The First Agency Built on The Principles of Crowdsourcing

I wrote the following blog post a couple of years ago, but I continue to follow Victors and Spoils and other agencies that integrate a fresh approach into their creative process and operations models. From the outside, it looks like Victors and Spoils has hired a number of employees in traditional agency roles. However, their process looks way more collaborative than most.

They invite everyone from traffic cops to flight attendants, farmers, and other agencies to talk through ideas and help solve problems. Check out their process here: http://www.victorsandspoils.com

If you know of an advertising agency or marketing firm that offers innovative operations models or creative processes, please let me know. I’m all ears.

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The agency model is shifting, but what is the right balance?

I truly believe technology and the abundance of independent agency folk born out of the recession have challenged us to think about how we do business and service our clients. However, exactly how we respond to the challenge is still pretty gray to me (perhaps we’ll use this as fodder at the next PhilaMade event) and the more I read, the more it seems I’m not alone in my uncertainty.

Recently Victors & Spoils (V&S), an ad agency based in Boulder Colorado and founded by Evan Fry, a former VP/Creative Director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, became the first ad agency built on the principles of crowdsourcing. The agency is made up of only a few key roles: creative director, account director, strategy director and technology director, but the rest of the creative department is in the V&S digital creative database. The database consists of over 5,000 writers, designers and produces. V&S puts a creative brief out to the database and those who are willing take a stab at providing the right idea to solve the client problem identified in the brief. If their idea is chosen the client pays them. Also, those who choose to participate and are lucky enough to earn a high V&S ranking will get more jobs and more pay. To learn more about V&S’s model go here: victorsandspoils.com

As you can imagine, this has raised quite a debate in the creative community. See some of the debate in the comments section here: Article in the Denver Egotist

Below is what I think. Let me know how you feel the agency model is shifting and your ideas on the best way to move forward.

There is room for all of us

I definitely think there are paying clients for all agency models. Over the years I’ve had several clients say to me, “I don’t care how you manage your business, just provide me with smart work that meets my objectives and won’t cost me a small fortune.” Now, more then ever, clients are willing to take risks and work differently. Smaller budgets, the use of technology and the incredible surge of people who have either chosen to work on their own or have been laid off due to budget cuts, is forcing both clients and agencies to find more efficient ways to work and utilize talent.

I’m a perfect example of this. In the past, agencies never used freelancers for client-service roles, but now both companies and agencies are looking for seasoned people who have had years of experience in things like finance, healthcare and spirits to mange specific client relationships and projects.

Talent is still worth a price

I disagree with those that say the best talent is at the big agencies and that a crowd sourcing model equals poor talent. There is a ton of great talent out there in the big agencies, in boutique agencies and in independent spaces. However, I believe good talent, no matter where it comes from, should be paid for their ideas and should decide their own value. V&S is determining not only who gets paid, but also how much they get paid and I believe payment needs to be a discussion between both the creative and those engaging with them.

A happy medium (my model- the dating game)

I too have a database of creative talent but I would never send a brief out to my list and ask the talent to pitch it for free. Instead, I work like a dating service – I match the right talent with the right project/client. Before anyone gets entered into my database I get to really know them. If I haven’t personally worked with them, I ask around about their work, I look at their portfolio, I meet with them in person more than once and I ask them what they prefer to do (web design, event, traditional campaigns, CPG, etc.) and about their specific style. I then try to match both their work and personality to a client/project.

I think everyone wins with this model. The clients don’t get whoever isn’t busy on other projects and they don’t just get a good idea. The client gets exactly the right person for the job and the creative gets to work on something that they will get paid fairly for and enjoy working on.

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