Yannig Roth is a PhD student in Paris who’s working in crowdsourcing and customer creativity. He wrote a blog post today about whether “Crowdsourcing” as a medium delivers on its promise to creatives to bring them recognition and fame, or leads to larger, more prestigious paid work. He Tweeted me to ask me my thoughts on the matter, and my comments turned out wordier than I’d planned, so I thought I’d include them in a post of my own. My response to Yannig’s post:
Thanks for looping me in on this post, Yannig. As a frequent competitor in crowdsourcing projects, exposure or “getting a break” is the last reason I participate, because it’s the least expected outcome, for many of the reasons you outline [in your post] (competition, promotion, etc.).
Also, consider that it’s not in the hosting entity’s best interest to have a talented and regular creative “break out” and find his or her own work. If all the best talent found contract work, and no longer needed to participate in crowdsourcing projects, then Brands would be less inclined to hire those companies, as the overall talent pool might not be as deep and wide.
This is speculative reasoning, but I’m trying to put myself in the position of the hosting entity as I speculate. A crowdsourcing host company doesn’t have the luxury of keeping their own talent pool under contract, so they have to exercise as much control over the work itself as possible. Result: I’m not permitted to use many of my submissions (either won or lost) in a portfolio because contest rules decree that ownership of the piece — again, win or lose — belongs to the client/brand, and may not be used in any manner or for any reason outside of the hosting company’s platform. Beyond that, the user agreement prohibits you from even contacting the brand or working with them for a period after the particular contest closes. So even if a brand does like your work, they’re committed to the host company for a time, as well. And by the time that time has expired, there’s a good chance the brand may shift focus to some other marketing strategy. At least, this is the case with the platform I use most often.
And I totally get — and respect — why they do that. It’s better for business.
Anyway, no, I don’t expect a “big break” by participating in crowdsourcing projects. I participate because I have bills due, and I’ve been pretty successful up to this point in getting some of them paid with my wins. So I join crowdsourcing projects foremost as a way to exercise my creative muscles, and secondarily to MAYBE get a reward. Fame and notoriety are further down the list, as my creditors don’t accept exposure as payment.
However, I can market myself in other ways that don’t break the production agreement. I’m always able to say — truthfully and with pride — that I produced (among others) two spots for the San Diego Zoo that aired nationwide in the U.S. I do use the credentials, and name the brands I’ve worked with in my OWN marketing and on my resume, and if those credentials spark the curiosity of a brand that’s interested in hiring me, I’m happy to direct them to the video(s) in question, wherever the host and client have decided that they’re allowed to live.
But the breaks I get are totally up to me.
The short version: Yes, you can get more work and more prestige with a few crowdsourcing wins under your belt, or even one BIG win, like the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest. But ultimately, it’s still up to you to market and promote yourself in those places where potential brands might be looking for talent. Then, you still have to make the contact with the brand. Then close the sale. Then over-deliver on the work, meet the deadlines, and do all the things you say you’ll do.
And those aren’t Crowdsourcing’s jobs. They’re yours.
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