Financial Mail

C ROW DSO U RC I N G Safety in numbers?

Mass participat­ion in creative advertisin­g is making its way to SA. But not everyone is a fan


Wolfe says Springleap has about 22 000 creatives on its books in Africa and the US. They range from concept creatives to copywriter­s, and from digital specialist­s to graphic designers.

Start-up companies, wary of tying their fortunes to the potentiall­y limited ideas of a single agency, may be drawn to crowdsourc­ing because of the breadth of concepts that emerge. They also like paying for work done, rather than spending it on retainers and all the other costs associated with contracts.

It is notable that establishe­d brands are also going this route — often at the same time as they work with their regular agencies. SA Breweries, Nestlé, CocaCola, Google and Marmite have partnered with Springleap, says Wolfe. So have some traditiona­l agencies. “They are all looking for new ideas.”

Among those who offer ideas are young people fresh from advertisin­g or branding school. “They bring a different view of design aesthetics and digital trends, as well as a better understand­ing of their generation,” says Wolfe.

He says that for major customers Springleap, which has only 17 employees of its own, usually calls on a core of about 130 creatives, many of whom are full-time employees of agencies. They do the extra work in their spare time.

Some agencies might balk at the idea of staff helping a competitor, but Wolfe says: “There has been less resistance than I expected. Some agencies are keen for their people to think beyond usual limitation­s.”

Crowdsourc­ing is not limited to new ideas. Registered creatives can evaluate campaigns already in the making. Wolfe says Springleap can show campaigns to its network across the rest of Africa to find out if they are likely to succeed locally. “We have 800 people on our books in Uganda and 1 200 in Nigeria. They offer insights that people outside their countries can’t provide.”

Though overseas advertisin­g and marketing trends usually take root in SA eventually, straight transplant­s rarely work. FCB SA CEO Brett Morris and Alistair King, cofounder and creative partner of the locally owned King James group, see some benefits in crowdsourc­ing but have misgivings as well.

Morris understand­s why some clients might like the idea of hundreds or thousands of creatives working on their behalf but thinks it risks exploitati­on. For the 99% of creatives whose ideas aren’t used, the time is wasted. In some markets, that means no compensati­on — or the risk of their idea forming the basis for someone else’s campaign later.

King says: “It raises an old issue: who owns ideas — the people who carry them in their heads or the people who ask for them?” He and Morris are not convinced that a shotgun approach to seeking brand solutions will necessaril­y find the right one. Morris says: “We prefer Trevor Wolfe Thousands of people on tap a single, robust conversati­on with the client to get the right insights.” King agrees: “We like to immerse ourselves in the [clients’ thinking] to understand what they want.”

Morris is friendlier to the idea of pan-African creatives offering local evaluation of proposed campaigns, but King says: “By their nature, people tend to break down and criticise what they see. Great creative advertisin­g requires leaps of faith. I want to know the minds of the people looking at my campaigns, to understand whether they are brave and courageous.

“I have more faith in the opinions of the 10 people in my office than in 500 people in the ether.” David Furlonger

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