Crowdsourcing creativity: could this actually happen?

Imagine there are two agencies left in a pitch for a beer account.  Four others have been eliminated including the incumbent.

But the client, as all clients do, asks for one more round of creative. Both agencies are pretty spent.  Unbeknownst to each other, each agency decides to crowdsource its final round of creative in hopes of finding something fresh.

Fortunately, the competing shops each choose a different crowdsourcing platform.  Agency A chooses to go with Victors and Spoils; Agency B signs on with AdHack. Both platforms assure that they can conduct the process secretly. Victors and Spoils is confident because it has a vetted group of creative talent from all over the world; the company knows much of its community personally and can admit to the “competition” only those who it feels bit the bill.

AdHacks is sure because it has all the legal non-disclosure documentation built into its registration along with a reputation management system that ranks past contributors for adherence to the rules.

The agencies submit their briefs; the briefs are visible only to the participants and not the public.  And while anything that ends up on the web can is fair game, both agencies willingly gamble they can keep things contained.

Meanwhile, a young, bored creative team learns about the crowdsourcing request for concepts because the writer on the team is part of the V&S community.  At the same time, the art director has previously submitted ideas to AdHack and  hears about the call for work from them. The team comes up with a campaign that includes, TV, experiential, and social all wrapped up in a coherent theme. In order to double its chances, the duo decides to enter the same work on both platforms. Why not, right?

Agency A (the one that went with V&AS) loves the work and presents it as part of their final pitch. Agency B (who went with AdHack) thinks the idea is lame, casts it aside and goes with something else.  Lo and behold, the crowdsourced campaign is the deciding factor and Agency A prevails.

Starting to sound like the Twilight Zone? Well consider this. The creative team that submitted the work was a junior team at the incumbent agency, which was cut from the pitch in the first round. However, at that agency, the team whose work won wasn’t even invited to participate as part of the pitch team; they were deemed too young inexperienced to be beer-pitch-worthy.

Last week, in Boulder, Colorado, I had long conversations with John Winsor of Victors and Spoils and James Sherrett of AdHack. We chatted about the current state of this new tactic, the quality of participating communities and the satisfaction of current clients. Crowdsourcing is still relatively new. No one really knows where it’s going, how many clients and agencies will embrace it, or how good the work will be. But one thing we did agree on is that a scenario like the one above could actually happen. I can only hope that I’m not Agency B when it does.

Photo by Michael

24 comments
Jeff
Jeff

Edward,

Interesting and fun, but two things strike me:

1) "both agencies willingly gamble they can keep things contained" One of my favorite web truisms is "you can convene but not control." These guys seem to see it differently, an in my opinion, they are wrong.

2) Ethics! I'm staggered that only one commenter thought about this. I mean, not only is it uncool, it is illegal under most employment agreements to work for a competitor. Criminy! (Same thing with this whole iPhone fiasco. No one thinks they guy who found it should have returned it. Sad, really.)

Jeff
.-= Jeff Shattuck´s last blog ..I got religion and it all went to hell. =-.

Bob Rinderle
Bob Rinderle

"As more companies realize that creative is a commodity...." Your reply to Bruce DeBoer nails the problem, Edward.

Unique customer insights that yield creative ideas should carry the day, but it's hard to get the necessary level of nuance in a pitch process. This allows a junior team to develop the top idea from a brief submitted through crowdsourcing.

Agencies have yielded expertise for years to the Barbarians (and BCG's, etc.) at the gate. Profit margins are slim enough without diluting agency value further through outsourcing and crowdsourcing.

What do agencies own? At the end of the day, what is the value proposition? Love to get your thoughts.

Jeff Shattuck
Jeff Shattuck

Edward,

Interesting and fun, but two things strike me:

1) "both agencies willingly gamble they can keep things contained" One of my favorite web truisms is "you can convene but not control." These guys seem to see it differently, an in my opinion, they are wrong.

2) Ethics! I'm staggered that only one commenter thought about this. I mean, not only is it uncool, it is illegal under most employment agreements to work for a competitor. Criminy! (Same thing with this whole iPhone fiasco. No one thinks they guy who found it should have returned it. Sad, really.)

Jeff
.-= Jeff Shattuck´s last blog ..I got religion and it all went to hell. =-.

Ernie Perich
Ernie Perich

EB,

Big problem here is the junior team at the incumbent agency will always be considered a junior team because they're spending their time conceptualizing for V&S and AdHack when all their efforts should be going to the agency that is putting food on their table. And I'm also betting that they came up with the winning idea during the "business hours" of their real job.

And as the guy that signs their check every week, I'm not real happy with them.

Dustin
Dustin

Stupid question, does v&s work directly with agencies? I think it would be funny but here's how I think it would actually work out. Agency A would mangle the young teams idea before it ever saw the light of day. And the beer client would opt to just stick with their buddies at ddb Chicago.

Mark Trueblood
Mark Trueblood

I think crowdsourcing has potential in some cases. But any agency that crowdsources the final round of a pitch deserves to lose.

This business takes passion and resilience, and we shouldn't expect any less.

Mark Gallagher
Mark Gallagher

A slightly different scenario:

Agency A (the one that went with V&AS) loves the work and presents it as part of their final pitch. Agency B (who went with AdHack) also loves the work and presents it as part of their final pitch.

NOW WHAT?

Mark Gallagher
Brand Expressionist®
BLACKCOFFEE

Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer

Was there any discussion about the likely hood of this happening when the economy gets better and agencies get busier?

I used to own a production company in NC that had a prop builder on staff. When things got busy we used to send multiple estimates for the same prop as various companies bid for the same project and came to us for pricing. The ad world isn't all that big when it comes right down to it.
.-= Bruce DeBoer´s last blog ..Creativity is Analog; Digital is Simulation =-.