Crowdsourcing in MAD AVE. Wisdom of the crowds applied to Advertising

Crowdsourcing business models are extremely interesting.  From the genius Wikipedia, to the funky Threadless and the popular Tripadvisor. All these applications of collectivity in business related scenarios have many advantages and also some limitations.

Today I wanted to take a minute to ramble about the wisdom (and in this case, creative talent) of the crowds applied to the Advertising industry. We are going to briefly discuss two interesting and fully operational projects on crowdsourcing in advertising: one closer to the traditional advertising agency model, and the second one more online than not.

One of the first times I heard about applying crowdsourcing to advertising was in the Fast Company article “The future of advertising”.

In the article, as Danielle Sacks, the author, insightfully and very methodically dissects the current turmoil within the agency world, I came about the first crowdsourced agency Victor & Spoils. A new project founded by ex Crispin Porter & Bolusky veterans, this agency boasts of leveraging the power of the web and the crowd to deliver just as good creativity as any other “old school” ad agency but, cheaper (although they express it with more enthusiasm in their introductory video). So far the Victor & Spoils agency model seems to be working quite well as it has lured in some high profile brands such as Harley Davidson.

As video establishes itself as a medium in its own right, new businesses and networks that utilise the abundance of the crowds for advertising will gain more importance.

The main selling point behind these new networks is that they can offer a practically unlimited pool of talent at a reduced cost for advertisers. The web offers these networks an abundant array of designers, art directors, strategists, filmmakers, etc, who are in competition with each other to provide the best creative solution for the client’s communications needs. These professionals do not belong inside the company structure and so are only paid on a project by project basis, which reduces salaries and overheads for the crowdsourcing agencies who in turn can command reduced fees.

All of this makes it sound like the old(er) agency model could start to become less relevant, but on the other hand it also seems like quite a big change of mind-set for more traditional advertisers, who might take time to warm up to the idea of not having their creative team controlled in one place, but rather scattered in all places.

Furthermore (and I haven’t clarified this point yet) I assume doubts would arise as to the following trust related aspects of this crowd based agency model:

Confidentiality: When a brief from an advertiser is passed onto the crowd collaborators, how does the agency make sure the advertisers information is keep within the need-to-know basis? Could competitors infiltrate themselves into the crowd and find out about the company’s objectives, their strategic course? Could there be leaks of advertiser-agency information?. If so, does the risk outweigh the benefit?

Professionalism: Although undoubtedly there is a clear pool of talent that can be outsourced online, it seems logical to think that some advertisers might be reluctant to try out this system because of the grey area of collective creative that lies between professionals and amateurs.

Another initiative that tackles these very same problems straight up is Genius Rocket, also mentioned in the Fast Company article. With regards to this project, self described as The First Curated Crowdsourcing company I wouldn’t even call it an ad agency but more of a crowdsourcing advertising platform. On their site, they directly address some of the concerns that advertisers might have, under the following headings:

Affordable Doesn’t Mean Amateur (establishes Genius Rocket’s process of selection whereby they will work with only collaborators who meet specific professional requirements).

You Don’t Have to Tell the World (addresses the confidentiality issue by detailing that the collaborators sign a non disclosure agreement and that work is shared privately through the platform).

The process at Genius Rocket is laid out in the following four phases (notice the insistence of the word “selection”):

  1. Creative Brief and Targeted Recruitment: The differential aspect for this first stage is that the Genious Rocket in –house creative team provide help in drafting this first important brief
  2. Written Concept and Selection: Pre qualified creatives submit their work (overview concepts)
  3. Storyboard and Selection: With client feedback, this phase develops the selected concepts
  4. Production and Selection

From the creatives point of view, they will get paid once they reach stage number four (Production). Genius Rocket in the part of the web dedicated to “recruiting” creatives to their platform makes a point at explaining that this is not a contest site, that peers who will partake in briefs will be screened for past work done, and that this is a process were continual feedback will be given.

All in all it seems that newer and exciting models are filling business model gaps and adapting to technological and social mindets advances. However there is still an important place for traditional agencies and their powerful ideas, specially for some more conservative advertisers. I am quite interested to see when these models will fully land in Europe…

If anyone has any other agency crowdsourcing models that they’d like to share, please do!

Take care amigos,


(post finished to the tune of You and Your Heart, Jack Johnson)