Thoughts on Crowdsourcing

30 Nov

This rainy Monday morning I create a little Tweet Cloud via. Amongst the swearing, Doritos, and whoops!, crowdsourcing was staring me in the face. Seeing as it’s currently a hot hot topic within the ad community, I thought I’d share my personal views on the matter.


“The application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software”

Like all buzz words in the ad industry, they tend to take on new meanings and forms. Let’s not forget the original definition coined by Wired’s Jeff Howe [2006].


A synonym of ‘outsourcing’ and ‘contests’

See above definition…


A previously untapped resource of human creativity, knowledge, and intelligence

The Internet has made it possible for large groups of widely dispersed people to come together and express ideas and solve problems. The real sweet spot is in harnessing the power of crowds in a way that is mutually beneficial for both the authority and the crowd.


The death of the creative agency

With any new buzz word in the ad world comes a new “death of” claim. With new agency breeds such as Viktor & SpoilsAgency Nil – are  creative agencies really under threat? I doubt it. While crowdsourcing is a new way to harness creativity, the truth of the matter is that we’ll continue to need people to get under the skin of brands. To help them understand their consumers. Perhaps it’s simply the death of lazy creatives 🙂 More on this from Mike



The notion of ‘by the people for the people’ is inherently democratic. The reason Doritos ‘You Make It, We Play It’ and ‘Crash the Superbowl’ work so well, is because the people have the final word on the outcome. Perhaps this is why I feel discomfort with Idea B0unty as they have full creative authority over the crowd (read Amelia’s thoughts on this here).


A cost-cutting labor solution

Or perhaps this is my belief (and Jeff Howe’s for that matter) that it “shouldn’t” be rather than “isn’t”? Some brands (e.g. Walkers DUAF) have involved crowds very effectively in new innovations in this new age of co-creation, others (e.g. Idea Bounty anyone?) are exploiting ‘crowdsourcing’ to cheaply outsource their advertising.


A grey area

Crowdsourcing is both good and bad. It can be effective. Or it can be a huge waste of resources. Monetisation in particular is a huge grey area – while some see crowdsourcing merely as collective intelligence of the Internet, others see it as collaboration but for commercial purposes.


For everyone

Crowdsourcing has its merits and should be explored, but it’s not an approach to doing business that will work for every company. As Brian Caulfield puts it – …”it’s not better–just different”. While in some cases the power of crowds can accomplish huge tasks, other times it can create a lot of dribble.

This is work-in-progress so comments welcome please 🙂

6 Responses to “Thoughts on Crowdsourcing”

  1. Cristian November 30, 2009 at 3:15 pm #

    Hi Nicola – very much enjoyed the read, one of the more thoughtful on a popular debate. We also seem to share a Cloud with a large “crowdsourcing” presence.

    In a recent post I attempted to argue that there is as much value in the crowdsourcing process (engagement) as there is in the end result (outsourced creative). Would love your views on this –

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