Did CP&B’s crowdsourcing experiment backfire? Have designers created an exclusive club designed to keep newcomers out?

mrpeanut

This logo was crowdsourced in 1916. A 13 year-old won the contest.

Go ahead; pick the headline for this post.  I’m crowdsourcing it.  There was plenty of buzz on Twitter and in the press today about whether or not CP&B’s crowdsourcing experiment for client Brammo Motorcycles backfired (No pun intended.)  The agency, in its inimitable practice of calling attention to itself, went and initiated a crowdsourced logo competition for Brammo, offering a paltry $1000.00 to the winner.  (Obviously they made the prize so small intentionally, knowing it would incur the wrath of the design community and generate buzz for the agency.)

No surprise, it didn’t take long for the critics to emerge and start a #nospec hashtag on Twitter.  A believer in “all publicity is good publicity” Crispin let all the comments show up on its beta blog website.  Folks who just don’t get it may have thought this constituted a faux pas.  No doubt, however, that at Crispin people were celebrating once again.

Personally I’m a huge believer in crowdsourcing.  At my agency, Mullen, we’re experimenting with it ourselves, joining with clients to try it out and meeting with as many crowdsourcing companies as we can to determine how best to use it.  Why?  A. We owe it to our clients.  B. Consumers want and even insist on a role in a brand’s voice and content.  C. If we don’t, we’re simply leaving it up to someone else to do.

It’s not our intention to exploit the crowd or necessarily to source cheap content, but rather to embrace the inevitable and discover what it can yield. In fact the real value in contests like the one CP&B is running may not be in the logo that gets created but in giving customers a chance to participate in the process.   While we’re actually more interested in the co-creation side of crowdsourcing – memes, propagation, group created content – we are in the process of launching a crowdsourcing program for ourselves and potentially our clients, initially working with schools and portfolio programs and eventually with the community at large. There’s much to figure out, but we’re committed.

However there’s another side to today’s story. And that’s the reaction of the design community and its reluctance to tolerate spec work.  In advertising, there’s no one who likes spec work. But the industry already dug that hole.  Not unlike the media giving away free content, we’ve made it a practice in our desire to win business and gain attention and there’s no going back.

But we’re not the only ones. Architects, filmmakers, and writers all create some form of content for free in the hopes of winning an assignment.  What makes designers so special?  (I’m not talking Paul Rand, here.)  The critics among them must either think their talent is so rare, unique and valuable that they don’t need to compete.  Or those who are finally semi-established must figure that now that they’re in the exclusive club it’s their responsibility to keep everyone else – young designers, students, aspiring talent – out.

The interesting thing about crowdsourcing is this.  It hasn’t emerged as a new phenomenon because there are clients and companies who want cheap content.  It’s emerged because there’s a community of aspiring professionals, or, yes, amateurs, who want to try their hand, find out how good they are, or have their work considered by those who curate it.  By the way, this isn’t new.  Planter’s Peanuts crowdsourced its logo in 1916.  A 13 year-old kid won and a professional designer tweaked it.

Will there be crowdsourced logos created today that live for another 93 years?  My guess is yes.  So, where do you stand? For crowdsourcing?  Or against?

155 comments
javierwyle
javierwyle

Personally, I am quite on the fence regarding the use of a crowdsourcing site for a logo design. It is still a touchy issue for most designers who said that crowdsourcing is a no-no for obtaining a logo design. I have tried crowdsourcing before and I know the risks involved but it comes within the territory. But there are other no-frills logo design websites online such as www.logobee.com, www.logodesignstation.com, logoyes.com, etc. which are actually great in getting a professional logo design at a fraction of the price and minus the risks of crowdsourcing (plagiarism is one of them). Seeing that there are no consultation services, the price is significantly lower than that of conventional design firms. For instance, I have tried http://www.logodesignstation.com and the experience was indeed a positive one. I managed to get my business logo design at an affordable price and the turnaround time was great as well. Highly recommended. Although crowdsourcing for logo designs could be a bane for some, many find it to be a viable alternative to get a fast logo on the cheap. It all depends on the individual actually.

Rory M Kelly
Rory M Kelly

...oh, and sorry, I forgot to mention in the previous message, the reason why crowdsourcing isn't economically viable is because the only time someone gets paid in the process is when a design amongst many is chosen (in which case the winner is paid). But the bitch of it is, that individual is paid after their work is done.

So for all you design professionals out there who like the idea of getting paid only once the work is 100% sold to the client, raise your hand!

Rory M Kelly
Rory M Kelly

It seems as though the only real reason in favour of crowdsourcing that I've come across after reading post after post after article after article about it is "that it's different" and "boldly trailblazing a new direction, leaving behind the fossils of..." ...whatever.

So because no one at all, anywhere in this whole debate about crowdsourcing has been able to actually articulate how it is a sound and viable business idea that will stimulate economic growth, I'm gonna guess its all about the – how do you say – "newness" of it all.

