This week, one of the pioneers of "non-traditional" agencies, as a category, and of crowdsourcing, specifically, went out of business. Victors & Spoils is no more and I am of two minds about this news. Truly torn.
Without V&S there may not have been an Ideasicle.
I have always had healthy (and competitive) respect for Victors & Spoils and its founders John Winsor, Evan Fry and Claudia Batten. They did something no one had ever done before. They launched an advertising agency where the creative soldiers doing the concepting were not in-house, but out there on the web somewhere working freelance.
That took tremendous guts. Starting anything THAT new takes guts, but more guts when you consider they started a model with which many creative people took issue. The gripe was that V&S was tapping into ideas mostly for free. Only the "victors" would get paid - meaning, the "spoils" only went to those with winning ideas.
But they did it. And in doing so "normalized" online idea generation, thereby paving the way for other virtual models (like Ideasicle).
But crowdsourcing itself has serious flaws.
On the other hand, I was one of those in the biz who thought crowdsourcing was the wrong model for the future. I agree with disgruntled creatives that crowdsourcing is perhaps great for clients because they get tons of ideas, but awful for creatives because they must do their craft without a guarantee of payment.
Think of the creative time and ideas wasted because of crowdsourcing models.
But I have other issues with crowdsourcing. One is the risk of sharing a creative brief with anybody "out there." A creative brief is a brand's intention, its strategy, its plan. How smart is it to let that sacred document out to the unvetted masses?
The other issue I have with crowdsourcing as a model is that, while it may tap into tens, if not hundreds, of creative minds with each project, the creative people are all competing against each other and not working together. Sure, a team of two - a writer and art director - may take on an assignment together, but that's the limited method of creative development already practiced by traditional agencies.
It generates more ideas, yes, but at what cost and is the virtual platform really changing the way creatives create?
I'm sure crowdsourcing worked more often than not or else Victors & Spoils would not have lasted this long, but crowdsourcing, in general, is a buckshot approach to creativity with strategic and business issues at its core.
Ideasicle is virtual, but a far cry from crowdsourcing.
Ideasicle uses technology to access creative freelancers. This is our only parallel with crowdsourcing.
- We pay our creatives. We never waste any creative freelancers' time. We recruit teams of four to work on an assignment. They know exactly how much they'll get paid for each assignment and If they do the work, they get paid. Simple as that.
- Teamwork. The four experts, who may be creatives but also PR people, cultural anthropologists, digital people, etc., work virtually on our platform as a team posting, building and riffing on each other's ideas. No egos, no meetings, no clients (for them), just ideas. It's a beautiful thing. And a radical departure from the traditional duo of just a writer and art director.
- Vetted. All of our experts are hand-picked by me for their genius and are under NDA, so no "unvetted masses" in sight. Your green creative briefs are safe with us.
There are other differences, but those are the main three. Still...
Thank you, Victors & Spoils.
Regardless of our differences, I do believe that without Victors & Spoils it would have been far more challenging for Ideasicle to gain lift-off. The article announcing their opening in the October, 2009 New York Times, opened more than just their doors.
So I want to extend a hearty and heart-felt thank you to the founders of Victors & Spoils. You were true pioneers of virtual idea-generation.
You have no idea how much you inspired me.