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.)