Crowdsourcing the Advertising Business

If there was a crowdsourcing supergroup, it would look something like the panel of nine speakers on stage this afternoon.  Most every panelist represented an advertising agency or design agency that has built upon crowdsourcing principles.  Commentary from the audiences on Twitter (crowdsourced in its own way) can be found at the hashtag #crowdadbiz.


Moderator: Mike Matoccia, TopCoder


Claudia Batten, Victor and Spoils

John Andrews, CollectiveBias

Randy Corke, chaordix

Epirot Ludvik Nekaj, Ludvik + Partners

Peter H LaMotte, GeniusRocket

Matt Mickiewicz, 99 designs

Rob Salvatore, tongal

James Sherrett, Adhack


The panelists note that although many of their companies “look like, feel like, smell like” an agency, all need to have some qualities of a platform in order to successfully leverage the large community of participants in the crowd.  Crowdsourcing agencies need to curate the creations of the crowd in order to, as Batten explained, smooth out the content of the crowd.


There is an emergency of reputation in some crowdsourcing communities as leaders emerge out of the digital workforce.   Some agencies vet their communities to maintain a minimum quality of work, while others simply rank their crowd.  While money is the prime motivator for content providers, there is still an interest in many communities for leaderboards, recognition, and other gaming mechanisms.


While crowdsourcing has traditionally been viewed as a free-for-all or a large, open group, many agencies are limiting the size of their crowd.  They may be interviewing and segmenting their content creators.  Rather than providing 300 pitches from their crowd to a client, they may narrow the submissions down and provide only the best.


In regard to a question about whether people get hired out of crowdsourcing, LaMotte  likened the industry to minor league baseball: they are looking for the next big star, and they’re not looking to hold them back if they find success.  These individuals become the role models for future groups of content creators and help propagate the community.


Differing motivations in crowdsourcing are shown clearly by crowdsourcing companies who don’t call themselves crowdsourcers.  While Doritos will pay for crowdsourced Super Bowl ads, Open Source software developers get content submissions for reasons of non-monetary self-interest.  Meanwhile, non-profits are turning the crowd and rallying them for altruistic reasons.  Even internet ecosystems like Facebook or Google rely on user submissions.  Sherrett even sees the web itself as a crowdsourced creation.


Andrews believes that crowdsourcing benefits from the improved communication methods that have evolved between brands and their consumers.  He feels that the traditional agency model is becoming outdated: rather than using agency personnel as a proxy for consumer sentiment, they not can go right to the end user.  Nekaj noted that the panelists were there and had started crowdsourced agencies because they wanted to change how things were being done.  Batten respects the contribution of traditional ad agencies and sees crowdsourcing agencies as building upon rather than blowing up traditional agencies.


LaMotte sees this as a natural progression that will lead to a sort of equilibrium; he lays the social ecosystem over traditional agencies.  The “Mad Man” ad agency is dead, but most agencies will evolve.  Agencies get that they need to evolve, it’s just a case that larger companies are perhaps less agile; it just takes longer for the larger agencies to adopt crowdsourcing principles through either acquisition, partnerships, or building that capability from scratch in-house.


Brands and clients usually don’t care whether work is crowdsourced or not, they just care about the quality of the final product.  However, the panelists have found that those brands that are getting involved with the crowdsourcing process and engaging with the crowd are getting the best results.  Batten recommends that crowdsourcing agencies need to help aggregate submissions; most large brands don’t have the time or the desire to “drink from the fire hose.”  It all depends on the size of the organization and the responsibilities of the client.


As technology evolves, so do the ways that people communicate.  This means that crowdsourcing agencies must continue to evolve, develop new ways to distill the crowd’s content, and work on new ways of creating a narrative out of the crowd’s submission.

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