“Crowdsourcing on the prowl in Adland’s jungle”
Once upon a time, ad agencies waited for social media to simply, well….disappear. This waiting period not only kept agencies from pressing ahead in areas like understanding how new technology could benefit their clients, but kept them from leading the social media charge. As masters of their own destiny, many agencies stopped innovating. Agencies simply held on to what they knew, making many vulnerable to extinction.
Now the world already knows about the rumblings and shakeups on Madison Avenue resulting from fermentation of the social media revolution and technological explosion that changed everything from the world’s politics to customer loyalty. But I wonder if they really know about how some ad agencies are using innovation to become more relevant to the consumer?
Cheetah Mindset for Agencies – Agile Thinking
Agile Agency – SXSW
A very hot topic at the SXSW conference last month was a session on the agile agency. An agile agency is one that moves quickly, like a cheetah, to grasp the latest technology and uses agile thinking to improve their clients’ business. The consensus: few agile agencies exist today.
Without a doubt, marketing and advertising is changing at a pace unequaled in history. New methods of communication, new technologies, and social media have altered the competitive landscape forever.
What’s driving this change? Challenges mount on the client-side to generate higher top-line revenue, ad agencies are faced with reduced budgets and declining demand for many traditional services.
Clients no longer have five-year marketing plans or rambling maps that lose customers along the way leaving them in the rear-view mirror. Real-time engagement has sped the clock, demanding customer relevance by extracting data at every touch point.
There is a growing fear that ad agencies cannot keep pace with this transformation. Yet, despite this fear, some ad agencies are transforming and have become innovative. So here’s how a few agencies view innovation.
Michael Ancevic, (@mancevic) SVP Group Creative Director, Mullen, told Blue Focus Marketing, what makes their agency innovative: “To me, this is what makes Mullen an innovative agency. Big ideas, hard work, never settling, openness to constant change and technologies, attracting the best talent with the best attitudes, simultaneously getting people from many different disciplines to have a singular, unrelenting and unified focus.”
In the March, 2011 issue of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in Advertising & Marketing, Mullen was listed as one of the top innovative advertising agencies.
Epirot Ludvik Nekaj , (@LPlus) Founder & CEO of Ludvik + Partners told Blue Focus Marketing what makes his agency innovative: “What makes Ludvik + Partners so innovative is the wisdom of the selected crowd on steroids.” He also shared his insights on creativity in an interview with Blue Focus Marketing, “Creativity Starts With Listening”. Ludvik + Partners will be co-producing the June 7, 2011 Crowdsourcing Ad Biz event at Internet Week – NYC. To purchase tickets to this event click here.
Billy Mitchell,(@BillyMitchell1) Partner and Senior Creative Director at MLT Creative, Atlanta based B2B agency, defined their approach to innovation:
“What drives innovation at MLT Creative is equal parts curiosity, ambition, courage and fear. To set ourselves apart from our competition we must be early adopters and creative thinkers with a new secret sauce for each client.”
Crowdsourcing Enters the Mix – The New Squirrel Fight
Last fall, Victors & Spoils posted an open brief in its online digital platform, known as “The Squirrel Fight”. V&S offered anyone who wanted to work on the Harley-Davidson project $5,000 for an idea that H-D would buy. This approach generated a considerable amount of interest within the advertising community.
As a result, Harley-Davidson turned to Victors & Spoils as the source of its creative marketing development. Utilizing “crowdsourcing”, Harley-Davidson can draw on hundreds of creative ideas from brand enthusiasts around the world.
“Once change comes in, there’s no way you can stop it,” said Ignacio Oreamuno, president of crowdsourcing agency GiantHydra. “Crowdsourcing is very simple: Instead of two people working together, it could be 15 from around the world, delivering ideas for less money and much less time. You won’t be able to stop that.” In response to the article (March 8th Advertising Age – Crowdsourcing Evangelists to 4A’s), John Winsor Chief Executive Officer of Victors & Spoils sent this tweet:
@jtwinsor: I couldn’t agree more: ‘There’s No Way You Can Stop It’ http://bit.ly/fEUdmz #crowdsourcing
Rewriting The Rules of Madison Avenue
When Blue Focus Marketing asked the blur Group how they viewed their agency to be innovative, they told us blur Group (@blurGroup) is rewriting the rules of Madison Avenue with its Creative Services Exchange to brief, source, match, and price the best creatives from their managed crowd of over 9,500 pros. According to blur Group, they have been “very gentle” with traditional advertising agency networks while educating CMOs on crowdsourcing.
