The news that Unilever had crowdsourced its new Peperami TV advertisement should have sent shivers throughout the advertising world. The idea is that a client can post a brief on an opensource website and wait for the hungry creatives to respond. In the case of Peperami, this was 1800 people. The prize of writing the new commercial went to two advertising creatives, which was reassuring, but the ramifications of this kind of online pitch are worth considering. Whilst it might seem democratic to offer a creative brief to everyone in the world, what it actually means, if carried to its logical conclusion, is that eventually no career creatives will exist. You can’t build a career out of odds of one in 1800, so ultimately the only people able to submit creative work are bound to be amateur.
Does all this matter? It does, because as in all things, becoming proficient at something takes time and effort (hence the Peperami brief was won by creative professionals). If no-one is to be paid for this time and effort, the standard will undoubtedly fall. There’s an interesting corollary to this scenario in the other ‘arts’ fields. In music, new bands can now become famous without a label, which is in many ways good. But it will probably be hard for a musician or group to sustain a long-term career because of the sheer volume of new and accessible competition. On the radio recently I heard a Hollywood film director complaining of the same problem after someone who had directed a youtube film had been offered a directing job on a big movie. Already comedians’ shelf lives are very short – at least if you’ve made it big enough in the first instance you can go off and do travel documentaries and endless lookalike comedy panel shows.
In the new world order, many more people will of course get their 15 minutes of creative fame, but what we will miss out on is the development of an artist over a long period. The good news however is that, at least in advertising, creatives are fighting back – on linkedin copywriters and designers have been queueing up to slag off the latest crowdsourcing site, crowdspring.com And whilst we’re at it, let’s all revile those advertising agencies who have recently had the great idea of running competitions on behalf of their clients to find the next ad in a campaign. Have they got no ideas of their own? Or would they really prefer to drive their clients into the open arms of opensourcing?