Crowdsourcing — How many creatives does it take to illuminate a light bulb?

I’m feeling a little left out this week after reading this article from Advertising Age, which announced the first new Harley Davidson tv commercial delivered by a very non-traditional agency called Victors & Spoils. I’m still getting my head around the concept of Victors & Spoils, which on behalf of clients, employs “crowdsourcing” to solicit ideas from all over — from agencies and other creative firms and freelancers, as well as non-creatives. Sounds kind of like a Hollywood casting call in which armies of actors line up, assembly line style, for their 15 seconds of fame. NEXT!

I first became aware of Victors and Spoils, having answered a solicitation of theirs last year for concepts to promote the Andys, or another of the industry awards shows. My idea didn’t win, but it got me on their mailing list. It also made me more aware of their agency’s name. I saw in the industry trades that Victors & Spoils had won the Harley Davidson work. I had my interest piqued enough to respond to another e-mail at the end of January, a call for consideration to any writers who have interest or experience with Harleys. That’s not me, but I answered anyway, because (a) our Director of Accounting’s entire family rides or has experience selling Harleys in local franchises (and they would love to become consultants,) (b) good friends of mine worked at Carmichael Lynch and helped them win the Harley account, where it resided prior to Victors & Spoils (and they would love to become consultants), and (c) I took the plant tour in York, PA and came away impressed by the assembly care and the ability to customize the chopper you order.

Evidently, I got left in the dust, because this new spot was being worked on in September (not sure what Victors & Spoils’ latest solicitation is for, but I’m assuming it’s for ongoing creative support). You can get some sense of the crowdsourcing process from the article, and the sour grapes reaction to it from the rest of the agency community under the Comments section. Especially stinging is the idea from the spot came from a “passionate amateur.” I guess if Quentin Tarantino can make the leap from video store clerk to Hollywood auteur, the rest of us shouldn’t piss and moan when somewhere other than Madison Avenue dreams up the next big thing.

On the other hand, some of the posted comments about the new spot ring true. The cages concept and visuals are a pretty effective metaphor for the non-Harley crowd; however, production values of the spot could have been better. What’s more, the spot tries to do too much by introducing the customization message almost as an afterthought. That is what might attract and excite new Harley prospects, including how much fun it is to customize your cycle after you take it home (that last thought came from our Director of Accounting, though that’s not enough to win a consultancy around here). Where I think the spot really missed was in not being unveiled SuperBowl Sunday. One week later is its own kind of letdown.

Overall, the new commercial did get my attention. The jury is still out for me on the crowdsourcing thing, though. A great idea is a great idea, wherever or whomever it comes from. But in these days of content farms, and templated everything, I am concerned about the commoditization of this industry. The next thing  you know, we’ll all be replaced by computers as if we’re game show contestants.

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