Lori Luechtefeld from iMedia reported that at the iMedia Brand Summit in Austin, Texas, Claudia Batten, COO of Victors & Spoils, discussed how crowdsourcing can help marketers achieve a wider breadth of ideation. “It’s not just telling a story,” Batten said. “It’s about telling the right story.”
The agency creative brief is known as the engine that drives development of the creative product. It is this very tool that hundreds (or thousands) of people around the world can use to develop their creative approach to solving the client’s problems. Without a focused creative brief, creative efforts would be off-strategy. Therefore, a crowdsourced agency capable of developing a good brief can help focus creative development resources competing for the prize.
Blue Focus Marketing is #Crowdsourcing this question to Advertisers, Ad Agencies (Traditional, Hybrid, Digital, etc.) Creatives, Social Media Marketers, etc.
Question: Good ideas are good ideas. If they’re focused on a tight creative brief does it matter where the creative ideas come from?
(Feel free to comment on my blog and/or tweet out your response to @ckburgess @BlueFocus360)
Cheetah – Image Source: Flickr – Scott Hanko
Squirrel Fight – Source – anonymous
[Please note: This is a re-post of an original MENG Blend Blog post.]
The following special agent video was created by the blur Group.
Brands & Ad Agencies: Join the 2.0 crowd at Blue Focus Marketing. Submit your brief….click here.
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>>>>CLICK HERE TO PREVIEW<<<<
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Cheryl; Seems to me so far that there is a trick to be perfected to bridge the gap between getting people to contribute and crafting a great campaign.
If you look at examples where the crowd actually does the production – crowdsourced books or the recent Gap logo — the results are horrible. It doesn’t seem as though a group can, or perhaps wants to, go through the whole creative process. We would rather admire and enjoy something someone else has crafted.
Therefore to get people to contribute to a process they likely won’t be involved in, and likely won’t get credit for, requires appealing to something else – in the case above, their enthusiasm for the Harley brand perhaps.
Thanks for your comments and perspective.
Excellent points about the challenges associated with contributing to a creative process where one may never receive any credit.
Love this discussion Cheryl
I don’t normally link blog posts but I think this is important:
@VinnyWarren is my go to creative. He has 2 commercials in the Superbowl Hall of Fame. We had some great discussion on the horrible Harley spot from V&S. It was really really bad. You get what you pay for. The second link discusses why a few creatives will out perform the crowd sourcing which to me is very labor intensive if you have a lot of responses. Who will do the sifting? A creative who is offended that they can’t create and idea themselves and instead sift through the ‘cheap’ ones because their client thinks that is where the Ad Wastage and Bloat is? Or a non-creative who won’t be offended but doesn’t know a good idea from a bad one?
The Wastage and Bloat is from horrible media buys, bad creative (like the VW Darth Vader spot that doesn’t sell, the Pepsi physical assault spots that do not sell, or the Chrysler M&M spot that doesn’t sell), or bad clients like Old Spice that has a bad product no advertising can save. Every time I see a Bud Light commercial that ad spend has been wasted. I only drink Bud Light if it is free. Social Media sure isn’t selling. It is small incremental moves but no big needles. Digital has underwhelmed.
I agree with the Agile part of this great post. Agencies have to be Agile. But also realistic. I think that is why integrated marketing plans are so important.
But the whole Client-Agency relationship is an abusive one and adversarial. Agencies make more by billing more. So they convince Brands to spend more even if they don’t have too. And the Agencies with ‘Solutions’ often have their own monetary bias. And in the end they use what my dad uses to defend the Teachers Union pay. That there is no way you can put a pay for performance system in. And tell that to a CEO of a Fortune 2000 company that has a pay for Performance contract for themselves see what they say to you.
I truly believe at least half of Ad Spend is wasted. So is that due to Incompetency? Theft? Deceit? Nature of the business?
