Crowdsourcing a Discussion on Crowdsourcing: Agency Nil, Anomaly and Victors & Spoils

Occasionally a topic comes up that inspires a longer post with commentary and viewpoints beyond my own. With so much talk recently about crowdsourcing it seemed like a good time to really tackle the issue. I’m positively thrilled to have input from some of the top minds in advertising and marketing communications contribute to this post. I want to thank Johnny Vulkan, Cliff Lewis, Evan Fry & Aaron Bateman who provided thoughtful commentary to this post as well as those who I have linked to for adding their insight to the discussion. I encourage you to print it out, bookmark, and of course share it with others.



It's all his fault

It's all his fault

If it seems like you’ve been hearing a lot about crowdsourcing lately, it’s because you have.  Crowdsourcing is one of those buzz words, like synergy or viral that people are throwing around now to cover just about anything.  According to Wikipedia, the term was coined in a June 2006 Wired magazine article by Jeff Howe.

My first experience with the concept came when I participated in The Beast, the Alternate Reality Game tied to the Steven Spielberg movie, A.I., back in 2001. As a member of the 6,000+ strong  Cloudmakers group, I joined fans from across the world to solve puzzles and interact within this fantastic fictional world. We worked together to create a ‘collective detective’ that competed against the puzzle makers, not against each other, and it was brilliant.

And now crowdsourcing is very much in vogue. Howe took the concept and ran with it, turning it into a book, as did James Surowiecki with his tome, The Wisdom of Crowds.


Crowdsourcing is gaining steam within the advertising agency community at the same time as another issue becomes more pressing – the broken agency business model. Shops big and small, from a variety of industries (ad, PR, digital) are all looking to do things differently. Earlier this year Agency Nil took a bold stand with their “Will work for all it’s worth” manifesto. That was followed by the recent launch of Victors & Spoils, which somewhat boldly bills itself as The world’s first creative (ad) agency built on crowdsourcing principles.

PSFK has more on Agency Nil here, and George  Parker sounds off on Victors & Spoils via PSFK here. Other great takes include Amadeo Plaza of Crayon on V&S and Contagious takes a look at V&S here. BBH Labs on Agency Nil here and here. You can read my interview with Alex Bogusky of CP+B and Hank Leber, founder of Agency Nil, here regarding agency business models. The Proffesional Artists League is taking a pretty strong stand against Work-for-Hire which can be interpreted as crowdsourcing. Take a look at their POV here.

AdAge is currently running a poll (through Nov. 6) asking if crowdsourcing is a threat to agencies.


I’m excited to see really smart people like the ones at AN and V&S make bold moves like this. Creative industries need this sort of thinking to keep them from stagnating. But here’s where it gets interesting. If you’re going to crowdsource, why does the client even need a middle man like V&S? Mountain Dew seems to have asked that question and come up with the answer: They don’t.

As part of their Dewmocracy campaign, the fizzy beverage is crowdsourcing their new TV ad. From the website:

Mountain Dew asked their biggest fans to band together and create the next DEW, from the flavors to the TV ads. Now’s your chance to get involved.

1) Create A DEW Spot
Direct, shoot and edit a 12-second DEW spot that shows off your skills.

2) Upload it
Your 12-second video must be submitted here by 11.30.09

3) Cross Your Fingers
Approved videos will be added to the gallery to be voted on by DEW fans. When voting closes, the six leading submissions will be revealed. In the end, three finalists will be selected to receive funding for a :15 TV DEW spot.

Once again the indespensible PSFK has more here. From the PSFK piece:

The brand insists this initiative will not impact its relationship with agency of record BBDO Worldwide, who has been involved with Dewmocracy from the start and will continue to play an important role in the process.

I don’t think this is a threat to BBDO, but is it a threat to V&S?

Apparently this whole crowdsource thing is a big hit with the junk food crowd as Snickers is in on the action as well. [Disclosure, my agency, Taylor, does some work with Mars, but is not involved with this project]. Another crowdsource effort comes from Genesis Today, who will award $10,000 for a good Social Media idea.

After the jump, insight from principals at Agency Nil, Victors & Spoils and Anomaly as well as agency biz model gadfly Agency Future.

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