Could crowd-sourcing be a useful way to generate advertising ideas?

Unilever has asked the public to make suggestions for fresh advertising for its Peperami 'Animal' character, and possibly opened the gates for more brands to follow in its footsteps


Jan Gooding, marketing director, Aviva

If you have a brand with an established and popular creative idea - such as Peperami's ‘A bit of an animal' - emp­loy talented marketers who have the skills to identify the gems in the rub­bish, and are keen to build an active relation­ship with fans of your ads, then I can see this working in the short term.

Indeed, I take my hat off to Unilever for experimenting with an approach that fits so well with the brand's mis­chievous, anarchic personality. We all know that good ideas can come from anywhere, and you don't have to spend much time on YouTube to see that the general public has bags of talent.

However, I don't think crowd-sourcing is the way forward for most of us. It is tempting to seek an alternative to battling away with our creative agencies, but I am certain this is not it. Identifying, optimising and amplifying a big, long-lasting brand idea requires a combination of talents and experience that an ‘ask the audience' mechanism is not geared up to provide.



Ian Armstrong, manager of customer communications, Honda

The first principle brand owners must understand is that we don't own them.  We own the intellectual property rights of a trademark, but brands exist in the minds of the consumer. Our job is to suggest ways to think about them.

Brands often run competitions to suggest new flavours, formats and ads, and some have even gone on to produce those winner's ideas. Tango, for example, produced a radio ad that was the brainchild of a school project competition winner. When managed
in the right context, our audiences can be a great source of inspiration and creative spark.

The flip side, however, is that if you asked a stagecoach driver for a faster journey, the result would be an extra pair of horses, not a car. Sometimes, asking consumers for stimulus results only in more of the same, rather than fresh ideas.

Crowd-sourcing might yield great results, but let's be wary of the consu­mer who wants to be individual - just like their friends.



Jason Goodman, chief executive, Albion

The term ‘crowd-sourcing' calls to mind a large, unguided rabble of people. However, it is a fallacy that crowd-sourcing success stories such as Linux and Wikipedia are anarchic free-for-alls. In fact, both have always had strong guidance.

The latest crop of crowd-sourced marketing initiatives understand this. Unilever received 1185 ideas using the Peperami ‘Animal' character. Its existing creative platform provided strong guidance; it's unlikely that the ‘crowd' would ever have come up with anything as brilliant as that character in the first place.

This more subtle model, of brand fans and professional creatives collabo­rating, is the way forward. We are about to use it in our launch campaign for crowd-sourced mobile network Giff­gaff, while US agency Victors & Spoils
is being picky about its crowd: profes­sional creatives from other agencies.

You no longer need to employ the best talent to access it. However, it will only succeed if the results are better than the old model.



Simon Massey, Managing director, The Gild

The ability to generate a brilliant idea for advertising is not restricted to those in the industry - just look at YouTube.

In simple terms, crowd-sourcing ideas is great. It's free, it involves the consumer, it's new and ‘of the moment'. However, it also results only in ‘an idea'. The best advertising is much more: it responds to a clear brand vision and strategy, develops over time and builds a conversation with the consumer.

While consumers can generate great ideas, they are not aware of the brand positioning or vision. How can they incorporate strategic thinking into an idea and build it over time? I can see it working on a straightforward brand such as Peperami, but not on Audi, Nike or Sony.

 I fear crowd-sourcing is the X-Factor of advertising. The man on the street has talent, yes, so let's use it. However, this is just a fad. For the really good stuff, leave it to the professionals.



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