Great comments! You raise a lot of the issues associated with the crowdsourcing model yet your comments are balanced with the ongoing issue of the Client-Agency relationship.
Maybe the root cause of many dysfunctional unions?
I don’t have any issues with V&S btw they have enough partners in their network to do good stuff. I just think they handled Harley wrong.
Modern user engagement techniques such as crowdsourcing, lead user communities, rapid prototyping, etc. are especially well-suited to service companies. Ad agencies would seem ideal candidates to adopt these tools and use social media. It was interesting to read about past reluctance but current openness to these approaches.
I like the infographic! I will share it with my class, duly crediting it of course.
From reading this article I would suggest that any agency that feels behind the curve have a talk with blue focus!
– Gary Schirr
Thanks for your great comments!
I agree that agencies are becoming more open to new approaches, understanding that the model that brought them to where they are today….is broken. I also appreciate your comments on our Blue Focus social media marketing infographic.
Thanks for sharing with your class, too!
Gr8 point Cheryl. To answer your question – In todays world where ideas happen realtime, why not make creative briefs just as 140character tweet. Every word should carry its own weight.
Thank you. Having seen creative briefs that exceed a couple of pages, your point about ‘every word carrying its own weight’ — makes a lot of sense.
Now, fitting into a Tweet is the real challenge. 🙂
think like you Tweet.
Interesting post Cheryl. I think that a couple of your commenters, Howie and Tim, have correctly identified some of the challenges with crowdsourcing. In the creative process, more has rarely equaled better. Agencies go through a discovery process with clients to determine brand attributes, competitive advantages, business goals, etc. While a well written creative brief helps, in the crowdsourced environment, suppliers are separated from strategy, at least in the dynamic way that a strong creative team operates.
I also fail to see how crowdsourcing is agile. I completely agree with your points that technology has increased the need for agency agility, and that agencies have not, for the most part, met that need. In the developer environment, agile teams are small and focused, and have established methodologies for changing direction on the fly. If you’re crowdsourcing talent, even the team is a moving target.
Thank you. The discovery process an agency typically goes through with their clients generally leads to creative that is on strategy and on target.
Crowdsourcing agencies would argue that indeed a well written creative brief will also produce good creative , perhaps more efficiently. So the debate continues.
Thanks for sharing your great comments.
Love this post, Cheryl. It sums up this fast changing world we live in today. It’s clearly an “eat or be eaten” world we live in today.
Loved this quote by Billy Mitchell of MLT Creative. What drives innovation at MLT Creative is equal parts “curiosity, ambition, courage and fear. ” Today, businesses must be curious to keep up, ambitious to stay driven, courageous to try new and innovative approaches, and fearful of being eaten.
I hope everyone in advertising reads this important post.
Jeff Ogden, President (@fearlesscomp)
Find New Customers
I enjoyed your great comments.
Certainly agree on the power of Bill Mitchell’s quote and your points about the need to be ambitious, courageous, innovative and ….. fearful.
Great post Cheryl!
I totally agree that if agencies do not change their business process today, they are going to find themselves outnumbered by smaller, more agile and more client centric organizations, including brands themselves. Unfortunately the ‘agency overhead model’ of today is still being practiced and will take a long time to change.
Thanks for your great comments!
Indeed, today’s agency overhead model may be at the root of the problem. This opens the doors for competition from new agile, efficient, higher performing models sans the high overhead.
Great Blog Cheryl.
Your ability to stay on the crest of this rapidly changing “wave” of marketing is impressive. As a full time creative individual I find that ideas are just the “seed” and that 90% of the work comes in actually keeping the intent of the message alive in the ads and interaction with the client and customers.
The quote from Billy Mitchell is great advice. What is working for me clearly is the curiosity factor, once I’ve captured the attention of my niche group I keep the connection by engaging their imaginations.
Nicholas Vitale @nicholasvitale
Thanks for your comments. Agree on Billy Mitchell’s advice about the engaging power of curiosity.
