionally invest, and take pride in, then everything else will fall into place. Take the culture of any online group, like the SomethingAwful forums or Reddit or whatever. You'll see that they build up a culture that stays consistent even though the vast majority of members don't know each other. There's a shared history of when forum member did this or that, and a huge oeuvre of memes, captioned images, mp3s and so on. Basically the same cultural artifacts that we use to keep the continuity in any community, functioning as an independent microcosm.

Obviously, everything changes, everything evolves. But I think that if the Victors and Spoils people are smart enough and brave enough to do what they're doing, then they know this. They will have the togetherness to keep it going. Best of luck, V&S!!!!!!

Tim
Tim

Community, Identity, Stability. Alpha children wear grey. They work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas. Gammas are stupid. They all wear green, and Delta children wear khaki. Oh no, I don't want to play with Delta children. And Epsilons are still worse. They're too stupid to be able to read or write. Besides they wear black, which is such a beastly color. I'm so glad I'm a Beta.

John Winsor
John Winsor

Everyone -

Thanks for all of the comments. Edward is always great at moving the conversation along. What a wild first day it was yesterday. In all of the start-ups I've been involved with, I've never seen anything like it.

We're at the beginning of a quantum shift in the way we all work. In fact, this conversation is proof that ideas are formed by a group of very talented people in a wonderful discussion. No matter what side you're on, all of us are participating in pushing this forward and refining the ideas around crowdsourcing, collaboration and co-creation.

I agree with many of you on the word crowdsourcing. Hence, we talk about being built on crowdsourcing principles. To me, crowdsourcing is a subset of co-creation, as described in Fronteer Strategy's white paper. In fact, it might be a word that dies along the way.

I also agree with many of the comments that talent produces great work. New ways are evolving for talented people to their creativity. Yesterday we had over 500 people ask to join our creative department, many of them with full-time jobs at some of the best agencies in the world.

As of late, crowdsourcing has been a bit like the wild west. Our goal is to bring a bit of order and structure to the process, giving clients the look and feel they are used to with an agency. Starting with the strategic thinking and the creative direction needed to make great work yet harnessing the power of the latest digital collaborative.

Thanks again for all of the great comments. Keep them coming.

mitch blum
mitch blum

There’s a great case study in our industry of crowdsourcing in action that’s been going on for years now: voice-over casting.

Voice-over actors have always had to suffer through unpaid cattle call auditions in the slim hope of getting a job. Anyone with a mouth, a demo and a cell phone can pursue voice-over work. And while it still helps to get through the traditional gatekeepers (casting agents, studios), virtual casting calls for certain projects have been going on for almost a decade now at sites like voice123.com (and on craigslist, for that matter.)

When these sites first popped up, experienced talent complained that there were too many people competing for jobs, rates were too low and there were too many amateurs were in the mix. There were the same predictions of doom as we’re now seeing with mainline creative crowdsourcing.

Over time, what people came to realize is that clients get the quality of work that they pay for and talent has the choice to compete for jobs or not. I don’t bother with those sites because the ROI doesn’t work for me, but that’s my personal choice and I don’t begrudge the clients or the talent that decide to pursue that route.

Crowdsourcing isn’t a sign of the apocalypse; it’s just another option for buyers and sellers of creative content.
.-= mitch blum´s last blog ..The NHL-NASCAR Merger: Not As Crazy As You Might Think =-.

Tom Cunniff
Tom Cunniff

I like how Victors and Spoils is approaching this. Smart.

While it sounds radical, it's not much different from the current agency model. Low-cost creatives generate as many ideas as they can; higher-priced execs curate and refine; and then the client chooses which of those ideas to iterate and ultimately run.

I acknowledge the cost of the low-cost creatives will be smaller and the number of ideas will be larger. But the rest of the process is, to borrow a lyric from Talking Heads "same as it ever was, same as it ever was".

Some predictions:

1) Having an endless galaxy of ideas to choose from will feel exhilarating for many clients. But, the narrow range of ideas that a client can approve and run is unlikely to expand.

With rare exceptions, the resulting advertising will look, sound and feel almost exactly like what is on-air today.

2) Cost-savings will be far smaller than expected. The costs of generating raw ideas will shrink, but the costs of iterating, refining, tailoring and client service will remain the same. the client will remain the same.

