When Jeff Howe coined the term crowdsourcing back in 2006, he defined it as “the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call” (this definition is still on Wikipedia). Today, other buzzwords like co-creation and open innovation flood the marketing and innovation blogs. To know what’s happening with crowdsourcing, let’s just take a look at how the platforms based on crowdsourcing principles evolve. Let’s take a look at different types of platforms using crowdsourcing principles : virtual ad agencies, creativity platforms and (still) the crowd-sourcers.
VIRTUAL AD AGENCIES
I recently found an interesting blog post about discussing well-known crowdsourcing websites. Peter La Motte, president of GeniusRocket, describes how his websites’ model is not an open crowdsouring platform anymore, but rather “an agency powered by the crowd“. This means that ideas and storyboards are crowdsourced, but they only go into production when the client has given feedback and approves the project. This is the main difference with open platforms like Poptent or eYeka, who are open platforms for various creative people who can choose which projects they want to participate in. Other virtual ad agencies include Victors&Spoils, founded by John Winsor (a review of his book Flipped here), and Tongal. I like Tongal’s video because it explains how the crowd is leveraged to select and refine ideas :
Less surplus “waste”, genuine cooperation between client and creators, high quality output
Low-cost (but innovative) approach of traditional advertisement, not necessarily better ideas (see)
Other platforms are more oriented towards creative idea generation and marketing. eYeka, for instance, proves that creative crowdsourcing can bring valuable contributions at the fuzzy front end of innovation (GfK case), in approaching new markets (whitepaper) and in generating authentic brand content (cases). Poptent seems to be a very similar platform which entirely crowdsources the creative process to video-enthusiasts, but there are other well-designed platforms that have huge creativity-unleashing potential.
Atizo, a Swiss brainwriting-platform, does interesting work fin generating ideas for corporate clients. Most of them are local clients (German-speaking), but the platform will probably be featured in one of Forrester’s next studies about co-creation. Another platform is Jovoto, which has roots in Berlin and makes a very good job involving its community in innovation projects like one for food-packaging specialist Toppits. Finally, let’s mention the Dutch platform ReDesignMe, for about which Joyce Van Dijk published interesting work recently. Their model is very similar and features mostly domestic and/or local contributors. Even though they call themselves The largest Crowdsourcing agency for marketing and design, they have a lot of the characteristics of a creative platform: a community, open briefs, a reward system and -of course- a functional web-based platform.
While eYeka bets on its large community to cover all continents, the competitors mentioned above have smaller creative communities which still restrict their scope of action. The also seem to have more collaborative community-models (which may or may not be linked to the size of the community), which implies different community management practices. Either way, according to recent research, this way of using crowdsouring can have two types of uses: innovation (finding promising ideas with potential) and authenticity (getting creative feedback about product use or brand perception).
Theoretically unlimited creativity, attractive stimuli for aspiring creatives, concrete impact on innovation
Possibly low-quality contributions and/or discussions, contests imply disappointment on the creator-side
The last category of crowdsourcing platforms I’d like to cite are those who really crow-dsource. By this, I allude what Howe says with “a function once performed by employees”: these platforms are novel intermediaries which could eventuelly replace graphic design, programming or traditional market research panels. They skip “traditional” channels used by these respective industries before.
When I met Creads, they simply told me that their model was to assume (by crowd-sourcing) what the advertising/graphic design already did for years, namely out-sourcing to freelancers. So instead of having transaction costs linked to agencies, they set up a platform that did just this: linking clients to designers. Other platforms exist in France (Wilogo), in Australia (99designs), in the USA (CrowdSpring) etc. Beside graphic design, one of the most prominent domains of crowdsourcing, other creative tasks are outsourced via platforms: programming (RentACoder), web-design (Designcrowd), market research (Crowdtap) are some examples.
Accessible platforms where supply and demand meet, innovative way of doing business, win-win if expectations are not too high
Low-cost alternative to existing creative professionals,
The aim of this post is to position different web-based crowdsourcing platforms. These platforms gather communities of creative poeple willing to participate, looking for stimuli. It seems that after the early phases of crowdsourcing, platforms seek distinctive positioning: CrowdSpring specializes on graphic & web-design, leaving aside innovation contests like the one they hosted for LG. Actors like eYeka invest this spot of the market now, take a look at this very recent contest. So crowdsourcing is definitely not dead, the best platforms are just finding their sweet spots.
When everything is based on community participation, the question which comes to my mind is: who actually specializes? Is it the platform or is it the community? Can a graphic-design platform ask its community to respond to innovation questions? Is a community which likes to submit ideas able to generate a pleasant visual? Specialized platforms offer a fantastic playing ground for creatives… until they have to make a living!
UPDATE (June 1st): You might have a look at Simon Schwall‘s Master thesis about “The implications of User-Generated Advertising on the value chain of advertising“. His analysis features BlogBang, MoFilm and eYeka and goes in the same direction than the thoughts I develop in this blog post. You can download it on his LinkedIn profile folder.