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What Do Crowds Mean For The Future Of Creative?

Source:,, The Guardian online
What Do Crowds Mean For The Future Of Creative?

These days, anyone can become a designer or an investigative journalist, Online. You can help investigate MP's expenses through the Guardian, and design a Tee-shirt for Threadless Tees. Thanks to the phenomenon known as Crowdsourcing crowds are becoming an essential source for all kinds of creativity and content, for editing and problem solving, for innovation and design on the web. Companies are beginning to harness the crowd in bigger ways, exploring new areas of innovation, and this means big things worldwide. Especially in the area of creative work.

Unilever has just announced they've dropped Lowe, their ad agency of 16 years. And last Friday they launched a brief calling for fresh TV and Print ideas for their brand Pepperoni. Posting it on the innovative 'social thinktank' The brand is looking to re-invigorate it's iconic character, “The Animal”, and offers $10,000 for the best idea. What's interesting is that, while this sum wouldn't go far in a Major agency, when it's offered as bounty for the best idea it puts a brief in front of thousands of interested people. The cost-cutting benefits, are obvious. But what, if anything, is at stake?

The Animal is a website that crowdsources creativity for it's clients. Members, who subscribe for free, access the full marketing brief for a particular brand or product, and submit their creative ideas in competition for Bounty. Brands can then choose the best ideas and reward the creative behind it. Over the past year, the site has attracted the interest of brands such as BMW, Red Bull, Castle Lager, Levis and WWF to submit creative briefs to its members. And unlike the name suggests, it's nothing like the wild west. So far, there's been a 100% success rate.

Big deal, right? Well, actually, yes it is. Especially if you're a creative professional or working within a creative industry. There's every reason to take notice. Unilever is perhaps the biggest brand to explore crowdsourcing for it's marketing problems yet.

Does it signal the end of advertising industry?  Well, it certainly means a big shift is happening, and new doors are opening for clients that never existed before.

Pepperami Marketing Manager Noam Buchalter believes it's something healthy but worries that a lot of agencies haven't yet looked close enough what crowdsourcing means. Forward thinking agencies know this. What they don't know is how to make it work.  There's also an opinion that many still have their heads in the sand – or should I say, concrete?

When there’s a community of people "not only willing, but excited to share, respond, answer, invent, and even compete” in the solution of a brand problem, at a radically reduced cost - there's every temptation for marketers to explore alternatives like never before.

Some say it's unethical, that it sells out creative work. They say it's commoditising creativity, getting creative work on the cheap. I'd say they've got a valid point. There's also a question of quality controls. They believe clients can't see good work without an agency involved, filtering the work. But many say, like it or not, its one direction the industry is heading and there is more opportunity than there is for destruction. It's an exciting, interesting and provocative development. It's both an opportunity and a threat. It's divided opinion quite dramatically, But what's clear is that the phenomenon is maturing from buzzword to a serious tool for forward thinking business innovation and productivity.

Overall, I think it is too early to see where this will go. My feeling is that yes, it will bring about a transformation to the way creative is sourced but won't kill existing agencies. It's impact will be felt by big brands and big agencies, where solid relationships are hard to maintain. Perhaps this is where big agencies can really take advantage of creative crowdsourcing, at least on an exclusive level, to maintain clients. What is missing from crowdsourced work is the client – business relationship. So this means something positive for smaller, independent agencies who value and foster that connection making them particularly important for particular kinds of work.

And the future of creative crowds, be they crowded or crowd-sourced hubs that all organisations embrace, remains a big unknown. If anything is clear, it's that change is ahead.

And it's change that almost makes sense. Almost. Because if great ideas come from everywhere, why limit a problem to the few?



Unilever crowdsourcing to spice up Pepperami The Guardian

Unilevers Noam Buchalter on Crowdsourcing Pepperami Ads

Read More:

Crowdsourcing: What it means for innovation (Businessweek)

Crowdsourcing creativity (Micropersuasion)

The rise of crowdsourcing

What Does Crowdsourcing Really Mean?


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