Unilever has waved goodbye to longstanding creative agency Lowe and decided to ask the public to help create a new TV ad for its Peperami brand.

Campaign reports that the firm is using crowdsourcing site Idea Bounty to attract ideas for a new Peperami ad, offering $10,000 to the winner of the contest. The brief will be published on Friday, and the contest runs until late-October.

Lowe had held the Peperami account since 1993, when it created the ‘Animal’ character alongside Unilever. It will be interesting to see whether the client retained the rights over the ‘Animal’, and whether it will permit the crowd to use it in their TV ads. 

Idea Bounty has been used by other top brands recently, including BMW and Red Bull, which paid $3,000 and $5,000 respectively to their chosen winners. Idea Bounty also claims the same amount again as its fee. If you like the idea of co-creation then you might want to check out my recent post called 10 kickass crowdsourcing apps for your business

So is it a brave move by a global brand like Unilever to ask the crowd for ideas? I'm not sure I'd call it 'brave'. Considering the relatively low amount of money on offer - and the sheer amount of ideas it will see - it seems like a bit of a no-brainer, especially in a difficult market climate. 

But is this growing trend towards crowdsourcing a threat to agencies? Possibly, but the winner of the BMW contest runs an agency, so maybe these events are simply open opportunities for interested agencies and amateurs alike? 

The threat is certainly real in terms of budget though. $10,000 doesn’t buy much time at a creative agency. Crowdsourcing seems certain to drive down costs. 

There are other reasons too. John Winsor outlines some of the common complaints in a post called ‘Will agencies suffer death by 1,000 cuts through crowdsourcing?’. The key areas for concern are as follows:

  • Spec work is bad
  • Crowdsourcing is unethical
  • It’s only freelance
  • Work will suffer because client’s don’t know good work
  • It will only work for small stuff like logos

I’m not sure I agree with all of John’s points but his post is certainly worth reading, along with the comments. 

So is this a smart ROI-driven move by Unilever, or does it reflect a trend that may do untold damage to the bigger agencies? What do you think?

Chris Lake

Published 25 August, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (3)


Jason Spector

I think it's a wise decision for Unilever to move towards a crowdsourcing model for their TV ad and any other creative/non-creative project. It provides added value to them (as the client) and the global creative community. I also appreciate and respect that they are taking the competitors rights into strong consideration.

Noam - As far as John Winsor's list of crowdsourcing complaints, these are statements that he has heard but did not state himself. If you read further into his post, you'll see that John addresses each of the common crowdsourcing complaints, but isn't justifying or supporting them. He even states at the end of his blog post that: "The bottom line is that great ideas come form everywhere."


almost 9 years ago



I guess it's only natural that traditional agencies and creatives will be resistant to the idea of crowdsourcing as it has massive potential to undermine their businesses.

However, overcoming that inertia should not be viewed as a bad thing. This is just the next stage in the evolution of marketing: it is inherently more sensitive to market-forces, it levels the playing fields as far as creatives are concerned (giving them the opportunity to communicate their ideas to global brands) and it opens brands to a limitless number of new, innovative marketing ideas. And it doesn't remove the need for traditional agencies, as the ideas generated will still need to be implemented.

Instead of griping about crowdsourcing, agencies need to recognise its huge potential and adapt their businesses to use crowdsourcing to their advantage, in much the same way as the music industry has adapted to embrace music downloads.

almost 9 years ago


David Murdico

Chris, I applaud Unilever for experimenting with crowdsourcing. At the very least, it's a good PR move drawing attention to both the brand and to the product Peperami.

As far as cowdsourcing's impact on larger agencies, I think we'll have to see but for now the process seems to be opening up the door for smaller shops and talented freelancers to get noticed.                                                                                        



almost 9 years ago

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