Keeping an eye on the crowd

Havas CEO David Jones said, "When an industry goes through a revolution, you can do one of two things: sit and watch it happen or embrace the exciting new business models at the forefront of that revolution."

Havas CEO David Jones said, "When an industry goes through a revolution, you can do one of two things: sit and watch it happen or embrace the exciting new business models at the forefront of that revolution."

Will your firm embrace the crowdsourcing revolution? Or will you cling to the traditional PR agency model?  

The term "crowdsourcing," was coined by Jeff Howe in 2006 to describe a new internet-driven phenomena: companies were taking a function, typically performed by employees, and outsourcing it to an undefined - generally large - community of people in the form of open call. Buyers put a task they need completed on the Internet and offer a monetary reward for its completion. People submit their own interpretations of the project and the buyer chooses the one he or she likes best with that person receiving the award or fee.

Crowdsourcing has been used for everything from rebranding companies to creating new products to writing press releases. Creative challenges are among the most popular crowdsourced projects; in fact, one of the biggest challenges that brands face is how to create innovative marketing campaigns that will resonate with their target audience without breaking the bank. This is one of the many reasons the concept of creative crowdsourcing is receiving a lot of attention especially within the areas of writing services, graphic design, logo design, web design, and industrial design.

Top brands - Starbucks, Phillips, LG, Coca-Cola, and hundreds of others - have turned to creative crowdsourcing because of its inherent advantages: rapid turnaround, massive selection, better ideas, and greater innovation. It is also less expensive than the traditional agency approach that comes with hourly fees, monthly retainers, or large project fees. In many ways, creative crowdsourcing goes beyond helping brands to generate top-notch creative, because it engages audiences and embraces the “customer knows best” mantra. 

As creative crowdsourcing continues to evolve, more and more brands are tapping the crowd in ways far beyond logo, taglines, and website designs. They're using creative crowdsourcing for product naming, blog posts, newsletters, editing and proofing, packaging designs, and mobile apps.  

It isn't only brands turning to creative crowdsourcing, there is also an increase of people from every creative industry participating in crowdsourcing communities as suppliers of services. Some are just dipping a toe in the water, but, many are jumping in wholeheartedly and permanently embracing the freedom of freelancing. Better yet - because crowdsourcing doesn't respect title, salary, or geography - these classically trained and highly regarded PR professionals are leaving the workforce to be shoulder to shoulder with the “crowd” - a truck driver by day who is a writer at night to fulfill a passion, the stay at home mother who needs some adult time while the kids nap, and the social media expert who was laid off during the recession who needs the money. Their stories are amazing and make for a truly human backdrop to the crumbling and reinvention of the agency workforce.

This is the first post of a three-part series. On Wednesday, we'll break down the differences between creative crowdsourcing and the agency. On Friday, we'll talk about how traditional PR agencies can adapt and evolve to make crowdsourcing part of their capabilities.  

Mike Samson is co-founder of CrowdSpring.

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