3) Crowdsourcing will become an accepted tool in the toolkit for agencies and clients when either side feels they've run out of ideas, but it won't be used for every assignment.
.-= Tom Cunniff´s last blog ..Is Social Media Too Big For Its Own Good? =-.

Subbu
Subbu

Why isn't anyone experimenting crowd-sourcing within a large agency network? I do understand that the 'holding companies' keep an hawk eye on 'per capita income per office'. Considering the trouble some of them are in, financial and otherwise, this might be worth the try.

I also look forward to the progress of V&S and many other models like Anomaly. I do not know of any other industry that is trying out various models. In the long run, it is good for the industry. I wish the newspaper industry took a leaf out of all this...
.-= Subbu´s last blog ..Is selling creative without the bullshit possible? =-.

Bob Sanders
Bob Sanders

Great thoughts everyone, and some ideas I hadn't thought of... My first thought was its a great idea for the agency side of the business, and as a way to get some great buzz in the market leading to some interest from early adopters, but until the client changes their marketing department and the layers, etc, many of the ideas would still be nixed.

http://sandersconsulting.com/newbusinesshawk/?p=74

I may have to change my views!
.-= Bob Sanders´s last blog ..Chemistry Wins New Business =-.

Mark Harmel
Mark Harmel

First I don't like the name. I suggest that the agency/client get the benefit and the crowd is a rabble of art serfs. Can it have a model where the crowd is honored and rewarded? If there can micro finance loans that raises everyone up couldn't someone do the same for crowdsourcing?

Is the attraction the engagement of the community or getting cheap work?
.-= Mark Harmel´s last blog ..how twitter led me to Lemonade =-.

Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer

I maintain that the value of crowdsourcing is in brand advocate creation not in some method to find higher value design, photography, production or other advertising campaign materials.

If the agency's value is based on sourcing a crowd of creatives who want extra cash, an ego boost, or a promotional advantage, then it will fail.

However, if the agency promises clever schemes designed to excite networked communities about building a brand it can own, then hell yeah it'll succeed.

Tall order but they sound like smart people.
.-= Bruce DeBoer´s last blog ..The Message Follows Motivation – Terry Richardson knows =-.

Ben Kunz
Ben Kunz

First, I think it will work, and fantastically. With every advancement in communication efficiency people have complained about loss of quality and talent -- I'm sure scribes screamed when the printing press fired up. But QuarkXpress in the 1990s gave us better layouts. PhotoShop gave us better photo reproduction. Digital cameras gave us more quality images, and then video, to choose from. So yes, you may get 10,000 entries that are 99% crap -- but 100 remaining good options to choose from? Sign me up!

In my mind this business model has been done before with the military. Governments hire raw recruits, push them with strong management (screaming officers) through training, and a force emerges that can do (all politics aside) very challenging things. Steer nuclear subs. Handle loaded weapons. Jump out of planes.

I think your friend John Winsor is building a model where senior management and wisdom can mold the unwieldy masses of crowdsourced talent. It won't be easy, but it's doable.

The scary thing is such efficiency is going to drive the margins out of agency services. Thank God we all have typing to fall back on.
.-= Ben Kunz´s last blog ..Google hunts Big Business (while mobile throws the spear) =-.

Shaun Abrahamson
Shaun Abrahamson

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the word crowdsourcing. Perhaps we should crowdsource a new word.

Seriously though, I think much of the negative response is focused on people working for free, or small rewards. This is an attractive oversimplification, but not fair to V&S or a number of efforts underway.

As you point out, the processes that tend to deliver value rely on the right people and the right processes. It's not easy - it may turn out to be harder than managing a traditional agency.

For example, its one thing to ask multiple people to submit a logo, working independently, but what happens if I ask people to collaborate on small teams (as NASA is testing the different on Topcoder)?

My sense is that the rewards will go to the groups that figure out the right incentives to get (and keep) the best talent and use the best processes to ensure the best creative results. Wow, that sounds alot like other organizations.

Good luck John & Co. Looking forward to seeing you and your crowd thriving.

John
John

Judging from all those logos that were submitted, I am concerned about available talent to submit work. Is it possible that the lesser talented and maybe unemployed are only submitting? Reminds me of scouring getty for that shot that doesn't look like stock. Eeesh.