But perhaps the biggest problem with it is that it kinda "deregulates" the entire business of graphic and communication design. Which is bad. Its bad because although its a business that has the appearance of fun and frolic and reverie...its still a business. And to the masses of people who have chosen it as a profession, its a job. Fun at times yes, but a job. And a job that pays a reasonable salary, but not riches. So its a labour of love for the vast majority of designers.

So I guess then Edward, you could say that if crowdsourcing passes the litmus test in the design world, lets just move it along after that to the world of finanace. Or litigation. Or construction. Cause yeah, people don't really need to get paid for the work they perform at their jobs. They don't need to eat or sleep or have a roof over their heads or hell, even feed their kids while we're at it. No. They don't. They don't need all these things out of their jobs because work is entirely about ideas and discourse! Who will win the big pitch! And more importantly...who will survive in the future! Its certainly not about who will survive in the present, because...well...its kinda hard to live past a week or so with no food, no home and no family. Which exactly what the professionals of the design industry (or any other indusrty) will be left with if crowdsourcing becomes the norm.

It looks as though people like Edward Boches and his friends at CP+B have really missed a huge nugget about this crowdsourcing thing. It takes the deregulation and dismemberment of an entire industry to usher it in as the next big trend.

But I guess the American people haven't had enough unemployment. Its not enough that the financial industry (as deserving as it was) is now in shambles, and as well, that the entire American auto industry is in jeopardy...lets throw the design industry down the chute as well.

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

Edward,

When I saw the Netflix article at NYTimes.com, I wondered how long it would take you to notice. Then I logged onto to Twitter the next day and got my answer.

File this one from the NY Times on crowdsourcing recipes under "Too many cooks in the kitchen..."

"E-KITCHENS GET CROWDED AS USERS TWEAK INGREDIENTS ON FOODIE SITES."

http://tiny.cc/qZSCG

edward boches
edward boches

Anthony:
Well aware of the Netflix project. Has been underway for a long time and a challenging project for those who gave it a try. It's the challenge, and the $$ that got them interested. I think we all know the difference between a gimmick, a real need, a quest for lower costs, and the benefits of participation in propagation of an idea from either CS or co-creation. Watch, this will be as popular as all other aspects of social media very quickly. Thanks so much for the links.

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

Posting a link here to the article referred to on Twitter re:Netflix paying out a $1m prize to a team who created a movie recommendation algorithm that outperformed Netfix own software by 10%.

http://tiny.cc/latGx

The article is worth reading because it reveals how much the client already valued outside technical expertise to improve what they view as a crucial component of their customer experience. The business goal of the project (improving product matching for customers) was deemed worthy enough for the client to spend this kind of money on technology, since it is the only way to solve the problem.

Perhaps that provides a guide to how clients will continue to spend money with the likes of us instead of crowdsourcing everything. Establish a business goal for every creative project and make sure the client agrees that it is worth the time + effort = money. See Fast Company article article on design inside Coke. VP of Design David Butler never mentions the word 'design' before he delivers the goods.

http://www.fastcompany.com/design/2009/

If that's not the secret to his success, it must be Bogusky © 2005 hair. ;-)

edward boches
edward boches

Anthony and Paul:
A lot of this is all about the money. Do you have clients who aren't cutting budgets? We are working, as is every agency I know, to deliver faster, cheaper, more digital. Forget the kerning, who needs dropped shadows, all the background detail, forget it. Film? Let's shoot on video. Etc. Etc. Etc. The new definition of creative will not different. Years ago a great creative director, Stavros Cosmopulos said, "Make the layouts rough and the ideas fancy." If he were alive today he'd say, "Make million dollar ideas and thousand dollar productions."

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

Ross Kimbarovsky said:
[b]I’m not sure the location of the designer is relevant – unless you’re implying that designers from outside the U.S. are less capable (and it seems that you’re not saying that). By allowing people to compete based on talent and not based on location, resume, or fancy offices, we’re able to provide a level playing field for all. [b]

This statement strikes me as a little disingenuous. Design is not only a profession, the end result is a product. Like anything being produced, there are production costs attached.

Why did all the shoe factories close down in Massachusetts? (Footjoy in Brockton the last one in 2008). It wasn't the quality of the product. It was simply the cost of employees could not be overcome, especially when locating manufacturing overseas and transporting the product back to the US was far cheaper. Since the cost of product transport is effectively zero in the design business, and there is no capital costs involved, locating your production overseas makes sense for design and practically any other information based job. (When I worked at Fidelity, all the back-end work and page loads on their customer facing websites was performed in India.)

You can choose to participate in Crowdspring's business on a voluntary basis, but there is no question the production (i.e. living) costs (Housing, food, health insurance) are much higher for US-based participants. Apart from those breaking into the business, long-term US participants would most likely need a W-2 job.

For people who want to expand their portfolio and pick up some extra spending money Crowdspring is worthwhile avenue. It does not represent a career path for US-based participants.

akrokdesign
akrokdesign

it's great for the greedy and bad for the rest.

