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Davide Russo

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Is it possible for professional advertising creatives to become an oxymoron?AKA Will advertising jobs be replaced by crowdsourced solutions?

It may be argued that crowdsourcing is changing the advertising industry, making the traditional set up of an agency obsolete (Sacks, 2010). Victors&Spoils is the first advertising agency based on the principle of crowdsourcing; it has as few as 4 employees but boasts a creative department of 600 people spread around the world (Hadfield, 2009, p.18). This phenomenon has grown exponentially to the point where there are more than a hundred crowdsourcing platforms as well as a number of crowdsourcing based agencies including AdBakery, Popten, Edelman Studios, AdHack, Genius Rocket, Zoopa, Black Turtle Media, Adiki (Dawson, 2010). User generated advertising is believed to have the potential to outperform traditional agencies at reduced costs as demonstrated by the fact that 2 out of the 5 top advertisements featured during the 2010 Superbowl were crowdsourced, and so were some of the top virals before and after the match (Learmoth, 2010 and Brabham, 2009). This may sound impressive at first, but as Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics, suggests, there will be a backlash, especially when people realise that they have families to feed and this business model is endangering many jobs (cited in Schmitt, 2009). Unsurprisingly, Fast Company (2006) listed advertising creatives among one of the six jobs that will not exist in 2016 and it will be valuable to evaluate how much agencies themselves are driving this phenomenon.

Although the literature on the topic is quite broad, there is no study that focuses on the question ‘Is it possible for professional advertising creatives to become an oxymoron?’ which is the subject of this research. The author believes that there is a serious need for a study as such, considering the number of young people investing in a career path that might soon become outdated.

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    Jul 2 2011: Davide hi
    All is see is a 10x explosion in the quantity of content that clients need (seasonal ads, click thrus, virals, multi-channel TV etc) and 10x as much content as before therefore needs to be created. Clients need a faster and more efficient way of creating this content. Ad agencies may have an uncertain future, but not creative professionals per se. I think Creative industries will only flourish in the future, and that a variety of different business models will coexist alongside each other. I see dozens of young creatives that are making dramatically MORE money in this new environment than ever they would have done as junior creatives in ad agencies. I can think of a dozen film-makers I work with in their early 20s with incomes maybe fives times greater than being a junior in an ad agency. They're setting up production companies and making ads alongside short films, and have freedom and resources, and access to amazing briefs and incredible travel and events, they could have dreamt of as junior creatives in a traditional ad agency.
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    Jul 2 2011: Davide,
    I wonder about the opposite happening... Crowdsourcing agencies spawning a new ecosystem of independent creatives and production companies. What is likely is that the role of full time Creatives in agencies will change, and they'll work more directly with brands and film-makers. Alongside that, you might really wonder what the role is of a traditional agency account-man? At the heart of the value chain in advertising are Creative people, whether they sit on an agency's payroll or work independently. Sure they'll be some re-badging, and less people on payroll, and folks more like independent guns for hire, and the barriers between films and ads will continue to become more blurred, but definitely there'll be professional advertising creatives.
    • Jul 2 2011: James,

      in an ideal world I agree with you that the replacement of creatives on payroll could have the optimistic outcome of creatives working on a myriad of different projects, for brands that they like, avoiding getting bored by working for a single agency. Also, I believe that this process would probably result in a better meritocracy, where the really good people will make it through.

      However, I don't know if you have ever participated in crowdsourced live briefs, but the chances of winning are very very small. The picture that I see shaping is the one where creatives will have to work 10 times more, pitching for a lot of different campaigns with different agencies that use crowdsourced solutions, to end up earning a fraction of what they make right now. A very simple example is the doritos campaign competition where the winners were given 10.000$ - a ridiculous amount compared to the money that would have been given to the agency (producer, planner, account handler, creatives).

      In my eyes, it looks like crowdsourcing is being exploited in a way that has very similar traits to cheap labour from third world countries. People are volunteering to do tasks that are usually very well paid for. If you then think of the 90:9:1 rule, where 90% of the people just consume content, 9 percent vote for their favorite submissions and 1% is the percentage of people actually submitting decent work, then this probably means that no one will ever think of pursuing a career in advertising as a main source of income.

      This clearly doesn't affect the figures of art directors and creative directors as those will always be part of agencies, but the huge pool of junior creatives (fresh graduates, the new young generation) will probably have to reconsider their career path in favour of something capable of paying the bills and feeding their families.

      Or will there be a breaking point, where people will realise that crowdsourcing is destroying jobs and stop contributing?