Peter LaMotte
Peter LaMotte

Not only do I think it CAN work, I think it IS working. Of course its hard for me argue this point without being somewhat self serving, so bear with me. We at GeniusRocket have launched over 200 projects across the last year for brands ranging from unknown startups all the way to firms like Pepsi and Heinz. Most of these projects have been video and graphic design but we have seen across the board success. However, what has yet to happen is for crowdsourcing to truly go mainstream with top brands. Until now, crowdsourcing has been primarily limited to startups, small businesses, and a few brands that either lack an agency of record, or are simply looking to save money. The other form of crowdsourcing that has taken a foothold is the contest that favors promotion rather than production value (think Heinz Top This). As you mention there are many firms that have business models focused on creative crowdsourcing, but most are focused on one creative angle such as Crowdspring for graphic design. However, a few, such as GeniusRocket have tried to be more agency-like, offering design, video, copy, and more. So if Victors and Spoils is the first to dive into the crowdsourcing pool from the high dive of the agency world, then I for one welcome them. While they have yet to fully divulge the nuances of their model, I think that every major brand they can land, and in the end deliver high quality advertising to, only serves to help the rest of us in this field. I wish Evan and team nothing but luck.

edward boches
edward boches

Simon,
Best that you ask John Winsor. My understanding is that this won't be pure CS like Crowdspring, but rather a large, global pool of talent that will be pre-filtered for each and every job. Provides acces to a wider range of talent for the client,and more diverse opps for the creator. John is big on the art of curating, so he has a plan in mind to filter the work and reward the crowd.

Anthony R. Butler (aka Anthony Butler)
Anthony R. Butler (aka Anthony Butler)

Ally Polly,

Thanks for your three replies to my post. While I don't agree with all your points, I did get to discover your site which I liked very much.

I do think the Filmaka mission is a little different... to discover film making talent and give them exposure to commercial opportunities. I guess in someways V&S can perform a similar role for young creatives. They would have to move on from there pretty quickly to build a legitimate career in either industry.

After all, you can't keep appearing on American Idol once you've made it to Hollywood. ;-)

arb:

Anthony R. Butler (aka Anthony Butler)
Anthony R. Butler (aka Anthony Butler)

Tom,

I think you're probably right... the way forward is still being developed. I was interested in hearing whether anyone in creative management thinks this environment will produce different and perhaps better creative leaders in the future.

arb:

Tom Cunniff
Tom Cunniff

"How will the next generation of creative managers or 'curators' come out of a crowdsourced world?"

Interesting question. Maybe they'll emerge organically rather than being trained. And, maybe that's a good thing. The "curators" we train now all love the same kind of work and as a result there's not much diversity of thinking.
.-= Tom Cunniff´s last blog ..Is Social Media Too Big For Its Own Good? =-.

Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer

Good thought. Many assignment photographers fill schedule gaps with Stock. Then some started specializing in stock. One thing is certain, there will be a downward pressure on price.

I'd be concerned for any company that abandons quality in favor of price. I have to agree, it is exciting to be in the business right now.
.-= Bruce DeBoer´s last blog ..The Message Follows Motivation – Terry Richardson knows =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Michael:
You are right about that. Still, it's an interesting experiment with plenty of potential, if not for immediate success, then as education for those of us looking on. But nothing I love more than an alternative POV to keep the conversation interesting.

Michael Troiano (@miketrap)
Michael Troiano (@miketrap)

I'm with my old partner on this as well. I'd go farther, and say I think it's crazy.

What we do is hard, even for us. I can count on two hands the number of people I've met who do it really well (two of them on this thread, ironically.)

Based on that, it just seems to me that a higher unit volume of participation is the last thing that's going to deliver truly great, effective work.
.-= Michael Troiano (@miketrap)´s last blog ..Make me shave my goatee for Prostate Cancer Research =-.

edward boches
edward boches

I love the fact that no one knows the real answer but everyone has an opinion. Awesome stuff. Think of the Netflix program, however. Teams got together to compete and play. Who says you couldn't build a successful boutique model where all you did was participate in the crowdsourding competitions. When you didn't have enough to do for your regular clients, you just took your team and went head to head with the others in the CS, V&S arena. We do that all the time anyway, don't we? Both internally and in new business. Man, this is a rich, emotionally charged subject. Can't wait to see what really happens. My guess is that early models will teach future models how to really succeed.

Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer

I have to agree with Tom on this. I'm betting that the promise of great crowdsourced creative is going to fall short most of the time. However, when it does fall short you'll always have the excuse, "what do you expect for $400?"
.-= Bruce DeBoer´s last blog ..The Message Follows Motivation – Terry Richardson knows =-.

Tom Cunniff
Tom Cunniff

Edward, I'd bet the more diverse talent pool is far less likely to generate "newer, fresher, unexpected content".

Most people -- even excellent, highly-trained creative people -- create derivative work. There is far less genuinely NEW thinking than we imagine.

The best creative ad people are like the best mashup artists: the work feels fresher because their mashups start from a weirder pool of existing works. And smart creative people are always looking for more and more random sources of inspiration.

The average person draws from a comparatively tiny pool of predictable and shopworn inspiration. Think of the Michael Scott character in "The Office": he imagines he's hugely creative, but all he really does is reach for predictable pop-culture references and then misapply them :-)

There's always the chance that we'll stumble upon some astonishing "outsider artist" with genuinely weird ideas, and that's what makes crowdsourcing worth a try.

But for every undiscovered genius, there will be a billion Michael Scotts sounding like this bit from "The Office":

Michael Scott: I'm like Superman and the people who work here are like the citizens of Gotham City.

Jim and Dwight Schrute: That's Batman.

Michael Scott: Okay, fine, I'll be Aquaman. Where does he live?

Jim Halpert: The ocean.

Michael Scott: I work with a bunch of nerds!
.-= Tom Cunniff´s last blog ..Is Social Media Too Big For Its Own Good? =-.

John
John

I would say the creative team itself is evolving. Media, creative and strategy are all working side by side now. I find it impossible to crowd source that magic of collaboration. More ideas is one thing but close group collaboration is where the big stuff comes from.

edward boches
edward boches

Tom:
Interesting predictions. Hard to argue with them. Question is this: does this model do nothing more than offer up a larger creative department that works the same way every creative department works by generating lots of ideas to choose from, only more because there are more people? Or, does it actually generate newer, fresher, unexpected content because the pool of talent is more diverse? Your point raises a really interesting question. Will it matter at all of the ultimate judge, the client, picks the same thing they would pick anyway.

Subbu
Subbu

It is indeed surprising and yet it is not. The fact is that holding companies have 'corporatised' the agency business. Therefore, every decision stems from a bean-counters PoV. Someone said that large agency networks are run by managers and not 'agency types'. There is no incentive for them to experiment with the constant fear of being emasculated hanging over them.
.-= Subbu´s last blog ..Is selling creative without the bullshit possible? =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Good point on the holding companies. Surprising to me with their wealth of talent across the globe that none, to my knowledge anyway, are developing models to do this. Lots of smaller shops are giving it a try, or inventing new ways to expand the pool of participating creative talent. Perhaps that's the answer. Inspiring participation in a new way of working is not what a holding company knows how to do.

Suzanne Lainson
Suzanne Lainson

I also see the value of crowdsourcing in community building and engagement rather than driving down the cost of ideas via competition.

I've been watching what has been happening among music fans. They are increasingly inserting themselves into the process, even if only to go to a show to send a steady stream of photos, text, and video to their non-attending friends. They aren't passively watching the show. They are documenting their version of it.

These fans are finding ways to feel engaged and creative, even if the final result isn't all that inspired.

So I see crowdsource advocates most effectively serving as community managers rather than curators. They will help the crowds feel like they are contributing. If, in the process, these managers generate a better pool of ideas, so much the better.

