Learning from Unilever’s creativity in numbers

A recent article in the UK’s Marketing magazine (28 April 2010) reported on how Unilever is experimenting on a global level with crowd sourced creative after successfully trialing smaller campaigns in 2009 with Peperami and Lipton Tea.

The brief which is available from partner MOFILMs website is asking for content based on 13 of its most famous global brands including Ben & Jerry’s, Dove deodorant (Real Women campaign pictured), Knorr, Sure, Sunsilk and Vaseline.

At first glance, it seems preposterous that one of the world’s largest advertisers should commit to paying out a modest £70,000 in receipt for a raft of creative ideas whilst risking significant brand damage and upsetting its roster of global brand partners.

There are undoubted economic and creative opportunities for Unilever as a client in running such a scheme.

For one, it heralds a shift in the subsidization of fat cat agencies, their bloated structures and network models. Rather than paying for 24:7 access and the staffing of agency offices across the globe that arguably spend more time biccuring internally over Unilever P&L, Unilever are paying solely for ideas generation within the crowd sourced model.

Secondly, there is an empowering injection of work into the global creative industry at a more micro level. It affords creatives previously shut out with an opportunity to work with Unilever brands. This alone should stimulate some fascinating creative content.

Thirdly, in a recessionary economy, Unilever’s decision to review their marketing spend and in some respects ‘work smarter’ is natural and is likely to have a positive effect on margins. In time could it perhaps even equate to lower consumer prices at the till?

Critics argue that these schemes don’t take into account strategic planning or implementation, areas which do clearly require further consideration. Perhaps though, that is and should always be the remit of the in-house marketer? What we can be assured of is crowd sourced content is here to stay.

What can we take from this? That crowdsourcing only works when you have the brand equity to support it to start with? No, I think most brands could utilise this approach to generate some additional ideas – think about running a graduate program through your local college / university. It gives the students some valuable real life experience, and it provides you some fresh creative perspective and regional kudos!

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