As reported yesterday on this blog, Unilever has decided to crowdsource the next Peperami TV ads via Idea Bounty, with a prize of $10,000 up for grabs.

I’ve been talking to Noam Buchalter, Marketing Manager for Unilever’s Marmite, Bovril, Pot Noodle, and Peperami brands. about the reasons behind the decision to crowdsource the new Peperami ads, and the effect this will have on agencies. 

Why did you decide to crowdsource the ads?

What we really wanted was some fresh eyes on the ‘animal’ character and the campaign. I think it is an outstanding character that has been created, but it is difficult to keep him fresh with the limited number of people working on the ads.

Our agency Lowe has done some fabulous work on the Peperami brand but we felt that a new approach could yield something fresh. The ‘animal’ character is already well defined so we think that crowdsourcing will really work here, and attract more ideas from creative people.

We’re not really keen on the idea of fully open and public sourcing, as Walkers did on their recent crisp flavour campaign, our undertaking is to enter into a rigorous and serious creative process. 

We’ve been very clear from the beginning about the kind of input we are looking for; users of Idea Bounty have to sign up and enter into a formal agreement, and their intellectual property is well defined and protected.

The brief is relatively open, but people will have to work hard on their ideas, and part of the brief is also to produce print ads. It is open for everyone to enter, and we are hoping that many professional creatives will take part.

A plumber from Burnley could enter for instance, but people will have to come up with much more than a one-liner.

Why did you choose to use Idea Bounty for the crowdsourcing?

We liked Idea Bounty most of all because it had the intellectual property issues most clearly defined, which was an important consideration for us.

Quirk eMarketing is also behind the site so they have the contacts to pull the right kind of creative people into it.

Was it hard to ‘convince the boss’ that crowdsourcing the ads was a good idea?

Not really, the central marketing people were intrigued by the idea, and are looking at ways of using outsourcing for other Unilever brands. Our internal business unit is called Chrysalis, and our mandate is to look to do new things and pioneer. We recently introduced the first .mobi site for Pot Noodle for instance.

Is this method of crowdsourcing the ads also about generating buzz around the product / campaign?

primary objective is to get an outstanding ad for Peperami, but the
publicity around the method is a nice offshoot. It is mostly within the
marketing trade at the moment, though this is good for making people
aware of the brief and attracting more ideas.

I think the fact
that the ad has been created in a different way will be good when it
goes live; there will be an interesting story behind it for journalists
to write about.

Will such use of crowdsourcing turn out to be a threat for agencies in future?

There is an element of horses for courses here; we wouldn’t use crowdsourcing to start a campaign from scratch, something that takes months of ideas and development, that is something I think you need to have an agency for.

However, if there is a campaign with a straight-forward and well defined brief, then crowdsourcing is worth considering, though I don’t think that it will replace the need for creative agencies.

I don’t think agencies should be worried about the threat from crowdsourcing, they should embrace it. More forward thinking creative agencies may well embrace this in future and use the model for their clients’ campaigns. It is a new and emerging model which offers opportunities for both clients and agencies.

Is this a sector that needs to be shaken up?

I think so, and it is something that should turn out to be healthy for the industry, but there are a lot of agencies that just haven’t woken up to it yet. To some it is a gravy train, but things can’t always operate in the same way.

People are looking very carefully at the fees they pay, and if they can get better value elsewhere then they will.

For us, we think we get can much better creative value for this campaign at a much lower cost than we would through an agency, the value equation is so much better.

On another brief this may not be the case, crowdsourcing may not be appropriate. and spending money with a traditional agency may pay off. It’s a question of where to go to get the best value for a particular campaign.

How do you respond to the criticism that crowdsourcing will effect the quality of work because clients will not be able to judge it?

It’s an incredibly defensive and naive view to hold, ultimately it takes a great client to make great work. We not be compromising standards, and will only buy the very best advertising work through Idea Bounty.