Imagine advertising created without copywriters and art directors. Ads, commercials, designs, logos, even whole campaigns conjured up by hundreds of erstwhile “creatives” out there…somewhere…somehow…
It’s real. It’s here.
It’s called crowdsourcing.
The theory behind crowdsourcing is, “if two heads working on an assignment are better than one then, hot damn, 12,000 heads must be the absolute best-est best of all bests.”
There’s even an agency start-up in Colorado, Victors & Spoils, claiming that it generates all its creative output through crowdsourcing. (Actually, read their fine print and it’s clear that they’re a virtual agency with an all freelance off-site creative department that pitches ideas against each other. Sounds more outsourced than crowdsourced. Nice try, guys.) There are also several websites offering crowdsourced logos.
Wow, crowdsourcing sure sounds like it’s the goods. All those heads with smoke coming out of their ears focused on a single creative assignment, it’s a slam dunk. Right?
Sometimes so. Mostly, not.
I think crowdsourcing is viable in certain applications. Product naming and product idea generation are successful examples. But unleashing a mob to do the work of one, two, or three talented creative professionals is counterproductive.
Let’s start with client contact. Smart, effective creative sparks its genesis with a keen understanding of the client’s marketing problems and objectives. That means face time with clients, their people and their customers.
Second is incentive. What some hail as “crowdsourcing” isn’t much more than a contest. How much “prize money” does it take to make it worthwhile to spend days working on an idea that, in all likelihood, won’t see the light of day? Are we really attracting the best and brightest? Those with true creative chops are working elsewhere, either on-staff at agencies or as fulltime freelancers for set project fees.
What if the crowdsource agency decides to combine two or more ideas or tweak a crowdsourced notion into something similar, but not exactly the same? Who gets paid? How much? Why do I see lawyers hovering?
Then there are deadlines. Can a crowd meet a deadline faster than one or two creative teams? What if the crowd comes up with crap? Who’s accountable then? What about rewrites?
Remember, too, that many great campaigns, spots, ads and designs are created at the last minute or even after. Bill Bernbach called this “breaking the plate,” which happened when many of the most famous Doyle Dane Bernbach concepts sprung to life after press plates were made for print ads. Bernbach wasn’t shy about scrapping plates and making new ones in service of creating great advertising, which is also great art.
That’s why you won’t see exhibitions of crowdsourced art or One Show pencils awarded for crowdsourced ads any time soon.
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