It's possible that technology will create tools that not only allow submissions, but can take those submissions, refine them, produce better results without excessive amounts of man-hours.
.-= Suzanne Lainson´s last blog ..The "Art" of Music Merchandising =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Good thoughts, see below for response to you and Ben.

edward boches
edward boches

Ben, I agree with your fundamental idea that the change we often resist leads to new ways of working that are often better and more productive. I'm not sure that you're right in the references to the impact of software and technology, in fact John makes a good point. In the early days of some of that software we had what I called "macsturbation," the idea that anyone could just whack off a digital layout and assume it counted as art direction. Everything takes talent. In many ways this is like the movie industry. There is a large pool of vetted talent and a "director/producer" taps into it. It's different, however, in that the pool of talent will actually conceive, write, improve or create the output through their submissions. Or perhaps it's actually something else. Time will tell. John is also right in implying that the output is only as good as the input. And the input is only as good as the crowd that participates.

John
John

Hmmm. There is so much wrong in this comment I'm having trouble gathering my thoughts.

Let's just start with computer programs. Quarkxpress made layouts worse. It created lazy art directors who crafted up boxes and grids instead of true layouts. So technology hurt the idea process there. Sure it made it faster but better? Nah. Photoshop did give us better and quicker abilities to make a photo more appealing and really gave us groundbreaking flexibility for execution but it also created too many artists who thought they understood photography and light. But only to create bad and fake looking art.

My point is...talent is key. You are either good, average or just flat out bad. Crowd-Sourcing through all the options (mostly flat out bad) is nice but is it really worth it?

On to more things that I found wrong. The military comparison. This has no comparison at all. As a matter of fact, it has more to do with an actual ad agency. We hire raw talent, push them hard and make them something they never thought they were capable of. They move up the ranks, move on to make more money or get fired for not cutting it. So crowd-sourcing is nothing like this.

I do agree these guys are smart and are pioneering into new stuff here. But are they smart because they are creating a good way to make money without the overhead?? I always thought that really good ideas come from really good talent working together to form better ideas along the way. If crowd sourcing is the future, how on earth are they going to do that? Especially with people just phoning it in trying to make a quick buck. I don't see the creative process besides turning ideas into stock photo world.

Shaun Abrahamson
Shaun Abrahamson

Agreed.

My sense is that the debate so far has mainly included creatives and agencies (or their partners they use for crowdsourcing).

I'd be curious to hear more from the folks who are paying for all of this - the clients.

edward boches
edward boches

Shaun:
Too often we all develop opinions based on what has been rather than what is possible. Yes there are many valid (and some not so valid) criticisms of how crowdsourcing has evolved in our industry. But the real question is where can it go and will it be good for all of us: creators, clients, agencies.

Peter LaMotte
Peter LaMotte

Edward, great point. You are correct, there are a few, but in my opinion not enough. Again I agree with your statement, the iterative relationship between the creative team and client is key and I think you will see (and maybe it is V&S's plan) that the next evolution of crowdsourcing agencies will do just that. Its a really exciting process to be part of, especially as we all search for the right model. I think the mistake that many people make in questioning the crowdsourcing model is to assume that it won't adapt to the needs of the brand AND to the needs of the creative talent.

edward boches
edward boches

Peter,
Should have referred to Genius Rocket in the post. Forgot to. Sorry. Though there are examples of large brands doing CS. P&G for example has a huge effort in product dev. As do many pharma companies. I agree there is interest and that there are brands doing this. And lots of platforms, including others like Kluster and Chaordix, emerging. Question is whether this is ideal for an ad agency which typically needs ongoing business and clients to feed the crowd. Also, in a client relationship there is a need for lots of back and forth, modification, multiple projects in different phases of development. It will be interesting to watch and learn from V&S as they master or attempt to master a process and platform that can handle all of this. If all they do is bring a "product" to the table it may not be as big an idea as I hope it is. If they can develop a model that works across the entire spectrum of a clients' needs (product, strategy, ideas, marketing, applications, etc.) it will get pretty interesting.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] An agency of Victors and Spoils is absolutely the definition of what this means in our world. It’s groundbreaking and will take us to the next level. Other similar agencies have existed (like Genius Rocket), but perhaps it’s the buzz John Winsor and team have (John just coming off the successful release of his book Baked In-HIGHLY recommend BTW) And yes, it is absolutely a controversial method. Some people will love it and see it as the most liberating model the agency world has ever seen, others will feel like it is utter blasphemy. A great place to see the debate is at Edward Boches exquisite blog, Creativity Unbound:  http://edwardboches.com/a-crowdsourcing-ad-agency-can-it-work [...]