Andrew Leung
Andrew Leung

Let's face it - it's easy to get excited about any trend or buzzword, and there have been a lot of them over the years. Some work out great, others don't. For a while the music industry thought "subscription-based music" was going to save them, but it crashed and burned. Millions were invested, and lost, in "desktop-based peer to peer video" with Joost. Even "regime change" sounded great at one point.

But while you can argue over something as an abstract concept, and even claim it's the Inevitable Next Big Thing on such grounds, most trends don't exist simply in the abstract but have to live or die in the real world, where it can't be avoided when examining their potential merits or lack thereof.

So for the sake of argument, let's separate out (1) crowdsourcing in the abstract, which all of us agree is interesting and worthy of discussion, from (2) crowdsourcing as it actually exists, which we can examine by looking at sites like Crowdspring and 99Designs. Putting the abstract arguments aside, can these sites - Crowdspring and 99Designs - provide a credible economic model for agencies and serious designers moving forward?

Now on the face of it, the appeal of the model, for businesses and agency heads, would seem to be that it's a hell of a lot cheaper, and offers more choice. Retain a brand designer for 60k who may or may not deliver what you want or spend $200 at Crowdspring for limitless options? Sounds like a no brainer, especially at a time when agencies are being squeezed by the recession.

But when you take a closer look at it, I'd argue that it's unclear how crowdsourcing, as implemented currently, could really be all that great for agencies.

How does this brave new crowdsourced world work? Will agencies charge the client $10k, turn around and spend $200 on a crowdsourced logo and hope nobody notices?

Maybe, if they whip up enough buzz around crowdsourcing the concept, they can do that in the short term as a gimmick. But over the long term, agencies aren't the only ones who want to cut costs. What's to prevent the client from going directly to the crowdsourcing site in that case and bypassing the agency altogether? Isn't the design expertise of the agency one of the main reasons the client hired the agency to begin with?

Another problem is that crowdsourcing seems to be effective is pretty limited areas of design. It's no accident most of the contests on these sites are for logos, and for a small business happy with the quality of work they get out of it, it might be a good option for them.

But last time I looked, logos weren't the only or even the main thing designers and agencies produced. Can crowdsourcing deliver an agency-quality motion graphics piece? Or a complex, usable web application? At some point (very soon in fact on most jobs), crowdsourcing is simply not going to be a feasible means of producing content, because the same touch and go model that makes it appealing for generating basic ideas makes it a poor one for producing thoughtful, detailed projects, and for refining ideas over the long term.

It's also important, I think, to be honest in terms of looking at the kind of quality you will get out of crowdsourcing as it exists. Clearly not all design is created equal, and again that's why high-end agencies exist in the first place. A quick look at Crowdspring and 99Designs will tell you that, the occassional exception notwithstanding, the quality of the work on these sites ranges from passably mediocre to jaw-droppingly bad. I'd love someone to tell me with a straight face that the submissions you'll find in an average contest on Crowdspring could really replace the work in the portfolio of a company like CP + B.

And that gets us to a largely ignored truth about these sites, which is that a large portion of the participants, and probably a majority, are not the janitor or stay at home Mom who discovered their hidden artistic talent when they downloaded the trial version of Photoshop Elements, as Crowdspring likes to frame it in their ad copy.

Instead, they are mostly designers from third world countries like India, places where a $200 prize not only isn't bad, it's great pay.

This is an important point that a lot of people miss. Put the buzzwords and the contest aspect aside for a moment, what companies like Crowdspring are providing to a large extent is simply good, old-fashioned outsourcing.

And that, by the way, is also the genius of what they have done. Most small businesses and agency art directors wouldn't get at all enthusiastic about going to a site called Third World Designs or Outsourcing dot com. But slap a servicable logo on it and wrap it up in a buzzword, and suddenly it becomes not just safe and appealing, but the Next Inevitable Trend in the world of marketing.

Now I'm not saying that designers from the third world are necessarily bad, that outsourcing is bad, or that, indeed, crowdsourcing is all bad. But we need to take an honest look at crowdsourcing as it is implemented currently before getting too excited, or scared, about it. And then ask ourself which we are really in favor of - crowdsourcing as an abstract intellectual concept, or crowdsourcing as it exists as Crowdspring - a low wage market for mostly third world designers? Because while concepts are great, as any client will tell you, unless we have a workable model for that concept, they are largely worthless.

Paul Schauder
Paul Schauder

Edward:

Your and Stephen's comments left me wondering are we working in an art form or a business? Now, the easy answer is business. But we, as creatives, have always tended to think of ourselves as commercial artists. Where is the twain meeting these days?

Have the years honing a craft been for naught? What does the book of a creative look like next year, in five years, etc? Are we looking for immediate impact or long-term resonance when we concept? What comes first, the positioning or the media event?

Tom Cunniff
Tom Cunniff

Years ago, a copywriter friend referred to advertising as "perhaps the last couture business. Everything we do is handmade".

It's a good analogy. Technology made really high quality off-the-rack clothing possible. Previously, this had been laughably inconceivable.

