Crowdsourcing: Spoils of a Pyrrhic Victory

Call it the Vegemite effect but you have to wonder when you read press and blog statements such as “…one of the biggest ever crowdsource fails” or “the creative industry embraces crowdsourcing”, (emphasis mine).

Then there are those who think the barbarians are actually at the gate. In a story about “Dewmocracy”, Pepsi’s trial outsourcing of creative to a shop that is selected in part, by consumers, raises alarms for the creative community. Whether or not this will be successful (by what measure, we’ll have to wait and see), the hand wringing seems to be a function of the issue of agency fees, suggesting crowdsourcing and agency fee structures as undergoing ‘experimentation’ as the quality of some creative is being eclipsed by the fees being charged for business value delivered.

Experimentation indeed. Just because one or two agencies decide to build a business model around crowdsourcing (yet to make a rupee of profit) or Mars goes looking for 18-34 year old males to submit videos starring a Snickers bar, it’s all very, very notional at this stage.
 
Most poignant was Dorritos, who, according to a recent story in AdWeek, was spending money to create awareness but really looking to repurpose adspend dollars. So it’s not really about saving money, it’s about something we’re all familiar with – focus groups. Well, crowdsourcing is about employing one big undifferentiated mass without paying a lot in return for a bunch of ideas that may or may not hit the mark – like being at a advertising roulette table.

Is this simply a case of those with crumbling business models hoping for some magic potion to lift their business out of this advertising depression or are some of us simply overdosing on the nectar of all things social media?

At the end of all this, don’t be surprised if some prolific texting GenY brand manager stands up and says “We need to segment and do some target marketing”. Hard and costly lessons have already been learned: Kraft went back to opinion polling to seek out the ideas of a target consumer market as “Vegemite 2.0” was the laughing stock of the Aussie morning breakfast consumer, thanks to the well-intentioned ideas of the undifferentiated masses.

So before we champion the arrival of crowdsourcing on the advertising world let us heed the words of the Greek King Epirus, who defeated Roman armies at Asculum, in 280 B.C. “One more such victory and we are lost.”

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