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Crowdsourcing advertising: My Experience

A few months ago the advertising world was abuzz with the arrival of what was seen as the ‘agency buster’.

Crowdsourced creative.

No longer would clients needs to pay big fees for a few stuck up bigwigs in agencies and endure bad behaviour on quality of briefs and delayed deadlines and not more than one option of work to show for it.

Briefs would be put out in the open market, anyone with an idea could contribute. The best idea would get a just reward.

This would enable a multitude of ideas at a fixed cost for the client. Ideas could be on napkins, doodled out, or full fledged layouts. It didn’t matter.

A ready made pool of available talent to be dipped into when the need struck.

This was interesting.

Generated a ton of media coverage around the subject and a couple of agencies were launched specifically to deliver against this vision.

I am a sucker for bright and shiny objects and, how can you say no to a few thousand bucks for so little effort,  so I signed up.

Once I did I received my first brief.

A client who needed a poster and a banner for a new campaign.

It was a reasonable brief with reasonable time. Old ads were available in case you wanted to know what kind of work the client preferred.

I spent a few hours going through all the stuff and then let it soak in and work at the back of my head, while I carried on with my day job. And there it lay, till the deadline came and went.

That to me highlights the first challenge of this approach. There’s nothing at stake for the ‘talent pool’. So they will get to it when they can. People with good day jobs will probably never get to it, even with the best intent.

In the corporate world, there is an entire eco system built around the creative deliverable which ensures everyone is engaged and work gets done. Good work too.

A few weeks later, along came another brief. This time I was determined to not lose out on the 10,000 USD just because I had left it too late.

The first weekend that came along I spent a fair bit of time on this project and submitted an idea. I even got an auto responder reply thanking me for my contribution.

Then I waited. And waited. And waited.

One fine day there was an announcement that a team somewhere else in the world had won the prize. I think there were a few runner up names too. No I wasn’t on the list.

This to me highlighted the other set of problems with this approach, from my perspective, at least.

Creation is seldom an individual activity. Great work usually comes from discussion. Better the board, higher the ball bounces. Sitting on one’s own, or even with a partner, the quality of work can only get so good. Conversations with other team members, clients etc creates a rich arena for ideas.

The other challenge is that you don’t know what work made it. All you know, is who won. I imagine there is confidentiality around the work till it is launched. So I will wait to see if I get to see the work that won the first prize. For a comparison and for learnings for future submissions.

I am sure there will be further briefs. And there will be more work with more rewards.

As more people participate, there will be more rejections. Unless there is a good feedback mechanism to manage the rejections, apathy will quickly spread within the ‘talent pool’ and it will be hard to get good quality responses.

Creativity deserves to be rewarded handsomely. Be it awards or money, or accolades.

But the end alone does not drive the truly talented. They want to enjoy the journey too.

Right now the crowd sourcing trend, if I can call it that, seems like an opportunistic play to save some money.

That is always good but a few of the ‘human touches’ need to be worked on, for it to be a success, which it can.

That’s my experience and thinking on the subject. Maybe you have more, different, points of view.

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