Last week Unilever announced the winner of its Peparami crowdsourcing contest. The client received well over 1000 ideas and couldn’t have been happier. They paid a small fee to Idea Bounty to run the contest, and a grand total of $15,000 in prizes to the winners, two old ad pros content to sell their concepts for $10,000 and $5,000 respectively.
No doubt there are many creatives secretly hoping this project fails. And plenty of agencies that still think crowdsourcing is either a gimmick or a fad. I may empathasize with the former, but I’m not among the latter.
Consider this: the client just got new creative work for a fraction of what they once paid their agency in fees. They had more work to choose from and claim there was no compromise in the quality of ideas they received.
Now that may or may not be true. The finished work will have to stand up to previous executions. But the client’s declaration is bound to echo through agency hallways.
What’s getting less attention, but is also worth noting, is Peparami’s selection of Smart Works to produce the spots. This production company, boasting an established network of offshore operations, promises to deliver high-end production for less than half what the typical London agency quotes for an equivalent job. Are you starting to see a trend here?
My guess is that Unilever is thinking about a similar approach for its other brands and that plenty of marketers and advertisers are observing this project with more than a casual interest. In fact, if all turns out well, watch for Peparami’s Noam Buchalter to become the next champion of this emerging tactic.
Granted Peparami has the benefit of The Animal, a campaign idea and character created by its former agency Lowe. No doubt this made it easier to write a brief and even pick the executions. Nevertheless even if Peparami started from scratch, chances are that 1000+plus submissions, many from talented creatives currently working in the business, would provide them with something interesting. Unfortunately for Lowe, while the voiceover talent who plays the character in TV commercials continues to receive residuals, and the photographer who may have shot The Animal retains rights to the images, Lowe probably has no rights to its idea, character or tagline. (Owning and licensing our ideas rather than selling them outright is another post all together.)
Shortly after this story broke last Monday, I had a long conversation with John Winsor, one of the founders of Victors and Spoils. Within the first three weeks of hanging out his shingle, John has welcomed more than 500 creative people into his “crowd,” signed contracts with at least three clients, and finds himself under consideration for agency of record with another.
This is the beginning of something significant, destined to affect agencies, clients and the creative community. Where it will lead is anyone’s guess, but here are a few things I expect to see.
New agency models that include crowdsourcing
It’s only a matter of time before every ad agency offers its clients some form of crowdsourcing. We may create the community or crowd ourselves, or tap into existing communities, but the smart agencies will start offering this option before clients demand it.
New production models that cost less
Smart Works and other production companies will themselves crowdsource talent and technology in order to reduce costs. The more innovative agencies among us will give greater consideration to production companies that do, and if it works, a new model will emerge.
New contracts and relationships with creative talent
Expect creative people who are gainfully employed to ask for the freedom to participate in external contests. Perhaps they’ll accept limitations if the assignment is a conflict with their agency’s existing clients, but sooner or later they’ll want a crack at those $15,000 prizes in return for the lack of job security they live with.
Creative collaboratives that pool ideas and share winnings
Groups of creative people will join forces and agree to submit ideas as a group, sharing in the winnings. Such an alliance will increase the odds of getting a return and spread the risk across the group. A mutual fund, if you will. This could, in fact, become a new kind of agency. A perfect idea for all those unemployed writers and art directors still inspired to create. Erik Proulx, you reading this?
More models that look like Victors and Spoils
They have a head start and a great management team, but someone will come along and develop a technology that makes it easier, or a niche approach that focuses on social media or Twitter, or even the same idea for strategy and research. If this becomes a new category of agency (we already have digital, integrated, social, PR, and media agencies) we’ll see even more disruption.
The emergence of a new client function: chief curator
Crowdsourcing success depends on the quality of the crowd, the platform for collecting work, and the filtering system to evaluate it. If clients do, in fact, embrace a more manage it yourself approach — mixing and matching strategy, research, digital, PR, crowdsourcing – they’ll need a new set of skills.
Where do you think it will lead? I’d love to hear what you think and how you’re dealing with change, whether as a creative person, an agency or a client.
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