Stephen Curry is correct when he says that nothing beats handmade. But I believe the overwhelming majority of clients will clamor for excellent Yamahas.

"Good enough" is anathema to most creative people. But it is precisely what most clients strive for.

As bitter a pill as it is to swallow, the truth is pricing power isn't based on intrinsic value. It's based on market forces -- including the threat of substitution.
.-= Tom Cunniff´s last blog ..What If Your CEO Is Right To Be Afraid Of Social Media? (Part Two) =-.

Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry

My very first art director partner, Ben Niles, left advertising and went on to NY to become a documentary film maker.

His film, "Note By Note: the making of Steinway L1037" premiered on PBS last night.

http://www.pbs.org/notebynote/

It explores the extraordinary detail and individual personalities that go into something truly handmade and original, rather than mass-produced.

It's well worth viewing as we assess the value of painstaking individual craftsmanship vs. acceptable machine-built engineering.

Note By Note explores the alchemy which happens when a group of individuals work together for decades side by side, passing on their craft to the next generation.

There used to be over 1000 piano makers in the US. Now there are but a handful. But for the people who still value a Steinway, there's simply no substitute. Literally no two are the same.

Crowdsourcing will create excellent Yamahas. But it will never create a Steinway.

Gene Smith
Gene Smith

When an artist uses her craft and creates a design through many layers of technique and thought, she is damn sure every element follows a path to excellence. She has seen how a layer of craft slightly off key, in color, composition, light or texture can wreck the job.

This attention to detail comes from study, failure and PRACTICE.

Maybe we can't discern that beauty as well today as we used to, when a careless drop of ink could ruin an illustration. Or when we had to wait and see film after the models were long gone.

We don't see much fine design in the mainstream today. It's far too dear. It's slow, expensive, and measured, and while you don't need to chop off an ear to do it today, it's not EASY.

Throwing crap on the wall won't create the sublime- But it might fit the bill.

Let's get this great hoard of mercenaries to design our bridges, dams and government.

SOLD!

Gene Smith
Gene Smith

When an artist uses her craft and creates a design through many layers of technique and thought, she is damn sure every element follows a path to excellence. She has seen how a layer of craft slightly off key, in color, composition, light or texture can wreck the job.

This attention to detail comes from study, failure and PRACTICE.

Maybe we can't discern that beauty as well today as we used to, when a careless drop of ink could ruin an illustration. Or when we had to wait and see film after the models were long gone.

We don't see much fine design in the mainstream today. It's far too dear. It's slow, expensive, and measured, and while you don't need to chop off an ear to do it today, it's not EASY.

Throwing crap on the wall won't create the sublime- But it might fit the bill.

Let's get this great hoard of mercenaries to design our bridges, dams and government.

SOLD!

Erik Proulx
Erik Proulx

I'm about to do an interview with zooppa.com, and I find myself completely torn on this whole issue. Engaging your audience to chart the course of your organization? Yes. Participation in the most fundamental levels of your brand? Absolutely. But, as Edward said, to turn every assignment into a knock-down, drag out competition reeks of what ad people despise most: thankless new business pitches where you spend countless hours and dollars and guts on work that has very little likelihood of seeing daylight.

There's no doubt that crowdsourcing is here, the way "free" is here and "Twitter" is here. But none of them have reached maturity yet. Nor, I hope, has crowdsourcing.

Why not take the basics of the crowdsourcing principle - audience participation - and improve upon it. What don't Brammo and the like offer $1000 to, say, 20 designers, then give the "winner" a much bigger reward.

As a budding entrepreneur, I see the value of crowdsourcing. As a creative, I get a pit in my stomach when I consider its many flaws.
.-= Erik Proulx´s last blog ..Happy Employment New Year =-.

Tim
Tim

So, ten years from now, if this all keeps going the way it's going, what kind of person will want to go into design? The ones without talent. If you're good, you deserved to be paid more than a thousand bucks. Alex Bogusky is a very handsome, very hip, very smart, ethically-challenged snake oil salesman.

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

Stephen,

Thanks for the laugh. I think you encapsulated the thought that's been swirling around the last 20 posts here (hope you weren't too bored). Crowdsourcing, when it's simply to outsource creative work in the form of a contest, has a very short-shelf life.

I think Edward said something about "a camera does not make you a photographer,Photoshop does not make you a designer...". In the same vein a presence on Facebook, Twitter, CrowdSPRING, or operating your own blog does not make you a social media guru. It's just another communications tool to further involve people in the messages of your brand, specifically to foster engagement, interactions and activities that would have been impossible or cost-prohibitive up until this point.

arb:

Tim
Tim

116+ comments. Looks like CP+B got what they wanted by crowdsourcing.

Paul Schauder
Paul Schauder

Is crowdsourcing the point or is the Brammo logo the point. It seems to me Crispin is getting kudos for the method by which they get to a logo, we used to be concerned with the quality of the logo.

If the logo sucks or is pedestrian does that matter?

Rob Schwartz
Rob Schwartz

Brainstorm + Focus Group = Crowd-Sourcing.

