How Crowdsourcing is Used in Video Advertising

My presentation at the IMMAA Conference in Lisbon (you can turn up the volume, it’s a little low)

Broadband internet coverage, mobile internet access, ubiquitous mobile devices… a variety of factors allow us to consume video more than ever before in the young internet history. Brands have discovered that video advertising is seen as a particularly effective way to promote their products and services. WARC recently reported that brands’ spending on online video advertising is expected to increase 41% in 2013 to $4.1 bn, according to figures from eMarketer.

But how can they produce quality video content at an affordable cost? One way to do that is to crowdsource video content production. In other words, launch online video contests. How is crowdsourcing used in the production of video advertising today? In an attempt to understand this subject better, Rosemary Kimani and I have written a book chapter about it. We have identified 4 crowdsourcing models in the current video advertising landscape.

These are the slides of the presentation at the 6th IMMAA (International Media Management Academic Association) in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s a very short summary of a forthcoming book chapter, Crowdsourcing in the Production of Video Advertising: The Emerging Roles of Crowdsourcing Platforms that will be published in a book series about innovation and disruption in business, co-edited by Robert DeFillippi and Patrik Wikström (Edward Elgar Publishing). While the first book focused on innovation and disruption in the publishing, the second will look at the creative industries of film, video and photography.

Rosemary, who has extensive experience in advertising, and I, looked at 15 different crowdsourcing platforms that currently produce video content for organizations, from SMEs to global brands. Based on the traditional video advertising production process (ideation, pre-production, production, post-production, distribution), we identified 4 ways in which crowdsourcing is organized today:

  • Idea contests: At the ideation phase, crowdsourcing can be used to find original and creative ideas for advertising spots. Examples of the first type of crowdsourcing initiatives, where only the ideas matter, can be found on eYeka, Userfarm or Victors & Spoils. These contests usually last a couple of weeks and the brands “walk away” with the ideas to use them (or not) in their to work with their internal communication department and/or advertising agencies.
  • Call for pitches: Some creative crowdsourcing platforms indeed use crowdsourcing as a matchmaking mechanism to connect companies to skilled video makers for the execution of specific projects. Companies can submit “briefs” along with a budget and a deadline, to which participants submit so-called “pitches” to present their ideas. The companies are looking for ideas AND the individual to execute these ideas.
  • Simple contests: This is the original approach to crowdsourcing whereby a company posts a problem online, a vast number of individuals offer solutions to the problem before a specific deadline, the winning ideas are awarded some form of a bounty, and the company uses the idea for its own gain (Brabham, 2008). When it comes to video advertising, this type of initiative requires participants to complete all stages needed to come up with an advertisement: finding the idea, preparing the shooting, shooting, editing the material and submitting it to the contest.
  • Stage-based contests: In this model, crowdsourcing is used at different stages along the process. Creative crowdsourcing platform Tongal, for example, breaks down the production process in three phases, which results in three sub-contests for one video project: an idea contest, a pitch contest, and a production contest. The advantage of this model is that the crowd’s creativity is being channeled by the brand, and that the scope of potential participants is broader since it is not restricted to video makers only.

Tongal, the only company that uses stage-based video contests to my knowledge, has recently been featured on MSNBC, as reported. Here’s the video:

Basically, what we found is that crowdsourcing of video content is getting increasingly sophisticated. The first crowdsourcing initiatives, like Doritos’ Crash The Superbowl, were simple contests organized independently by PepsiCo and a bunch of agencies. Then, brands, started to use creative crowdsourcing platforms, also using the simple contest model.

Check out the timeline for a complete history of creative crowdsourcing!

It’s only recently that more elaborated models have appeared: the first idea contests appeared on eYeka, Geniusrocket dropped the contest model for its so-called “curated crowdsourcing” approach, Mofilm and Poptent started dedicated production units, and Tongal pioneered the stage-based model. These evolutions of the traditional model better accommodate the needs of brands and/or agencies, who can be looking for different things: raw ideas, professional talent, consumer insights, high-quality content…

Where do we stand? Well, a lot of things have happened since the first video contest. The traditional players in communication and advertising have started embracing crowdsourcing more systematically than before: Havas purchased a majority stake in Victors & Spoils, the Japanese agency ADK formed a strategic alliance with eYeka, Edelman PR has partnered with Poptent and Sony Computer Entertainment America hired Mofilm as its official crowdsourcing agency. More announcements will certainly follow, indicating the growing acceptance of crowdsourcing in the advertising landscape.

Let’s see how this evolves in the future. The introducing quote of our chapter quotes John Winsor, co-founder of “the world’s first creative (ad) agency built on crowdsourcing principles” Victors & Spoils. He said:

You can call it crowdsourcing, co-creation or open source innovation. The point is, advertising will continue to be democratized. With this radical democratization, the structures of advertising organizations are being transformed. Radically.

Update (July 29th 2014): Find the book’s link here and the chapter’s link here. Enjoy it 🙂


  1. If you are interested in video crowd sourcing and advertising campaigns you should check Userfarm: They have been doing very interesting projects like Game of Thrones viral video campaign which got me really interested. Virality is assured at all stages and they have a massive videomakers community


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