Crowdsourcing – open source creative minefield

The term CrowdSourcing was coined by Jeff Howe in an article in Wired magazine in 2006. It is a new word to explain an old concept: ask the audience. You could call it an open tender process but it is much more informal as not just professionals can participate. Just ask the general public to come up with ideas and products.

The internet is probably the biggest and best example of crowdsourcing and their are some fantastic examples of sites that use the power of the masses to create interesting and relevant content:

This approach is particularly popular in the creative industry at the moment. Brands are asking the general public to think of a name for some fantastic new product, or submit their own home-made TV commercial in an online competition. At its worst, it is simply asking someone else to do the hard work for you. At its best, it is tapping in to the target audience and engaging them in the process.

Bill Federighi and Brett Snider

One of the most high profile examples was the recent Super Bowl advert from Doritos’, created by Bill Federighi and Brett Snider. The pair aren’t new to Crowdsourcing and have won tenders in the past. Their ‘Mouse Trap’ concept of shows an example of a good idea well excecuted.

The Oxo Factor

The concept behind this is an obvious attempt to cash in of the zeitgeist of such popular shows as Britain’s got Talent and X Factor with their very own ‘Oxo Factor‘. It’s a bit of a Marmite campaign in that feedback seems to be very much love or hate.

So, just who is the creative director?

Clearly there are many benefits to crowdsourcing but what about the creative control? If anyone can just participate, how do you control the direction of ideas? Elements are dragged in from different sources and made to fit into an overall marketing package. The process doesn’t seem to have a creative champion pushing it towards a satisfactory conclusion. Also the projects don’t always get the initial creative rationale and thought process which is needed to create an effective and long term creative campaign.

People don’t always dedicate the time to go beyond the obvious like a creative agency would. Therefore the majority of the ideas produced will be irrelevant. That’s not to say that designers have the monopoly on good ideas. Crowdsourcing may bring about a spark of genius from unexpected sources. This increase in creative resources could be considered a great asset but does it weigh up against the amount of administration needed to cultivate and harness the creative abilities of the group?

Wheat vs chaff

There are numerous examples of this process online (both good and bad) – just Google it! Regardless of the results, the point to realise is that crowdsourcing is the creative solution – a means to engage with the target audience and build brand / campaign awareness.

When push comes to shove, crowdsourcing can be a very useful and exciting part of any campaign, providing it is carefully controlled and monitored and backed up by a solid creative strategy.

It’s another tool for the creative agencies and, as long as it is appropriate, a useful marketing strategy for brands.

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