Peparami and crowdsourcing: something to chew on

Picture 5Last 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.

And as always, if you like what you find here, please share, pass it on, or consider subscribing via RSS or email.

14 comments
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David Saxe
David Saxe

Edward,

I admit that I have missed quite a few posts in the last month but noticed CS as your primary topic. 2 questions, mainly surrounding your first take away:

1. If all agencies need to offer crowdsourcing (including concepts) and you're working with brilliant Marketing Directors and CMOs, can you articulate what you believe to be the indispensible value of the agency?

2. You suggested "offering" CS to your clients before they demand it. Assuming I'm at least partially on the right track of how you'll answer the first question, we really need to be in the seat of recommending its use in certain scenarios. Under what circumstances do you advise your clients against it, if at all?
.-= David Saxe´s last blog ..I Invented A Flying Coffee-Maker. Now What? =-.

Ally Polly
Ally Polly

Edward,

Great post, and very exciting times. Every time we at Filmaka get a project we are cognizant of the growing pains- both inside the Agency and within the advertiser. No reason for anyone to feel threatened. It's an "AND" not an "OR" for all involved.

I think there is one more element/role that will emerge which is the latest version of
DIGITAL TALENT OFFICER or CROWD CONTROl/ HR. There are many best practices and legal aspects that are evolving with regards to how to motivate, reward, and manage the crowd.

John Winsor
John Winsor

Edward,

Great post. I couldn't agree with you more. Things are changing fast. The agency business will surely be affected like the larger media business. While no single business model will replace another, the marketplace for marketing services will become much more diverse.
.-= John Winsor´s last blog .. =-.

Suzanne Lainson
Suzanne Lainson

Wouldn't the ultimate end be to eliminate the agency? Seems like the holy grail of marketing is to find every person who might want to buy a company's goods/services and then have a unique tailored message for each one of them. Why have anything that resembles current advertising? Break down the company/customer communication so that ad campaigns become obsolete.
.-= Suzanne Lainson´s last blog ..More Pay-What-You-Want Examples =-.

Suzanne Lainson
Suzanne Lainson

I'm more interested in the use of user input as a community building experience than as a source of either creative ideas or reduced costs. The way a lot of crowdsourcing is currently being conducted, people are suggesting ideas, but acting individually. Even if their ideas are curated/combined for the final product, they may not get the sense of working together with others. So I have been looking at ways for people to contribute even small pieces, but collectively they feel like much more. An example that comes to mind is a flash mob. Often it takes little to no talent for people to become involved with them, so a lot of people can participate. And the final result, particularly if filmed, exists because of the group experience.

Right now, with many crowdsourcing projects, many people are encouraged to submit, but relatively few see their ideas used/displayed. I want more projects where many people are encouraged to submit, and all of their input is used, like a vast mosaic.
.-= Suzanne Lainson´s last blog ..More Pay-What-You-Want Examples =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Suzanne:
The tailored message is already there with cookies and versioning. But you raise a more interesting Q which I think I'll write about. The end (?) of the shared experience. If everything is customized, one on one, even sending different TV spots to different boxes, will we lose any remaining communal connection with the loss of shared experiences? Will that phenomenon be limited to disasters, inaugurations and SuperBowl ads? Once upon a time we all knew that we were experiencing the same messages (TV shows, ads, news reports) at the same time. There was comfort in that even if it's a less relevant marketing approach in an age of opt-in. While we all gain through one-on-one and opt-in content and messaging (both of which are inevitable if not already the new status quo) the unanswered question is whether we lose something, too.

Paul L'Acosta
Paul L'Acosta

Thank you Edward for scaring me ****less through my RSS reader. That first picture on your post evoked childhood nightmares of clowns and TVs (Poltergeist). But hey, I guess you conquered my attention and forced me to read your post (amazing job by the way!) so the mix worked out. --Paul
.-= Paul L'Acosta´s last blog ..marketingfails: @chrisbrogan Hmm. I got to admit I've been using Twitter Search more than Google itself lately. More relevant IMHO. =-.

James
James

Great post, Edward. We're getting tons of agencies contacting us to figure out how to make crowdsourcing work for them too and it's interesting how many assumptions crop up in those discussions.

There are a few of the classic, paralyzing influencers -- FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doom) but those have become less important.

More great examples pop up all the time of how agencies can tap into the elements of crowdsourcing and co-creation that make sense of specific campaigns. It's certainly not one-size-fits-all.

And we're seeing that the folks who are experimenting are learning the lessons first-hand, then rolling those lessons into their next efforts and reaping increasing rewards. It's so early that a classic 'learn to do by doing' approach has served best.
.-= James´s last blog ..Cats for Gold Satire Ad =-.

Bruce DeBoer
Bruce DeBoer

One of the reasons there are strong responses to crowdsourcing creative requests is the element of creative freedom. It that old saying that I first heard in the early '80's, "You're production will cost $1000 or $5,000 if you're there, or $15,000 if you help."
.-= Bruce DeBoer´s last blog ..The Afghanistan Portfolio of Photographer – David Guttenfelder =-.

Jon
Jon

HiEdward

Not much to add, just to say that I think this the most objective blog post about crowdsourcing that I have read to date.

Thanks for sharing

Daniel
Daniel

Hi Edward

Thanks for the mention and the interesting thoughts on the future of crowdsourcing. Your first point on agencies embracing crowdsourcing and offering it as a service to the client is one thing that I firmly believe we will start seeing more of. One of the reasons that Unilever wanted to go the crowdsourcing rout was because they felt that the Peperami brand needed a fresh set of eyes - having said that the Animal was still central to the brief and that I will also admit has to suck for any agency.

I think one of the ways this could have perhaps been avoided, although this is easy to say in retrospect, is if Lowe had suggested they take the brand to the crowd they could have had a hand in the writing of the brief (and thus its strategic direction) the selection of the idea and the production of the final campaign.

I also dont think crowdsourcing for creative ideas is for everything either - For example you would have a hard time crowdsourcing a TV ad for a brand that does not exist yet and maintain some sort of strategic direction. However an new brand asking the crowd to come up with new ideas for its second ever campaign could be interesting.

We learned a lot at Idea Bounty hosting the Peperami brief and we are looking forward to what the future has in store. Community development is key - as you point out - and we are going to be doing a lot more to foster and grow a solid and active community of creatives.

Thanks for the comments again.

Cheers,
Daniel

@IdeaBounty
.-= Daniel´s last blog .."Find Us The Minds That Will Shape The Future" =-.

edward boches
edward boches

Good points Daniel. But I would imagine that Peparami also wanted to save money as they have commented on the cost savings both as it relates to agency fee and production. So the question becomes does an agency have to find new ways to add value and reduce costs at the same time. I think we know the answer to that question. BTW, I signed up so perhaps I'll throw an idea in on something that interests me.

Arafat Kazi
Arafat Kazi

New agency models that include crowdsourcing! Isn't that the ultimate extension of social media? When your consumers are the same people who co-create your advertising, it's not limited to you speaking the language of someone else. It's us, speaking for ourselves.

edward boches
edward boches

I guess the question is how good the outcome. CS can be used to co-create, to source new ideas, to stimulate the community's participation. Agree with the speaking for ourselves as long as it still accomplishes the brand's other objectives. But you are right. It is one of the best uses of social media: giving consumers a voice in the brands they care about.