Some great points raised here Cheryl. Crowdsourcing is not a panacea. MORE ideas (which can yield BETTER ideas=good) does mean MORE sifting (more time/resources/costs=bad). Issues of creative ownership and client confidentiality may be thorny. One of the biggest barriers to crowdsourcing being embraced is agency and research folks feeling threatened, that they and their work are easily replaced. This may come down to ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em– agencies either use crowdsourcing, or risk being replaced by crowdsourcing.
Thanks for your excellent comments and response to my question.
The crowdsourcing model elicits concerns among agency staffers about the implications on their jobs. Agencies are looking into the rear-view mirror to see if the crowdsourcing shops are gaining – a statement Mad Men character Don Draper made a few months back….in 1965 terms of course! 🙂
Indeed, if beating them just doesn’t work — maybe some form of joining might make sense?
Thanks for bringing up a great debate. I’d underlying Kevin’s view and add that one of the most important creative asset’s that any agency has is “an open mind”. This development is one to watch with an open mind.
Thanks for your comments and I love your point about agencies with “an open mind”. Indeed, as Kevin said in his reply, “crowdsourcing is not a panacea.” So, to your point, I think clients would want to line-up to work with that type of agency.
Some great thoughts here. I think there is a middle ground that is missing here when it comes to crowd sourcing. Rather than ask for the whole ad, why not ask for user generated video that can be edited by the agency creative team for the ad. When you consider the low % of people who trust Marketing information compared to peer recommendations and views of user generated content it seems agencies should stop focusing on what they want to do (big production) and develop ads that are trusted based on the content. This process achieves two things. First, it helps ensure the ad is in line with the strategy. Second, it improves chances of connecting with customers. Not only do you connect through the ad, but from the collection of content as well. People are interacting with the brand.
For agencies who are reluctant to use crowd sourcing I believe they need to leverage the idea from a campaign done in the 1990s. How many people remember the Tasters Choice couple commercials. When that campaign ended people actually wrote the company wanting to know what became of this couple. Fast forward to today and we can make things more personal. Great example of this was the Jack-in-the-Box ads/social media campaign that tracked Jack as he was hit by a bus. People wondered if the mascot would change, etc. It was more about the story with a subtle sell message. In this day of reality TV, commercials should embrace this concept if they want to actually be watched by consumers.
David A. Lee
Former Director of Marketing for the US Army Strong Campaign
Hi Cheryl – Another thought-provoking post. There is an interesting balancing act that needs to take place (it hasn’t yet) between the emerging theme of agile and the emerging practice of crowdsourcing (one does not necessarily require the other, although there can be tremendous synergy is blended correctly).
What is clear is that there are certain common characteristics your sources mentioned: Michael Ancevic and his “openness to constant change and technologies” and Billy Mitchell with his focus on “curiosity, ambition” and early adopter status are great examples.
Similarly, I think Epirot Ludvik Nekaj brought up a great point when he mentioned using “the wisdom of the selected crowd” – an important point in that it isn’t always about the “crowd”, sometimes it’s about using the “right” crowd.
In this light, I can definitely see where being agile in the market space can, and probably should, leverage crowd-sourcing as part of a strategy to quickly identify new ideas (you can almost think of crowd-sourcing as a way to inversely test-market ideas – how many respondents have a common theme in their answers?). And while there is the burden of creating the right selected crowd, and the added burden of curating their created content, find the right model should ultimately help make companies more agile (which is not the same as being faster, but rather more flexible).
At the end of the day, the product that goes out the door has to meet (and exceed) the client’s requirements. How an agency achieves that in a timely, cost-efficient manner (including their ability to adapt to changing technologies, mediums and demographics) is critical. But let’s not forget, quality will always rule in this space. Being agile and crowd-sourcing are just two components to help make that happen.
Thanks for a great topic and some great discussion points. I’m looking forward to your next….
Thank you for the great comments on my post!
Like your point about using crowdsourcing to “inversely test market ideas.” Your comment about how agencies can deliver in a cost-efficient manner and produce a quality creative effort — is really on target. The key word is “quality” as defined by the final paying judge… the client.
Three interesting posts in one Cheryl!
