Crowdsourced advertising platforms - some with Silicon Valley backing - are sprouting up to liberate untapped talent from around the world and remake television (and video) advertising. Companies such as Tongal, Zooppa, Poptent and others are tapping the crowd for talent and hoping to leverage social media's expanding reach and real-time impact to strengthen ties between products and people.
Can you tell who made the Dannon yogurt commercial below starring John Stamos? It aired during last year's Super Bowl:
In fact, the ad was created by Remy and Andrew Neymarc, a pair of twenty-something brothers raised in France and possessing no formal video training. Their concept was chosen amongst thousands via the crowdsource advertising platform Poptent.
The crowd is seizing control.
Talent is Everywhere
College students - think Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg - can launch highly disruptive multi-billion dollar businesses right from their dorm room. But can they direct? Can they create mega-popular, award-winning television advertisements for global brands? The answer is a resounding yes. Ideas can come from anywhere, and talent resides everywhere.
The commercial below, for example, is the direct result of crowd participation. The original idea for the ad and then, later, the finished commercial, were selected from entries by creators - some professional, many amateur - around the world.
Crowdsourced participation in the traditional world of television advertising is a big deal. The global advertising market has an estimated value in excess of half a trillion dollars. In a world of tablets and "second screens," DVRs and YouTube, television still grabs the majority of this bounty.
This is in large part because viewers place a higher level of trust in television advertisements. Even in the second decade of the 21st century, television ads influence viewers far more than most other forms. Yes, this is also true for tech-savvy teens and young adults.
Television Advertising In A Multi-Screen World
Television may command a disproportionate share of trust and influence among advertising media, but each new advertising channel - your Twitter feed, or your smartphone screen, for example - has the potential to distract once faithful viewers.
It's also now much harder for brands to develop and distribute a consistent message across these multiple channels, screens and media platforms. What works on the television screen may do nothing for someone updating their Facebook page on their iPhone. Multiple ads with varying sensibilities are thus required even for a single brand or product. This has forced advertisers to seek out new talent and new avenues for promotion.
Kurt Lohse is marketing director for Poptent, a social media platform that links brands looking for advertising with freelancers from around the world. The 65,000 independent filmmakers registered with Poptent, he told me, "run the gamut from boutique ad agencies to film school students with basic training."
In a multi-screen world, well-made video content remains one of the most effective sales tools available, and demand continues to grow as the range of possible media outlets expands. Think "Super Bowl commercials to viral videos, web videos and everything in between," as Lohse puts it.
In this new world, big brands need the crowd just to meet demand.
The Crowd Wants What The Crowd Wants
With more screens, more channels and more media platforms, it's also become much harder for advertisers to deeply connect with every group or demographic. The top-down model no longer works. Asking a crowd to create an ad is much more likely to result in something that resonates with, well, that specific crowd.
PepsiCo, which owns a number of food brands, including Doritos, has done just that in order to appeal to multiple demographics, particularly younger ones. In this case, the rather odd crowdsourced advertisement featuring a goat ultimately made it into the company's Super Bowl ad blitz.
Big brands use the crowd not just for ideas, talent and inspiration, but to help generate brand awareness - even at the ad concept stage.
Pizza Hut, for example, encouraged football fans to submit videos incorporating the idea of quarterbacks shouting "hut" to hike the ball. Along with many great entries received, the campaign itself was a clever means of increasing brand awareness long before any finished advertisement even made it onto the television screen.
While Pizza Hut selected the finalists in its crowdsourced challenge, a popular vote was used to decide which ad made it to the Super Bowl.
Deconstructing the Advertisement
Whereas companies like Poptent have created a platform that connects global talent with big brands, Tongal has taken the crowdsourcing model one step further - by deconstructing the advertisement into its constituent parts.
For example, I may have the perfect idea for the next great iPhone commercial.
Note: Idea for next great iPhone ad: a virtual 3D Steve Jobs and Tupac Shakur share iTunes Radio playlists and wisdom as they are seated cross-legged on a barren desert.
Problem: I have absolutely no filming talent. Using Tongal's platform, big brands offer "challenge rewards" not only for fully edited video advertisements, but for ideas for commercials.
Tongal president and co-founder, James DeJulio, told me that this new model will permanently disrupt how television advertising gets made:
So many talented people have until now had little access to do really creative work. In Hollywood, for example, every studio relies on the same ten names for every action. (Crowdsourcing) rearranges the labor market for creative work.
Tongal has received $15 million in venture capital funding. The company works with popular brands by crafting an advertising "challenge." First, is the idea challenge - anyone can submit a idea for the brand's next commercial. The crowd - at least, those registered on the Tongal site - can submit and/or vote on these ideas. The most popular ones are then awarded a cash prize of, say, $500.
Video artists can then craft an advertisement based on the top five most popular ideas, for example. Again, these videos are voted on and the winner receives, say, $25,000. In addition, each winning participant across the challenge's several stages has a chance for an additional slice of the reward pool. If the second most popular "idea" is ultimately used in the winning video, for example, the person with that idea receives an additional reward.
The entire process, from creating the challenge, generating ideas, and developing a finished advertisement takes about 8 weeks - far faster than the traditional model. Throughout the process the challenge is simultaneously being aggressively promoted on Twitter and Facebook.
DeJulio estimates that "easily 10-20% of all television advertising over the next few years" will be based on a crowdsourced model. That's tens of billions of dollars.
Surprisingly, money is not the driving factor for many participants. "More money typically equals better participation," says DeJulio, but this is not always the case. The more people that use a product, such as a toothbrush or deodorant, the more likely it is that more and better ideas are generated via the crowd. This is doubly so, he suggests, for products that have a rabid fan base - for instance, women's shoes.
A Whole New World
The rapid advancement of low-cost HD video tools, steady cams, and professional editing software, combined with globally accessible social media platforms which aggregate and empower the crowd, are finally disrupting the insular, highly profitable television advertising business.
Lego, Pringles, Axe, Pepsi, Nokia, and numerous others now rely upon crowdsourcing to generate ideas and foster new talent. Everyone wins. Big brands get a great commercial, possibly at a much lower price, and far faster than ever before. At the same time, talented folks from around the world have a chance to build a career in a new industry. Teens such as Zach Boivin have already earned thousands.
Consider this advertising challenge linking Pringles and Star Wars. It yielded thousands of fan-generated entries, such as the one below.
The winner, to be selected later this month, will receive a $25,000 fee, and the winning ad will be shown on national TV.