Recent crowdsourcing campaigns and the risk of speculative work

Is crowdsourcing really the way of the future? Will your target audience do your work for you and create advertising and products at minimal cost?

Unilever seems to think so. First, they fired Lowe and now they call out for Users to create the next TV spot for their peperami brand. They’re offering $10.000 in a competition to create ideas for the next TV and Print campaign. Their benchmark seem to be the Doritos and Pringles campaigns, where the winning ideas cost about $6 or $300 to produce. A rather ironic quote in these circumstances by Unilever about Lowe, their agency for 16 years:

„We are extremely thankful to Lowe for the brilliant work they achieved over the last two decades and are looking forward to seeing the ideas to take Lowe’s legacy forward into the next era of Animal.“

It’s a punch in the face of Lowe. And of course, that is worth a test. However, „Unilever said it has no plans to retain a full-time ad agency for the Peperami account in future.“ It’s one thing to test this kind of approach on singular occasions. Not sure, weather this is a good idea for the long run – when not piloted first.

In my humble opinion they’re not taking into account the laziness and complacency of the general public. It’s fun producing ads the first time around, maybe the second or third, too. At some point, novelty will wear off and it will become the „daily grind“ – yet with no guaranteed pay off.

Another example: Audi also engaged in some crowdsourcing, however it is not as directly tied to daily business. Instead, they’re asking for inspiration, they want users to help them design the car of the future.They’re approach is a little different:

Audi is posting videos of their design process, information about the contest as it progresses, and soliciting questions and feedback to find out what the fans would like to see in a car of the future. It wants its 300,000 fans to know that as a company, Audi listens to its customers and wants to engage in a conversation about the future.

Is this any better? They don’t seem to offer any remuneration or prizes, so they’re also not raising any materialistic hopes. Who ever joins the conversation does so out of passion or joy, not because he or she hopes to win anything.

There has been an extensive debate about these kinds of crowdsourcing projects, especially about the speculative work involved. People participating in these kind of crowdsourcing contests, activities etc. don’t know whether they’ll get paid or if it will stay „a hobby“. There is a chance of winning a lot of money, but the odds gets smaller, the more people participate. At the same time, brands face a much higher potential of actually receiving something worth airing, the more people participate. It doesn’t sound like a win-win situation to me.

Crowdsourcing projects should be organised in a way that is rewarding for both sides. For marketers in my view this means: organise contests, that are mainly fun for the audience. And if want to receive something in return, make sure you don’t look greedy.

(Also, if your interested in some more crowdsourcing casestudies (and you can read German), see this list here.)

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5 Kommentare

  1. Hi Roland,

    Thanks for your comments. I represent Idea Bounty, the platform that the Peperami brief is being hosted on.

    Just in answer to some of your points. Unlike the Pringles and Doritos competitions the brief for Peperami on Idea Bounty is looking for just the idea or concept for a new campaign not a complete TV ad which is what Pringles/Doritos were looking for. Once the best idea has been chosen it will be handed over to a creative production company based in London called SmartWorks – they will take the idea and craft it into a executed campaign.

    Yes, this route is cheaper than going through the same process with an agency but its not the main motivation for crowdsourcing – The biggest attraction is defiantly the wide range of creative ideas that brands open themselves up to receiving. There are also limitations to this route – the first being that it will only work for specific and well defined tasks that everyone can take on without ’screwing up‘ on it. These briefs usually come from well established brands that have had the benefit of a dedicated team of people working to build and craft it to a point where the public (who in some arguments end up accepting the brand and therefore making it truly what it is) can identify with it so strongly that it is possible to crowdsource. Infact to me this is the point of creating a brand and any agency that manages a client to this point should be, in my eyes, proud about it.

    Again I say this is not a competition looking for a finished bit of work – crowdsourcing might work for small things like a logo but we dont expect the public to have the professional skill to execute and develop an Idea. We still need professional creatives for this task – In Unilever’s case SmartWorks. The briefs on Idea Bounty look for the Idea, the concept behind a campaign, not a complete product.