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

They have a saying in golf architecture-ODG "Old Dead Guys" and it is used mainly to describe how people like Tom Doak (Pacific Dunes) and Ben Crenshaw (Sand Hills) have taken the lessons of Donald Ross (Pinehurst) and Alister Mackenzie (Augusta National) and reinterpreted them with benefits of today's knowledge and technology. How much credit they get depends on how much they have added to the original concept of letting the land dictate the challenge of the golf course. No-one, of course, can ask Ross or Mackenzie how well today's group have succeeded.

Given the short history lens of the ad business some of our pioneers are still around to be asked what they think of today's creativity-e.g. Art & Copy.

One person not available for comment is Howard Gossage, who is Jeff Goodby's idol. In reality, he is the person who developed crowdsourcing (at least as it applies to this business). What is the paper plane contest he developed for Scientific American? Just a much more clever idea to shine attention on a brand than the same tired "design our logo" idea CP+B is out there flogging for their electric bike client.

What is "win a Kangaroo" other than a contest idea to promote Australian Tourism that predates this year's "Best Job in the World" Cannes winner by over 4 decades. One can only imagine what a mind like that would be doing with today's enabling technology. I have a feeling he wouldn't be asking Microsoft users to name their new operating system or design their start-up screen.

Edward, your point about the greats of the business being the pioneers in both concepts AND the creative process is well taken. It's important to remember that some of them were already doing what is being discussed in this thread-engaging customers with a brand without getting them to do work for free–almost 50 years ago. The technology available today has simply made it easier for even the lazy mind to conceive of "crowdsourcing" ideas that often seem like a pale copy of what has come before.

Tom Cunniff
Tom Cunniff

None of us are smarter or more creative than all of us.

Increasingly, what will separate brilliant amateurs from well-paid professionals is the ability to spot brilliance AND harness it to drive business results.

Creative skills alone are no longer enough.
.-= Tom Cunniff´s last blog ..What If Your CEO Is Right To Be Afraid Of Social Media? (Part Two) =-.

Abe
Abe

Here's a solution: Adobe should lean on these sites to require users to provide their Photoshop, Illustrator, and font licenses.

Business owners are required to do so. Why should Crowdspring profit from software privacy?

edward boches
edward boches

Rory:
You are in good company with your opinions. I am not totally convinced of CS as a tool that benefits dsigners (though there are some entry level and aspirants who would argue it is). My real interest is in co-creation and participation. To date, we have done only one contest, mostly entered by wannabes and displacing no one. But we have used it a lot in many other places. Crowdfunding for Grain Foods Foundation; consumer participation in conversation and community for Panera; video sharing for Olympus; the co-creation and marketing of Lemonade the Movie (I just helped with the promo part); in creating digital events from analog events (Superbowl, Academy Awards, etc.) for Mullen; and my favorite http://thenextgreatgeneration.com where everyone benefits. I think that Lowe got screwed on the Peparami project. We live in an age of consumer participation, even control. Brands no longer can stop people from creating content so why not embrace it. (See HP You on You). Sure there are brands trying to do it only to save money or squeeze participants via competitions. But many have the intention of finding better if not the best ideas, of inviting their communities into the brand, of embracing a larger talent pool. CS gets a bad name from the design community. But even in that case there are some advantages. I'm just one guy trying to experiment with all that's new. You can blame me if you want, but I'm not inventing the trends, consumers are.

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

The first crowdsourcing application:

Tom Sawyer gets the other boys in the neighborhood to paint the fence while "paying him small treasures for the privilege of doing his work".

Mmmmm... if the Gossage Awards ever gets off the ground, the Best of Show should be called the Twain Prize. ;-)

Ross Kimbarovsky
Ross Kimbarovsky

Andrew,

I agree with Edward - you've posted a very thoughtful comment that moves the discussion forward.

I do want to correct one inaccuracy. I can't speak for any other sites - designers on crowdSPRING come from over 170 countries around the world. You've suggested that most come from the third world - and some certainly do. Half of the designers who are awarded projects on crowdSPRING are based in the U.S. Many are based in Europe, Canada, Australia - areas that are hardly the third world. Incidentally - we've shared answers to the 25 most frequently asked questions about crowdSPRING - http://bit.ly/cSanswers

However - I'm not sure the location of the designer is relevant - unless you're implying that designers from outside the U.S. are less capable (and it seems that you're not saying that). By allowing people to compete based on talent and not based on location, resume, or fancy offices, we're able to provide a level playing field for all.

Now - let me suggest a way for us to move the conversation even further. You've asked an excellent question - is the crowdsourcing model as currently practiced a credible economic model for agencies and serious designers moving forward.

You've offered one answer. I believe that for many agencies, for certain projects, the answer is unequivocally yes (but not for all projects, and certainly not for all agencies).

There are others answers, however. For example, crowdSPRING has worked with many agencies who've posted projects - but not all of the projects were looking for design collateral from the crowdSPRING community. A bit of background would help here: we have two types of projects - standard and Pro. Pro projects offer granular privacy protections, non-disclosure agreements, granular approvals of participants, etc. No other marketplace has these features.

