Creative forms of crowdsourcing have shown up in a multitude of venues recently. In just the past couple weeks, examples include everything from developing "the ULTIMATE compost-related product" through Quirky's current Compostalooza Competition -- to an experiment by WIRED Magazine to have its dot-com readers crowdsource a song using Indaba Music, "whose collaborative digital-audio-workstation platform, Mantis, allows musicians and amateurs all over the world to collaborate on the same piece of music for free."
The goal: Get a community together, centered around one purpose, and you can witness amazing results.
Such is the case with the crowdsourced video for Johnny Cash's final recording, "Ain't No Grave." In a recent 'Boards Magazine article, Kevin Ritchie talks with director Chris Milk about The Johnny Cash Project, where fans have contributed over 4,500 pieces of artwork to create a "living portrait of the Man in Black". Archival footage of the singer was collected by Milk and legendary producer, Rick Rubin, and then edited into a video, where contributors can illustrate over single frames. The result: a beautiful living piece, that can take new shape every time it's viewed.
Seattle-based and global crowdsourcing company, Zooppa, can admire such handiwork and knows all too well the creative power of a large crowd. Its own community of over 60,000-strong has produced TV, print, and online ads for such brands as Pillsbury, GoDaddy, Microsoft, and Nike, and the company is currently managing competitions for Universal Studios and the country of South Africa.
So, what exactly is "crowdsourcing?" By definition, it's ... well, it's new enough that Dictionary.com doesn't have an explanation. But it has been around for several years, as the term was coined by author, Jeff Howe, in his 2006 WIRED magazine article, The Rise of Crowdsourcing. According to Wikipedia, "Crowdsourcing is a neologistic compound of "crowd" and "outsourcing" for the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call."
In the marketing world, it's asking a community of passionate consumers and/or aspiring artists to develop creative concepts to help advertise a company's brand or its product. For a group like Zooppa, they broker the creative development process between this community and the brand by providing "a platform for user-generated advertising" where "talented people from all over the world can meet, exchange ideas and share their creative work." Earlier this year, I wrote about two companies, Doritos and CareerBuilder, which each employed crowdsourcing to develop content for their Super Bowl ads.
Does this mean the beginning of the end of design and creativity as we know it? Not likely, but there is skepticism among professionals, who have studied and worked at a craft in which they are highly specialized, and turning over the reigns in part to the masses. What's the takeaway then for the marketing and advertising industry? Know what crowdsourcing is. And realize it could be an interesting, and inexpensive, way to generate new ideas when working with clients.