- Monday, August 31st, 2009
Crowdsourcing has become a new and sexy target in the interactive marketing world when a project brief lists ‘engage the community on a limited budget’. Unfortunately, it seems that lately, both brands and agencies have been exploiting crowdsourcing thinking they can have their cake and eat it too. In essence, crowdsourcing is an attempt at trying to get professional and premium results for amateur pricing. (Note: for this blog entry I’m not referring to legitimate attempts at crowdsourcing such as the Netflix initiative but rather attempts at crowdsourcing that are blatantly trying to commoditize specialized services relevant to marketing and advertising.)
Cripsin, Porter + Bogusky (CP+B) is at the heart of a current controversy involving the design community and CP+B’s intent to crowdsource a logo design for their client – Brammo. Not only has this put CP+B in a poor light (both in the design community as well as interactive marketing community) but it’s not making their client look so hot either. CP+B sent out an RFP for logo design and is offering $1,000 for the winning logo. How much money CP+B was paid is anybody’s guess, but this again shows how crowdsourcing is being exploited for monetary gain. Not to mention, why would a brand need an agency if all they’re going to do is create a RFP and post it on a site for community submissions? Does crowdsourcing even need a middleman in this instance? The irony here is that as crowdsourcing becomes more popular it makes an agency less relevant.
Then you also have another form of crowdsourcing exploitation that are thinly veiled ‘community contests’ which offer little to no prizes in exchange for the glory and prominence of associating a designer or developers name with a popular brand. Gap is the latest culprit here using an iPhone App crowdsourced contest whereby the winning developer ‘wins’:
- Their app to be noted as the ‘official’ iPhone app for Gap
- 2 months of free office space (which was recently added to most likely entice more entries)
- The winning developers name in a Gap press release
Yes, you read that right, the big prize for spending all that time and effort is a name along with Gap in a press release. And what could the 2 months of free office space be for? You draw your own conclusions there… Furthermore, the second tier prizes range from $100 to $500 gift certificates which is really helping to ‘commoditize’ iPhone App development in general. Has any development platform in recent memory (iPhone App in this instance) gone from premium pricing to commoditized pricing in such a short time span?
Most professional designers and developers are already aware that by basically performing these crowdsourcing initiatives, for free, they’re in effect helping to commoditize their craft. Even if a designer and / or developer is in it for the glory of having their name associated with a brand, how would other agencies or companies view the winner when it comes to real world pricing? My gut tells me that any agency or brand would figure if the winning designer / developer would do something for free, they’ll be more than happy to do a paid initiative even if it’s ridiculously low budgeted and barely above the cost of ‘free’.
Crowdsourcing is just another example of User Generated Content but in a more controlled manner and specialized environment. With any brand sponsored contest, prizing / monetary value is always key to attracting the best talent and most qualified entries or results. In addition, it is also important to offer monetary value that correlates to the effort of work involved. It seems in these recessionary times, there’s an attempt to skip over that small detail. Unfortunately though, as the last 3-4 years have shown for UGC, some things still hold true – you get what you pay for.