Crowdsourcing has been a hot topic in adland for a while now. And whole companies, such as Threadless and Kickstarter, and even agencies, such as Victors & Spoils, have been founded on the idea. And at a panel at the 4A's Transformation Conference, the message was clear: The industry better get used to crowdsourcing, it isn't going anywhere.
"The crowdsourcing model is very young but also very exciting. We have to overcome the fear of it because it's changing," said Tim McClure, co-founder of Omnicom's GSD&M and founder and CEO of Mythos Legends, a branding company, and the MindMeld Alliance, virtual crowdsourcing agency.
Even Procter & Gamble, the world's largest advertiser, can't avoid the lure of the crowd. "What we're beginning to see across our brands is that we have to accept reality that the brand isn't controlled by a few people," said Charles Chappell, digital and e-commerce leader at P&G. "There are thousands of people who like our brands and have conversations about them. For us, crowdsouring touches everything we do."
Mr. Chappell said P&G has used sourced out ideas to the crowd for several of its brands, including a new Hugo Boss fragrance. The marketer enlisted students and design schools for design concepts surrounding the new perfume. "We're trying a lot of things, but at the end of the day what hasn't changed is that we're looking for the best ideas. What has changed is where those ideas will comes from."
"Once change comes in, there's no way you can stop it," said Ignacio Oreamuno, president of crowdsourcing agency GiantHydra. "Crowdsourcing is very simple: Instead of two people working together, it could be 15 from around the world, delivering ideas for less money and much less time. You won't be able to stop that."
Even crowdsourcing's evangelists admit that the collaborative model does present issues. Mr. Chappell said that his biggest fear is the loss of control. P&G has been executing a push for its brands to leverage online consumer ratings and reviews for its products. "If the products reviews are good, Mr. Chappell said, they will help the brands' images. But if they're bad, the marketer could run into problems trying to manage any potential control it had over badly reviewed products.
P&G is using the authors of customer reviews to act as ambassadors of sorts. The marketer is using those reviewers -- particularly the ones who have deep knowledge of the P&G products they write about -- to communicate with other customers. "It's an experiment. We don't know if it's going to work."
Mr. McClure said that he views crowdsourcing as a way to make his agencies' work better. "The spirit of competition makes the work better. Crowdsourcing makes us all nervous but it makes the work better."