    I might also add that if you think about it there is no way you as an individual working in an agency get paid $10 000 for a single idea – so I cant see why there are creatives complaining. Especially when the legal system behind Idea Bounty registers your submission as your own IP, by accepting the $10 000 Bounty you are selling your IP to the client. Unless this happens the Idea remains yours.

    Ultimately I see this is just the next stage in the evolution of marketing: it is inherently more sensitive to market-forces, it levels the playing fields as far as creatives are concerned (giving them the opportunity to communicate their ideas to well developed global brands) and it opens brands to a limitless number of new, innovative marketing ideas. And it doesn’t remove the need for traditional agencies, as the ideas generated will still need to be implemented – and on top of that the brands created and developed in the first place.

    Thanks again for the comments – If anyone would like to contact me to find out more, or get stuck more into the crowdsourcing debate please feel free to mail me –

    Cheers, Daniel

  2. Hi Daniel,
    thanks for your timely reply to shed some light on the background to your approach. I appreciate that very much, since I find these kind of campaigns very interesting and am hence curious about these facts.
    In fact, I would like to know three more things about what you mentioned:
    1) While you make it clear, that there will still be a need for production companies, I don’t see any room for creative agencies in your model since the process of idea creation is crowd sourced. I’m not against this approach, however it does undermine the business model of a considerably large industry…
    2) do you reckon, this model is sustainable for a broad range of brands? Don’t you think people get bored of producing ideas once many brands engage in crowdsourcing activities like these?
    3) is ideabounty a platform established by Unilever/Peperami, or are you an independent service provider?

    many thanks again for your comment, and I will be curious to find out more about your thoughts to my points above.

  3. Hi Roland,

    Its a pleasure – always keen to discuss a topic like this.

    1) You are right to a certain extent here – But I dont think it does away with the need for a creative agency all together. I think the key thing to understand is that a brief on Idea Bounty will only work for a brand or product which is already established and has had its brand and image created and established already. This is where I see the creative agencies true roll being – there is no way you can get the public to create a brand from scratch for you and I still believe the foundations of the brand need to be built by a team of professional creative people.

    The Peperami brief is almost a case in point here. Lowe spent 15 years doing a brilliant job on building one of the strongest snack brands in the UK – however having the same team working on a brand for 15 years has to come to an end at some point. No matter how good you are sooner or later you are going to run out ideas for a brand that you have been working on for that long. Unilever felt that they needed some fresh minds to work on the brand. I think the key point here is that crowdsourcing is only going to be effective for existing brands and campaigns – starting something from scratch requires the input of a professional creative agency. The question I ask myself is why have agencies, like Lowe, not thought of this route themselves? If an agency managed a brand to such a strong point and its felt that new and fresh ideas are needed I can see a perfect opportunity for them to suggest that clients make use of crowdsourcing platforms like Idea Bounty – they then have the opportunity to execute the idea (and perhaps even develop it further)

    There is a really nice Q&A with Noam Buchalter – the marketing manager of Peperami – on this topic on Econsultancy:

    2) In terms of a suitable model – No I dont think its for all brands. Established brands will defiantly get better results off a project like this than a relatively unknown brand. The reasons for this I think purely come down to the fact that the public will already be familiar with an established brand and will have their own ideas and emotional connections with the brand that will allow them to generate great ideas. Infact this is why the ideas we receive are often so fresh – the public will have different ideas and insights that others might not have purely by virtue of their perspective.

    In terms of people getting bored – I believe that as more brands start making use of the model the people submitting ideas will be users who have a natural liking for the brand anyway – call them your brand fans. Personally I would love to work on ideas for an Apple campaign as I love the brand. These are the people who are going to want to be engaging with anyway and they are more likely to have better ideas. It is an interesting point you raise and im not too sure how it will play out – with that one I guess we will just have to see what happens.

    3) Idea Bounty is an independent platform – we have hosted briefs for brands such as Red Bull, BMW and WWF in the past. More here -

    Thank you for kicking off this debate – I think we are living in interesting times and its always awesome to see people engaging on topics like this. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.


  4. Dear Daniel,

    I think you keep meaning „definitely“ (where something is „for sure“), rather than „defiantly“ (where something is being defiant).

    – crowd sourced spelling/syntax correction!



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