The Biggest Creative Department in the World

If you had a problem you needed solving would you give it to one creative team, 3 creative teams or a thousand? It depends. If the creative brief is confidential you will want to restrict the number of people who know about it, that’s obvious. But there’s another huge advantage to working face to face with just one trusted creative team (or agency). The original brief gets modified as the process of solving it gets underway. This starts when the brief is presented and discussed – aspects of the brief are challenged, nuances emerge. The brief the creative team finally works on is rarely the one the client originally wrote. And then as ideas are developed and submitted more insights emerge that cause the brief to be further fine tuned or in extreme cases thrown out.

For these reasons, crowd sourcing creativity does not spell the death of the Ad Agency (or design, innovation, PR agency) any more than cinema or television killed books, although they did have an impact and these days they all work together. Like books/cinema/theatre/TV, there are occasions when crowd sourcing creative ideas is better and other situations when it can work to enhance the client/agency relationship.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with creative crowd sourcing you can check out Crowdspring, 99 designs or Quirk’s Idea Bounty (I have a vested interest in the latter). You post a brief, offer a reward or ‘bounty’ and the creative community built by these platforms goes to work. Crowdspring and 99 designs are more design & execution focused and ask for ‘spec work’ i.e. finished creative work. Idea Bounty asks only for ideas although people can, and often do, take the opportunity to support this with visuals to various degrees of finish. People are not penalized if they only submit a very rough idea – it is the power of the idea that is judged (by the client but with help from the Idea Bounty team).

This difference – spec work versus just ideas – is important in two respects. Firstly it matters to the creative community who see crowd sourcing finished work as exploitative. Secondly, focusing just on ideas makes the kind of problems you can work on much broader and allows a wider range of professionals and amateur creatives to participate. During its Beta Testing Phase, Idea Bounty successfully delivered ideas for a strap line for the a beer brand’s World Cup campaign (“It all comes together with a Castle”), a idea  for how to encourage more people to use on-line banking (FNB bank) and a new campaign idea that could stretch to TV and posters for an FMCG brand (Peperami). The creative Community that Idea Bounty has built up over a year is now close to 15,000. They come from around the world (but with a bias to English speaking countries) and span a wide range of full time professionals, freelancers, students and Joe Public. Professionals and Semi-Professionals form the single biggest group and so far all the winning ideas – every brief has delivered a winning idea that has been implemented by the client – has come from them but it is early days.

The average number of submissions to a brief on Idea Bounty has grown steadily. Peperami got over a thousand submissions of which roughly half were good enough to make the first shorlist! The cost of getting anywhere from a few hundred ideas that solve your brief to over a thousand is between $3000 and $50,000 depending on the size of the Bounty (roughly half the total cost) and the appeal of the brief and the brand. Seems like a no-brainer, why wouldn’t you use Idea Bounty? The cost is relatively very low, the results are excellent so far (every client has had a successful outcome and the idea has been used). Well, with a certain degree of bias I think everyone should use Idea Bounty and that over time everyone will – but not all the time and not for every brief.

Idea Bounty is great if the brief is not confidential (or if the sensitive aspects can be disguised). Note that only the brief is public – the submissions are seen only by the IB team and the client. It works when the brief is absolutely clear and can be expressed succinctly. This may require some pre-work but then all good briefs do. It’s not essential but it helps if the brand or category is familiar so the context for the brief is also clear. So far Idea Bounty has for the most part been used by big well-known brands– Levi’s, BMW, Red Bull, World Wildlife Fund.

You can ask for communications ideas or an idea for some aspect of communications. What I like is the possibility to post briefs on a wider range of marketing problems or opportunities  – ideas for new products or service enhancements, a different approach to internal marketing, a new twist on Corporate Social Responsibility programmes, trade launches, complaint handling…the list is endless if all you want are some good ideas for a clearly expressed need.

Clients have spotted the pure value of this kind of crowd sourcing. If you only have a total marketing budget of $1million you cannot afford to spend a big chunk of it on the creative. Idea Bounty does let clients source ideas cheaply and then work directly and more cost effectively with a production house. This is how Peperami used Idea Bounty.

So far all this sounds very threatening to ‘conventional agencies’, especially the last point which allows clients to by-pass them altogether. But it’s not how I see it developing. There are many more instances and many more constructive ways that clients can use Idea Bounty or other forms of Crowd Sourcing in collaboration with their existing agencies. Here are just a few.

The client and agency can post a brief in order to get some great upfront insight on the brief. A thousand submissions to a brief tells you a vast amount about the brief, the issues and some areas to explore. If the client agency team think they have something absolutely brilliant why not test that by using crowd sourcing. If the idea cannot be beaten (or if it can be slightly enhanced) how much more commitment will this generate – all for the cost of a few focus groups (which we all know are fairly unhelpful in developing or approving creative ideas)?

What if the client is working with an agency whose core creative strength is in one area of marketing – the one most appropriate to the overall task in hand – but there is one aspect of the work that requires different kinds of ideas. Do you bring in another agency or use Idea Bounty? Ad agencies can source a PR idea, PR agencies can source a digital idea, digital agencies can source a new product idea.

I am not saying that platforms like Idea Bounty offer no threat to ‘conventional agencies’. By allowing agencies to compete creatively in non-core areas and by allowing smaller agencies to punch above their weight creatively it does change the rules. Victor & Spoils is a break-away from Crispin Porter + Bogusky and they have made crowd sourcing their business model – expect to see more of this over the next few years.

Cinema did have an impact on books and television had an impact on cinema but they all co-exist and increasingly they work symbiotically.

I don’t command big marketing budgets these days but I know if I did I would be using, and experimenting with, Idea Bounty and other crowd sourcing platforms. Back in the day I was one of the first clients for David Bernstein’s agency, “The Creative Business” (now long since gone). Their offer was “creative ideas where advertising is not necessarily the answer” and for a while they were really successful until someone decided to turn them into an Ad Agency. I see Idea Bounty as a progression of this kind of creative offer – creative ideas where you need more than just one team can offer.

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