Crowdsourcing – a problem shared…

Posted on September 1, 2010

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Idea Bounty is a website where businesses can advertise a brief for their latest marketing project (getting a bit of coverage of their business at the same time).  The site then invites ideas from the amassed community (or crowd) and offers them a bounty for the winning idea.   It’s just one example of ‘crowdsourcing‘, others include George Osbourne asking the British public for ideas to get us out of the economic mess we’re in and BP asking for ideas to stop the oil flooding out.

So, is it a good idea to leave important decisions to the wisdom of the masses?  Hmm, I’m not too sure – it’s certainly got potential, but then again, potentially most of what is suggested by the mob is rubbish.  Let’s take the example of Mary Bale, (“Catwoman”, but not in the Lycra sense of the word), if we left it to the crowd to come up with a suitable punishment for her behaviour (as captured in the video below), what would happen?

Soon after this story hit, a Facebook group emerged.  Actually a few Facebook groups emerged to be precise: group 1 | group 2 | etc.  For some reason (at the time of writing) group 2 seems to fixate on the death of Rod Hull, which kind of brings me back on topic.  You see, the trouble with the mob is that they are an unruly bunch and individuals within the mob tend to have a tendency to follow their own agenda – in this instance talking about the sad demise of Rod Hull, when what we were really looking for is cat-related commentary.

Anyhow, the Facebook group quickly published Mary Bale’s home address and mobile phone number and the general consensus of the group was that Mary should be beaten, tortured and her remains left in a litter tray for her victims to do what cats do in litter trays.  Crowdsourcing had quickly come to a consensus without the legal system having to pay a penny, so that can’t be bad.

As a means of doing business then, I think crowdsourcing has got potential.  Why pay a creative agency for ideas when you can get ideas from a plethora of people (some with talent even!) at a fraction of the cost, sure you’re going to need an agency at some point to put the idea into production, but that’s it.  It all ultimately relies on someone making an informed decision on the wisdom of the crowd, which isn’t really any different to when a client picks their favourite concept from those shown to them by an agency.  Except that the agency has met with the client and built up a relationship and understanding of the client’s business, whereas the crowd hasn’t.  Also, the crowd can only interpret the challenge as it is communicated to them, they can’t read your body language and other valuable inputs that help people discern what someone is really saying.

If you expect your creative agency to just carry out orders then crowdsourcing makes a lot of sense, if however you want some strategic input and ideas then I’d be wary of going down the crowdsourcing route.  Also, if you don’t have a very clear idea of what you are about before you seek the input of a large group be prepared to be further confused after reading through their suggestions.

That said, I will be looking up Idea Bounty’s website and will be offering up my concepts in the hope for a few thousand dollars.  I actually had an idea of doing a calendar of the Pope’s visit to the UK, it would comprise pictures of the Pope in the PopeMobile in the mutli-storey car parks of the UK.  If I can just shoe-horn that into a concept I think I might be on to a winner…

Popemobile

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Posted in: Futurology, Marketing