Some agencies have posted projects crowdsourcing ideas internally from their own employees.

That's right - leveraging their OWN creative talent. As much as we like to think this is commonly done (I've worked at two mid-size professional organizations that TRIED to do this) it's not easy to execute well. We have a platform that allows agencies (and any brand) to easily do this. We're thrilled that some have.

I do agree with you that too many people frame crowdsourcing as abstract intellectual concepts - and never really look at the practical applications. That's partly why I enjoyed reading your comment and why I have invested the time to participate in this conversation on Edwards' blog.
.-= Ross Kimbarovsky´s last blog ..10 Legal Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Small Business And How To Avoid Them =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Andrew,
Now I know why I blog. So that I can connect with people as smart and thoughtful as you. Thank you for this reply. Among the best yet.

The single thought I’d like you to take away is this. Crowdsourcing is not just about competitions and exploiting the audience; it is about co-creation and allowing consumers who demand participation a chance. Think Beasty Boys video where they gave cameras to lots of fans and edited the footage. Think Library of Congress sourcing the identity of thousands of photographs by posting them on FlickR. Think Sour creating a video by blending together webcam images of all its participating fans. Think of Anthony Butler’s solution to capturing the real neighborhoods of Cincinnati. Our industry is too focused on the one, most controversial, example of CS. But we shouldn’t let that blur our vision of what it can be.

I believe that every time a brand does a TV spot or even a print ad it should allow it’s community to create its version. Join the fun, post it on social networks, spread it around, and yes, give out some awards to the winners. Not because the agency or client need the crowd to come up with the idea (though we should be open to someone coming up with a better one than the agency, and be honest about it), because it’s insane not to. How many videos, many about brands, are uploaded to YouTube every day? We need to tap into that.

As for the contests in the world of design, you may be right in all your conclusions about the participants. And the quality. Still, if I were a small company and needed a logo I would certainly try it out. What do I have to lose? If I were Coca Cola launching a new drink, I might try it out just for fun and the buzz. But in the latter case, no doubt, I would be hiring a great design firm, ideally less arrogant than they used to be; the threat of crowdsourcing should temper that.

As for all the other stuff, yesterday I interviewed a 22-year-old kid right out of college. He had a motion graphics reel. He’d developed iPhone apps. He had blogged for some major, high visibility blogs. He designed logos and he did art direction. He was very good. He is the future. If he doesn’t find a job (he probably will) what should he do? Why not crowdsource? As for me, should I get rid of people making more than what I can get him for and squeeze output out of lower salaried employees? And if so, what happens to the other folks? (For the record, I’m not going to do that, as I believe there are many benefits of experience, from judgment, to speed, to interaction with peers, to understanding clients’ needs.)

I can’t answer for Crowdspring, so I’ll leave that to Ross. In the meantime, my intention is to learn to make if work for me, for my clients, and as importantly for the participants.

Thanks again. Your reply was great. Should have been an entire guest post.

edward boches
edward boches

Anthony:
Yes. Brilliant. This is crowdsourcing. Or, better, co-creation. Library of Congress did it in reverse. To identify thousands of photos on its archives, it just posted them on Flickr and let people id them. You have it figured out. Thanks for sharing. Will go into my case study deck.

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

Paul,

Thanks for your note.

Your comment on the purchase funnel reminded me of something my partner said the other day about branding awareness "The TV has been replaced by the Google search box."

I'll let you know how it turns out. Like many of these groups, they are waiting for their stimulus check.

Paul Schauder
Paul Schauder

Great point, Anthony.

The best crowdsourcing involves an ongoing engagement between customers or potential customers and the brand. Though the design contest obviously has its place.

It's the purchase funnel, no? I think of the logo contest as an awareness driver. Where as, the flickr community can encompasses every phase from awareness to loyalty to some degree.

I suppose, like anything, the execution should serve the need.

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

Since this thread started, I was contacted by a Community energy alliance in Cincinnati who liked what we did for a similar group in Cambridge, MA. One thing they liked in particular about the web site was the neighborhood shots that presented a side of Cambridge only known to residents and not the usual Harvard Yard/JFK Bridge stuff you see.

As a resident of Cambridge with 600 commissioned photos to select from, this was not a particularly complicated task. This new group is in the middle of the country in a city I have visited but once. How could I recreate this for their city? How about a FLICKR-based photo comp where residents submit photos of the neighborhood that are voted on by other local residents. The top 100 vote-getters have their photos put into rotation on their Word Press templates (which we will design). The top 3 get up to $2500 to make energy efficient improvements on their homes.

Crowdsourcing should be about shifting a project outside the walls of an agency who couldn't complete the task in the normal course of work. It's also about getting the audience to spend more time thinking about your client's business and messaging. All while saving a couple thousand dollars commission on a local photographer and being forced to take whatever he produces.

This seems like a fairly simple idea, but so far I've had to explain it to three different people. I'm still waiting on approval.

