Crowdsource for cheap creative? Or great creative?

January 6, 2015

 

It’s that time of the year again. Super Bowl. Advertising madness. Crowd-sourcing.

 

Since its rise about a decade ago, crowdsourcing has been the creative director’s greatest fear. (After the client’s home-based research sample, of course.) The client pays perhaps one-tenth of the cost of an agency for a finished commercial selected from untold options, and along with the cheap creative the passive-aggressive squabbling gets eliminated. A beautiful dream for clients. A nightmare for agencies. Or so it seemed.

 

Not much has changed. Clients are still with their agencies and crowdsourcing is still an outlier. There’s the occasional hit, but mostly misses.

 

Doritos knows how to make it work with its Crash the Super Bowl contest. For the 2015 Super Bowl they received nearly 5,000 submissions from 29 countries. And some of the work is fantastic. Heck, out of 5,000 they should be able to get at least a handful of good work. All they need is one spot out of 5,000 – 0.02%. In a world where risk-taking is a ticket out of a job, those are good odds. And they get a lot of great work, with good – no, much better than good – production quality. And some fantastic, enviable work.

 

So how do they do it? Good strategy. They’re not crowdsourcing for cheap creative. They’re crowdsourcing for great creative. They invest heavily in the upside of crowdsourcing – the volume of options that practically guarantees greatness. They offer a $1 million prize, plus a “dream job” with Universal Pictures. That alone would probably ensure the huge number of submissions that guarantees the great work. But to be sure they promote the hell out of the contest. Then they promote the hell out of the fan voting. They probably spent millions on top of the prize money and the $4.5 million in Super Bowl media promoting and managing the contest.

 

In other words, they spend what they probably would have spent with their ad agency to get that one commercial, but they’re getting more. They’re focusing on the numerator part of value equation, not the cost-reduction denominator, so they still get more value, but without chasing low cost. Greatness is a bonus.

 

There’s an old maxim: You can’t cost-reduce your way to greatness. Which is not to say one should just throw money around and greatness will come. It is to say, find the well and drill like hell!

 

And we’re hoping the fish wins.

 

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