The crowdsourcing and creative brief points caught me the most because they tie to questions I pondered in past lives. First, how can you guarantee successful results? Many (including creatives) say it is about process. Design a process, trust it, and accept the result. Unfortunately, these folks often mistrust a final evaluation step (which could lead to wholesale rework). I actually had a head of a Marketing Communications group say, “No one knows what creative will work, so just trust the process and don’t ask questions.” Hmm. Anyway, with crowdsourcing, you don’t have one process…you have hundreds or thousands of individual “processes.” How can we promise results in that case? This takes me to eBay auctions.
Experienced eBay auctioneers generally say one can safely start bidding low because the market is efficient. The product WILL eventually sell for it’s actual worth because the community is large. So if your crowdsourcing net is wide enough and your creative brief precise enough, perhaps a promise of results is just as valid as it is “the old way.”
The creative brief is the last thing that sparked a “past life” question. A head of engineering I respect once told me his job is merely to define the boundaries for his developers–those stark white lines of deliverables, outside of which no one should travel. But he should stay away from any guidance of what happens inside those lines. I suspect a great creative brief in a crowdsourced environment is like this: define the boundaries and let a thousand flowers bloom between the lines.
Thanks for bringing back these memories.
Ken Rosen, Performance Works
Thanks for those great comments!
Good points about the importance of following the creative process which may lead to rework. If that is the case, maybe producing dozens of good ideas might help make the sale to the client? Speaking of memories, David Ogilvy once said: “Give me the freedom of a tight creative strategy.” His words are still true today. I think having a good creative brief is a critical step in the process.
Really great Ogilvy quote Cheryl…I’ll remember that.
Back when I was in a design and art department, it was mostly gospel that limits (in palette, time, etc.) were what drove creativity.
Reminds me of Arianna Huffington’s comments to AdAge Digital last week, regarding the journalism models. Blow up the old models and start over. Very few mature companies (inc big ad agencies can do this easily). That has created an entire new segment of small agile firms that can move quickly and be flexible.
In addition, things like crowdsourcing are here to stay. I attended the 4As Media Conference #transformation 2011 and agencies like Weiden & Kennedy and Crispin are embracing crowdsourcing. Why? Because generating hundreds of great ideas from all over the world can serve a client well…no longer enough to have one art director and one copywriter. Clients embrace it. It’s here to stay.
Big agencies just aren’t capable of moving quickly. Reminds me of a book titled: “Teaching the Elephant to Dance” — about the strong need for change. Interesting comments about agencies like Weiden & Kennedy and CP embracing crowdsourcing.
Great point about the opportunities to drive hundreds of ideas beyond one copywriter and art director team.
Great point of view and good discussion. Agree that the agency model have to change to be more agile and that crowdsourcing should be taken into consideration. As many have pointed out, it has it challenges. We can learn from IDEO crowdsourcing model and adapted it for an ad agency purposes.
One of the premises in crowdsourcing is that everyone participates, regardless of passion, interest or affinity to a brand. Agencies could modify the process by inviting existing customers for idea generation. What better source than to hear from them on a brainstorming session. Then take it internally for further development of plausible creative and strategies. As in any new creative or innovation venture, ideas are good as long as they support a purpose. Ideas for ideas sake go nowhere.
Thanks for your very creative comments! Love the IDEO reference to one of the premier design firms in the world. Another aspect of change is the idea that “digital” skills help to level the size paradigm of the agency world as agile, smart and fast become, in effect, the new world.
Fostering creativity at an agency requires an organizational commitment with people, culture, and processes. To go down this path I recommend the new book by Andy Stefanovich, Look at More: A Proven Approach to Innovation, Growth, and Change. He has applied his 5M approach to provide creative mo-jo to one of the major agencies and many other firms. It works but you have to stay with it.
I’m honored and truly appreciate your comments on my post. Certainly, the major challenge is managing change on the agency-side. Agree on the importance of “people, culture and processes.” I also appreciate the book recommendation.
Congratulations on the success of your new book, Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant.
Yet another outstanding post Cheryl! There is much food for thought in this post. I particularly liked the fact that you cited some ad agencies that are meeting the challenge, are transforming, and are becoming innovative.
As for your question, I agree completely, “Good ideas are good ideas.” It would be foolish to limit where those creative ideas come from.
I appreciate your taking the time to reply to my post. Thanks for answering my question, too! Always appreciate your comments!