On the other hand, if you tell a client they can get 75 new logos to choose from and the most they'll pay is a thousand bucks... You don't need all the neurons firing to understand this (or communicate it to your superiors).

Perhaps we need to do a better job steering clients towards the kinds of crowdsourcing projects that don't involve replacing the capabilities we've spent a lifetime developing.

It also helps to remember that by the time you're sick and tired of talking about something, a lot of other people are just starting to nod their head.

arb:

edward boches
edward boches

Tom:
All of this led to a new post about the consumer trends that drive everything. http://bit.ly/7BPTu We all got into this business for the craft. But in some ways, unfortunately, holding onto that will kill us.

edward boches
edward boches

I fixed the typos. Always do, as I am a perfectionist, just like great designers. I agree with everything you are saying. But it's not up to me. Read the piece in the recent Wired about "The Good Enough Revolution." MP3s suck. They sound like crap. They do to music what bad design does to craftsmanship. They deny all the importance of audio quality and the amazing ability of the human ear to detect frequencies. And I am sure there are composers and musicians alike who lament that they have replaced Kirsch horn speakers. But they have. Because they are good enough.

Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry

I'm not wistful for craft for craft's sake.

You never chose a Jim Erickson photo for a Mullen ad because you simply liked Jim Erickson.

Your decision had a purpose.

Craft has had a role in moving a consumer emotionally, in disarming them if ever so briefly, to see the world in a new way. At least, up until now.

In this new environment, what will take its place?

Because appealing to consumer's emotions is still the way to make a difference for a brand. Our audience hasn't turned into robots.

If anything, we're more emotionally-driven than ever. All you have to do is look at downtown DC last weekend or the tweets at #whereiwas.

I think Goodby has it nailed on their website: Art serving Capitalism.

Are the old tools less unique and more easily dupllicated? Yep, thank the Knoll brothers and Photoshop for that.

But the need for powerful emotional triggers which accomplished what "craft" did for us in the past, isn't going anywhere.

The trick is be be one of the marketers who can harness these new tools to powerfully accomplish those timeless goals.

edward boches
edward boches

Stephen:
I have furniture that is one of a kind. Custom built by a great furniture maker, Henry Fox. It is a joy to behold. And I paid dearly for it. The wood is beautiful, the workmanship precise. I hope, for all of us who admire beauty (along with truth and wisdom) that such craftsmanship will live, even in our business. But it will a finite, and a small finite, part of it, I'm afraid. We are talking survival here. We are responding to consumer behavior. Steinways are amazing creations. But in an MP3 world, we'll never see very many of them sold.

edward boches
edward boches

Gene:
I hope they don't do the bridges, dams or tunnels. But I fear they are already running the government. Your metaphor is flawed. Bad logos might assault our senses but they won't threaten our lives. And guess what, people don't want to do business with companies anymore anyway. They want to do business with people. Logos matter less, not to you or to me, but to the consumer. Oh by the way, I agonize over design. I have great designers working for me and we tweak the shit out of everything when we do it for ourselves. Probably a stupid unnecessary thing to do. Most clients don't want to pay for the time when it's their work. We still do it for ourselves out of pride of craft. Who is right? The designer or the market?

Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry

And Erik, isn't part of what makes your site special the sense of loyalty it engenders? There's a sense of trust and community and an expectation that you'll all help each other out?

As crowdsourcing and its cousins mature and multiply, part of what I suspect will happen is that all voices will not be equally respected, and all opportunities will not be equally valued.

What if I were given an choice to crowdsource my logo to 20 designers who each were guaranteed to have earned at least One Show Design pencil, as opposed to 200 with no guarantee of quality or credibility? Would I pay more for the former? You bet I would.

Forgive the cheesy analogy, but maybe it'll be like getting a haircut in some places, where you can choose a stylist or a Master Stylist. In either case you leave with less hair, but sometimes the difference is worth a premium.

Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry

Yes, the process and the "theater of creation" are wildly effective - for exactly long as this is novel and interesting. Which by my calculation, was approximately twenty posts ago.

Let's say that Euro RSCG crowdsources a logo for a cruise ship line next week and the prize is, say, $1200.

What's that sound? I believe it's crickets.

AgencySpy and Adweak would pound them mercilessly. They would be accused of the worst sort of me-too marketing. Already the whole thing is slightly more tired and less capable of creating buzz.

Right, because it was novel the first time.

So what do you do to make it interesting next time? Limit the entrants to chimpanzees? Meth addicts? Make the contest last 37 minutes? Only allow them to design in the dark?

It will not take long for the contest shtick to become tiresome.

Please understand: I totally get, value, and am excited about the prospect of involving thousands or millions of people in your brand. And the possibility that crowdsourcing might yield unexpected, smarter solutions for us all. That part, I buy into.

The part about the process itself creating excitement around your brand? That's where I see it as having a stunningly short half-life.

When the third snowboard maker or the sixth candy company does this, will anyone care?

