Tomorrow, I interview John Winsor on crowdsourcing. I’ve been working on this for a while now: I’ve read Jeff Howe, checked out numerous crowdsourcing sites, exchanged emails with BBH Labs, and interviewed the CEO of Poptent. There are more crowdsourcing examples surrounding us than you might imagine. Some represent true peer production (Library of Congress); others are closer to open competitions (crowdSpring).
But clearly numerous companies (at least the forward thinking ones like Dell, Starbucks and Proctor & Gamble) embrace it; others like Threadless.com (tee-shirts), Kompoz (music), Forvo.com (language), and Filmaka (film and video) have launched businesses based on it; and thousands of individuals have found it a way to create, join, compete and participate.
Anyway, here is our discussion guide for tomorrow, subject to change.
What are the best examples of crowdsourcing that you’ve seen?
We’re probably all familiar with the creation of iStockphoto, Threadless.com, My Starbucks idea, Dell’s Idea Storm. Do others, less known but just as innovative, stand out?
What are the most obvious applications?
It seems the obvious application, and the one most prevalent, is simply fishing for creative ideas from a larger pool of alleged talent. Doritos’ Superbowl spot for example, and clients’ use of services like Poptent and 99 designs come to mind. In some cases these are just publicity stunts, but in other cases they really work, for both the marketer and the creator. Would you agree?
BBH Labs used crowdSpring as an experiment to create its own logo
They claim that, “In the not-too-distant future, creative agencies will resemble expanded networks with core teams overseeing expansive partnerships rather than the more vertically-integrated models existing today.” Let’s talk about how soon this might happen.
At the same time there’s some controversy.
Google the term “crowdsourcing is evil,” and you get 75,000 results. Most of it is in response to services like crowdSpring, which stands accused of devaluing graphic design. Even AIGA has weighed in with an official position essentially opposing spec work. So, is crowdsourcing evil?
AIGA’s position opposing spec creative is on behalf of professional designers.
Jeff Howe’s entire CS thesis is based on the fact that the gap between amateur and professional has narrowed and that in an economy that forces us into specialization, amateurs find joy, participation and release in other endeavors. So they emerge as designers, scientists, bloggers, and inventors. Isn’t crowdsourcing being driven as much by the desire of the creative person to participate? You mentioned this in your Business Week article.
So, is this an opportunity or a risk for agencies?
Historically agencies want to be the source of creative ideas and output. Should they crowdsource content? Change their business model as BBH suggests will happen anyway? What are the ramifications of doing so?
Typically agencies tend to resist this stuff until they’re forced by clients to change
But by then they’re way behind the curve. Obviously clients want more options for less money. But at the same time, isn’t this a way for agencies to get into all kinds of different businesses? Product development? Communispace-type communities? The building of advisory panels? Consumer generated stories that might inspire agency created-content? Or, closer to using crowdsourcing as it was first intended: exploring ways to tap into collective knowledge to create a bigger idea or solution.
I interviewed the CEO and founder of Poptent earlier this week.
Neil Perry’s business model is simple, yet brilliant. Big brands need creative content in numerous places and don’t want to spend big bucks on fees or production for most of it. So, Poptent delivers produced video for between $25 and $30,000, sourced from the crowd of content creators, videographers, and creatives who aren’t (and probably never will be) commercial directors, but who can create better than decent content. His clients include Bud Light, Old Spice, Stouffers, Nestle. Can’t agencies tap into this? Or even replicate the model themselves?
Let’s talk about some misconceptions.
Everyone thinks this is cheap and easy. But it takes time, organization, and planning to make it work. What are your thoughts on the effort required? Can we measure or place a value on the time and energy?
Then there’s Sturgeon’s Law
The process will generate 90 percent crap and only 10 percent good stuff. And that’s if you’re lucky. What can a brand or advertiser do to increase or manage the odds?
How about incentives for the crowd?
Again, the new company trying this out might think it’s about money. But in many cases it’s creating ways to build reputation and gain personal fulfillment? Are there best practices we can replicate?
Perhaps the biggest challenge is this:
As our business becomes more and more about collaboration, far beyond the writer/art director, but to teams that include programmers, user experience professionals, designers, SFX creators, social influencers — often all working together to amplify an idea — won’t crowdsourcing pose all kinds of new challenges for those managing teams that are interdependent?
There are some cool things getting done that should inspire us
There are examples from years ago, like Awesome, I Fucking Shot That, the 2006 Beastie Boys concert where they gave video cameras (rented and returned after the concert by the way) to create footage for a documentary. Simple idea. Then there’s the more recent video for Sour. The BBH-created video includes fans from all over the world who submitted video of themselves via webcam. It’s a celebration of the band, of music, of inclusions, of technology. It may not be a business example, but reduced it to its essence, it’s simply an invitation to the crowd to join a brand and co-create content. What can we learn from these creations?
And finally, of course, there are your questions. Some incorporated already. Others on index cards ready to go. Your thoughts? What will you use crowdsourding to accomplish?