Sep 17, 2009

Crowdsourcing Is Just Creative Gang Bang 2.0

Anyone who spent time at a big ad agency over the past several decades is familiar with the notion of the creative “gang bang,” an exercise in futility wherein dozens of creative teams, both in-house and (high priced) freelancers spend a month of fifteen hour days and even longer weekends to try and “crack the big idea” for a new television campaign. (And despite all the lip service to digital, it’s always about the TV campaign.)

The end result is almost anything anything but breakthrough, and is in fact, often considerably worse than what was presented in the early rounds.

But no matter: these agencies are convinced that the amount of effort is what’s important and that good ideas only happen after weeks of hashing and re-hashing. Or they’ve convinced their clients of this, anyway. The clients aren’t blameless either-- its why they hire big agencies-- big companies like the idea of spending millions to have dozens of “creative geniuses” devoting months of their lives to figuring out the best way to sell kitty litter.

Given that scenario, it’s not all that surprising that big agencies are looking at crowdsourcing like it was manna from heaven.

Because not only do they get the perceived brilliance of hundreds of people working on their projects, they get it for free and they get it without any actual human contact.

No more $1,500 a day freelancers coming up with ideas that make the interns look brilliant. No more sullen faces when the new team’s work is rejected in favor of the campaign from the team the creative director plays poker with. No more hiring dozens of students from the local ad school as “interns” so they can work long hours for free.

It’s all the benefits of a giant creative gang bang with none of the negatives. So long as the agency can position itself as The Great Curator, the only one capable of separating the wheat from the chaff-- they’re golden. The administrative costs and hassles of a crowd sourced project probably don’t come close to those of conducting a full on gang bang and it actually frees up staff to concentrate on actual client work.

So why wouldn’t big agencies be all over it? I mean other than the fact that at some point clients are going to figure out they don’t need a whole agency to do what hundreds of fairly talented freelancers are willing to do for free.

Oh right. That.

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