James DeJulio
James DeJulio

Paul,

It doesn't necessarily matter. If the logo was great, then that's a huge plus. What matters is the "theater of creation" and that's why traffic went up on Brammo's site and why we're all talking about Brammo, a company we all seemingly never heard of before this happened, suddenly they are relevant. So, did it work? I believe that for the time being, the process is more important than the output. eventually as the process becomes mroe refined, so will the output.

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

Edward,

I hope it comes across that I am also a believer in co-creation. I also agree with your viewpoint that crowdsourcing has so much more potential than simply using it as a cattle-call for a design contest... the last thing we need it for is to enable a race to the bottom for the skills many here have spent a entire career developing. In fact, we need it more for the tasks that many organizations would find impossible to do within their own four walls.

We use eLance to locate particular skill sets that neither I or my partner possess. At our budget levels, our clients are fairly keen on embracing WordPress as a total content management solution once they get an inkling of its capabilities. Very quickly, a niche industry of people who can incorporate functionality into your UI designs and make your WordPress site look and act like so much more than a blog has been created. It would not be possible to accommodate our clients' requests without these peoples' talents.

Considering the modest budgets and the fact each third party expense cuts into my margins, it would be tempting to conduct some kind of competition to gather ideas, designs or the like for my clients, since I am reasonably confident of my 'curatorial' abilities. It would be hypocritical-and shortsighted-to devalue a skill that I want my clients to appreciate and pay for when I provide it to them.

arb:

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

Edward,

If you are serious about the awards, the act of defining the categories of competition would provide a good opportunity to define the terms of what is completely new niche of the advertising and communications business.

BTW-Should we accept Wikipedia as the ultimate authority on the definition of crowdsourcing? At the moment, they define it as "a task traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people". From that definition, a logo competition is 100% a crowdsourcing activity.

Unless you defined the Burger King job as "can someone here at CP+B hack into 2 million Facebook accounts and dump 10 friends from each" is it crowdsourcing according to Wikipedia?

The other definition of crowsourcing on Wikipedia; "Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model. Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. Users--also known as the crowd--typically form into online communities, and the crowd submits solutions".

When Facebook users dump 10 friends to get a Whopper are they submitting a solution or simply helping to execute one that has already been defined? I would humbly submit they are helping CP+B and BK achieve their marketing goal, not performing an employee task. Then again, most employees and employee tasks are focused on executing previously decided strategies, so who knows?

edward boches
edward boches

Cool, but let's not do competition crowdsourcing, something more in the co-creation arena.

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

Edward/Rob,

Thanks for the boost.

OK. Crowdspring, FLICKR, Threadless and few other likely suspects to sponsor it. (I have a contact at Nokia very much into co-creation who could probably have his arm twisted.)

Jeff Goodby chairman of judging for the first year. But the judging is 'American Idol' style. The panel 'curates' them down to the finalists for each category (somewhere between 3-5) and voting then takes place through the competition sponsors websites. (One vote per customer).

Awards ceremony live streamed. Winners accept via webcam (or whatever other method they choose). That's it for me at the moment. I have a proposal to finish–which includes a really neat co-creation idea!

arb:

edward boches
edward boches

Actually it was crowdsourcing. Any great viral meme that builds into something big because of the crowd is CS. Creating something great via the small contributions of the individual is CS. This stream is too focused on design competitions, perhaps my fault due to the post. But if you read and explore other things that I've been talking about, or John Winsor at CP&B, or Ben Malbon at BBH Labs, we're attempting to inspire much more exciting projects and possibilities.

edward boches
edward boches

Anthony:
True on all accounts. This isn't new. (Think Zagat's, anthologies, church cookbooks, etc.) It's not new to our business either, as you point out. I'm not arguing in favor of design contests for no money. Simply that a. crowdsourcing thanks to technology affords us all kinds of opportunities other than contests. b. in places like design, yes there is disruption. Stop fighting and use some martial arts to turn the changes to one's advantage.

Rob Schwartz
Rob Schwartz

I LOVE the idea of a Gossage Award. Nice one.

Anthony Butler
Anthony Butler

That said-CP+B's "Lose 10 Facebook friends. Get a free Whopper." idea was genius. Not crowdsourcing, but a perfectly timed leveraging of social media tools to get attention for your client's brand.

Maybe we should start up an annual Gossage Awards for co-creation ideas. Especially since the Titanium Lion committee seems to issue a two-page Press Release every year trying to identify exactly what it is they're looking for...

Tom Cunniff
Tom Cunniff

IMO, it's still a creative job. The "curator" needs to know how to spot a promising idea and make it fit the client's needs without screwing up what made it a great idea in the first place.
.-= Tom Cunniff´s last blog ..What If Your CEO Is Right To Be Afraid Of Social Media? (Part Two) =-.

Paul Schauder
Paul Schauder

Edward

You're probably right on this since you are the guy who can create the position but it is a creative position or a project management position? If you can crowdsource concepts, why can't you crowdsource creative direction?

edward boches
edward boches

Tom:
Watch. The new gig inside agencies will be "curator" or "director of crowdsourcing."

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