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?