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Who needs ad creatives?

Wired.com has an article about a site that allows your average Joe or Jane to create taglines and come up with concepts for ads. Similar to brands getting consumers involved in advertising like that contest Geico is running.

First prizes go up to $500US all the way down to $50. The site that Wired writes about, as if it's a paid placement, also doesn't not have the permission of the brands are creating contests for. They are hoping to sell the work to these brands, but well, how rare of an occassion is that? Heck, if a brand, like Coca Cola is your client, you still probably have to jump through hoops to get them to buy a good idea, let alone one by someone who doesn't understand demographics, or what really goes into creating an ad. And, not only do they try to sell only the top idea but the entire caboodle of entries they receive. Of course, *if* it gets sold they will split the profits with the top 20 people. Ok. Sounds reasonable enough of a reason for me to give up the rights to an idea. Especially if it doesn't get used.

Perhaps they think the general public doesn't understand the value of their ideas. Then again, there seem to be many in the industry that doen't understand the value of ideas either. Take this posting on Craigslist:

Need a person to help create some advertising/marketing materials for a home inspection company and a Realtor. You need to be creative and capable of taking an idea and creating three or four pieces of marketing materials, including traditional newspaper/magazine ads, email marketing, direct mail pieces, etc.

If you want to short-circuit the process, create a one-piece ad selling vacuum cleaners to an Eskimo for his igloo. Email it to me as a PDF.

Also email anything else from your portfolio that indicates what you can do, along with references and résumé.

Let's see what you can do. We can help each other.

Compensation: $10 per hour with commissions and bonuses possible. Contract also possible.

Now no self-respecting ad person is going to take that job. At least I'd hope not. Funny how so many take what we creative types do for granted (actually I don't find it funny at all).

There's actually a site that's been around for ages, Fuck That Job, which collects the worst of the worst job ads. It'd be alot more humorous if it wasn't all so true! Not so surprisingly the majority of their listings come from Craigslist. For more on lowballing, read "New Challenges from the Lowballers...and What to Do About 'Em".

There are already enough crappy ideas out there coming from ad agencies...what do we have to now deal with crappy ideas from the consumer? It's easy to hate advertising...everyone does according to countless surveys. But when it's your neighbor who's creating the ads...will you be more likely to go egg his house since you know where and who he his? Granted, not all consumer ads or ideas about advertising are crap. But the majority of them are. Why? Because they only understand it from one point of view. If it was so easy to do, there wouldn't be oodles of ad schools or communications schools around the globe. And no, it's not like we're doing brain surgery or anything, but there is always a difference between someone who is educated about a trade and those who are not. Would you ask your brother to build you a house just because he knows how to turn on a tablesaw?

Ad professionals study ads. We don't avoid them (usually). We pay attention to competitor's advertising. There is something to be said for a fresh perspective, although I always thought that was sort of the point of going through the whole consumer testing and doing your research. Just because everyone thinks they can create ads (much like everyone things they could become an actor or actress), it doesn't mean you can or will be any good at it.

It's tough enough dealing with clients who are constantly changing work because they get caught up on "happy" vs. "joyful" or kill a concept because their wife's friend's uncle's neighboor's cousin doesn't like the color blue. But what happens to the industry as a whole when sites like these actually go after real clients trying to steal the Coca Cola's of the world from the BBDOs? Let's just hope that it never ever comes anywhere close to that.

Just remember you get what you pay for in this wacky world of ours.

Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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AnonymousCoward's picture

a lot of that is of our own doing. consumers have bad taste, they haven't a clue how to art direct or copy write. but are these the most creative consumers that you're attracting to these contests? are we getting the best even out of these people? why we can get highly accomplished amateur musicians, writers, photographers, etc but no accomplished amateur ad people? i for one want to see some - because that means that your consumers actually adore your craft and see you as a creative human beings that they want to emulate, not just trade people.

a while ago i did research with kids. they were funny, smart, intelligent, bilingual - all that wonderful stuff. they probably could have given me wonderful drawings, poems, articles, etc, had i asked for it. we asked them to do ads for us, and they gave us "just 2.99." it broke my heart. we definitely weren't a source of inspiration to them.

AnonymousCoward's picture

I'd have to disagree in several aspects. While I acknowledge that there may be excellent untapped potential among amatuer designers and aspiring A.D.s, established companies with credible advertising tend to recognize the value of experience that can most often only be consistently found in reputable agencies. Referring to leslieburns' article about Lowballing, we see several examples of why undercutting the industry with amatuer work is self-deprecation. I highly doubt that these consumers adore our craft. They have no desire to emulate as creative human beings. Rather, they want only to make a quick buck and prove once and for all that "anyone can be in advertising." What scares me most is that young, talented ad people will see these contests as a way to get their work recognized. This is not the way to gain credibility. If anything, it will lessen your credibility as a creative.

philmang's picture

This isn't a new concept, but something that has been going on for years. It is kind of funny to me that it is coming back around at the same time as a movie about the previous big era of consumer created ad content is coming out... dreamworks "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio"
There's a review of the movie in monday's New York Times

philmang's picture

The other thing that everyone seems to be missing is that there is still a HUGE roll for both ad professionals and brand professionals in the solicitation, selection and publishing of consumer created content. While it is true that there is likely to be a lot of crap that comes in from such an experiment, and that the likelihood of a non-roster shop selling something to a big advertiser like Coke isn't large, but that is true no matter who is concepting and pitching.
It is also a great sign of the fact that marketers are finally willing to reopen a dialog with their consumers, rather than just paying a bunch of over educated people to sit consumers in a room and study their reactions to content that is still being pushed down their throats. Resistance to this dialog will prove to be damaging to brands, in just the same way as letting the consumers run rampant with the content and brand can. Yes, it is more work, and yes it means we'll sometimes hear things that we think are stupid, but that resonate with consumers, and there will still be plenty of crappy ads, but what's new?

AnonymousCoward's picture

i so agree with you. this is the age of amateurs and the higher craft for ad professionals is to facilitate the flow of creativity between brands and consumers...be highly involved in the process...know when to tap into consumers, and when to lead them.

amateurs won't undercut good ad professionals. just like even the best amateur actors won't undercut professional actors. being in the ad industry takes more than talent and ambition, there are other skills and personality traits involved, and that's what makes a pro pro.

i also love the freshness of consumer content - they're not regulated by murdoch, amateurs don't make a living off this, they have no conventions to bind them. when you get the right amateur work, it's so free, so creative. the challenge is to attract this kind of energy/talent to the brand.

James_Trickery's picture

Thank you all for a great thread.

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