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Democratisation of ideas?

Historically, advertising agencies have been responsible for providing clients with ideas that led to campaigns that led to successful business results.

For ever the problem always had been putting a value to these ideas.

When I started working in this business, 15% of media spends was seen as the value of the idea. Yes I know 15% also included other associated times, but for ease of math let’s stay with 15%. I recall that everyone was reasonably happy with this arrangement.

Over time this evolved to a time cost basis. Now no one is happy with the arrangement. I know many clients who question the hours spent on a job or even whether say, servicing is needed if they have a good creative director, kind of examples. On the agency end the unhappiness comes from the above sort of conversations as well as that ideas that do phenomenally well for a client business get valued at the same level as ones that are a failure.

This has led to come conversation, however muted, around payment for performance.

While this is taking place at one end, the business is also seeing a fair bit of disintermediation. The first development was the separation of media from the agency’s services. Recently we are also seeing the separation of production from the creation. eg agency 1 creates while agency 2 produces.

This second development, poses a significant threat to the agency way of business.

I say this from 2 recent experiences.

Last week on a LinkedIn group I saw a discussion started by a marketer of petfoods asking for ideas to communicate his brand in the face of lean budgets. The forum was awash with ideas. There were some outstanding contributions being made by the group’s members purely with the intention of ‘contributing’. This is the Wikipedia phenomenon where hoards of random individuals are willing to dedicate time and effort to help develop a project for the common good. In this petfod case, there was no common good yet ideas were flooding the post.

Yesterday Unilever got onto a platform asking for packaging, communication, usage ideas for a new product. So they have a product now they are going out to the market asking people for ideas on, essentially, how to market it, for a sum of 5000 Euros!!

The petfood case is clearly what would form part of an agency brief. Having worked on Unilever myself I know the second case would also historically come to the agency, who in discussion with the R&D and marketing folks develop tests to identify a winning formula.

Yet here they were being put out to the world to contribute with ideas, for free or a nominal amount.

I know many agencies were set up to leverage this sort of crowdsourcing and while I am not aware of their fate (wouldn’t be surprised if they failed) I wonder if we will see this picking up again.

If a bunch of people with strong credibility and ability to curate contributions came forth to manage inputs and client discussions I wouldn’t be surprised if we see this sort of democratisation of ideas.

Business problems are posted out to the relevant world at large and ideas are sought, for a nominal fee, and these ideas are then handed out to specialist production agencies to execute which then goes to specialist media agencies to place.

Due to reasons of client confidentiality this may not be a significant portion of agency business today. But that’s what they said when media was carved out as well.

If I were an agency head, I would watch this development very closely and explore ways to harness this method of idea generation to my own financial benefit.


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