More efficient than efficient, or, how crowdsourcing agencies can prove themselves

More efficient than efficient, or, how crowdsourcing agencies can prove themselves
This week saw the auspicious launch of a new agency called Victors and Spoils, made up of two former Crispin Porter + Bogusky folks, Evan Fry and John Winsor (who specializes in cognitive science and is a nice guy) and Claudia Batten, a former VP at Microsoft-owned in-game advertising facilitator Massive.
Fry, in the Times piece, makes an impressive statement:
“Crowdsourcing is looked at as a trend du jour,” Mr. Fry said. “We want to be the first agency that gets it right.”
I want them to as well. But perhaps in a different way than they do.
Advertising execs have been in love with Clay Shirkey’s ur-crowdsourcing text “Here Comes Everybody” since it made its debut last year, but they haven’t been able to get it right.
There’s a reason why; marketers have focused on using executions from the crowd (eg Doritos’ tone-deaf Super Bowl spots) to replace things they’d usually pay specialists lots of money for, like logos and commercial scripts, instead of the simplified tasks crowdsourcing excels at, like being able to draw a rough sheep (as in Aaron Koblin’s Sheep Market) or retype a blurry word (as in Luis von Ahn’s CAPTCHA).
So, to succeed, Victors and Spoils has to find the middle ground.
And, by the power of the crowd vested in this tiny node in a remote corner of the internet, I have it for them. Here’s your assignment, guys.
Build a community around the DARPA network challenge and one of the “household-name brands” you allude to pitching for in the Times, win the challenge, and donate the $40,000 to charity in the name of the brand.
Hire a mathmetician to figure out the best way to allocate your immense human resources and flex them to comb the country for the eight balloons. Issue incentives to players, keep them honest, allow the whole thing to develop near-realtime with streaming content and all sorts of extra goodies.
It’ll be tough, because you’ll be competing against ultra-efficient networks, the likes of 4chan, which is unfortunately the closest thing we have now to an effective megalith of distributed energy. But what they boast in adolescent drive they don’t necessarily hold in technical expertise.
In as much as advertising has become a highly-efficient substrate for many of our emotional responses, so too will you have to be the surface underlying the network, giving it nutrients and making it robust.

balloon

This week saw the auspicious launch of a new agency called Victors and Spoils, founded by former Crispin Porter + Bogusky folks, Evan Fry and John Winsor as well as Claudia Batten, a former VP at Microsoft-owned in-game advertising facilitator Massive.

Fry, in the Times piece, makes an impressive statement:

“Crowdsourcing is looked at as a trend du jour,” Mr. Fry said. “We want to be the first agency that gets it right.”

I want them to as well. But perhaps in a different way than they do.

Advertising execs have been in love with Clay Shirky’s ur-crowdsourcing text “Here Comes Everybody” since it made its debut last year, but they haven’t been able to get it right.

There’s a reason why; marketers have focused on using executions from the crowd (eg Doritos’ tone-deaf Super Bowl spots) to replace things they’d usually pay specialists lots of money for, like logos and commercial scripts, instead of the easy tasks everyone can complete, like drawing a sheep (as in Aaron Koblin’s Sheep Market) or retyping a blurry word (as in Luis von Ahn’s CAPTCHA).

So, to succeed, Victors and Spoils has to find the middle ground.

And, by the power of the crowd vested in this tiny node in a remote corner of the internet, I have it for them. Here’s your assignment, guys.

Build a community around the DARPA network challenge and one of the “household-name brands” you allude to pitching for in the Times, win the challenge by finding the eight balloons first, and donate the $40,000 in prize money to charity in the name of the brand.

I’d hire a mathmetician to figure out the best way to allocate your immense brain wattage and flex it to comb the country for the eight balloons. Issue incentives to players, keep them honest, allow the whole thing to develop near-realtime with streaming content and all sorts of extra goodies.

It’ll be tough, because you’ll be competing against ultra-efficient networks, the likes of 4chan, which is unfortunately the closest thing we have now to an effective megalith of distributed energy that has the get-up-and-go to mobilize quickly. But what they boast in adolescent drive they don’t necessarily hold in technical expertise.

In as much as advertising has become a highly-efficient substrate for many of our emotional responses, so too will you have to be the surface underlying the network, giving it nutrients and making it robust.

Small is Beautiful: Early Days at Crispin Porter + Bogusky

look at those faces

Leafing through Advertising Age‘s Small Agency Awards issue last week I was struck by this simple ad from MDC, one of the Awards’ sponsors: a group shot of Crispin & Porter Advertising in 1992.

Now, you all (probably) know what happened to little old Crispin & Porter. And nostalgia is great. But the underlying message of this ad–that you can go from a 13-person creative department to employing over 200 creatives over several continents in 17 years–is a fundamental testament to the spirit of entrepreneurship, as Alex Bogusky wrote for us when the idea of the Small Agency Awards became urgent. (And yes, I know that’s not a massive jump, considering the ascent of agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi, but, whether you like its ads or not, CP+B has managed to maintain a strong culture, unlike mega-networks put together via merger & acquisition.)

It isn’t very often ads in our magazine jump out, so I thought I’d try to give this one a little more light, and maybe see if there was some “where are they now” info on the people in it. I managed to put names to a few faces, but if you’ve got more info, by all means, contact me, or leave a comment.

1. Chuck Porter, now CP+B co-Chairman
2. Alex Bogusky, now CP+B co-Chairman
3. Markham Cronin, founded Markham Unlimited
4. Sarah Gennett, now CP+B VP/Dr. of Production Services & married to Markham
5. Dave Swartz, now CP+B VP/Creative Director
6. Mrs. Ana Bogusky, still Mrs. Ana Bogusky

It’s pretty amazing this many years later almost 40% of the people in the creative department are still with the company. I’m also digging the “good enough sucks” sign on the back wall.

UPDATE: The missing links have been found. Thanks, caller!

In the far back, next to Dave Swartz, is copywriter Steve Horowitz.

To Sara Gennet’s left is copywriter Michael Bettendorf (see his business card?) with art director Diane Durban to the left of Mrs. Bogusky.

That trio to the right contains Gloria Schmall (production), copywriter Shawn Wood (with the baseball hat) and intern Emily Chase.

In the front to the left of Porter, Bogusky and Cronin is Aileen Lopez, from the studio.

HeSays-SheSays

UPDATE: Last night’s meeting went great. I schlepped on about becoming a better geek, Matt from McCann introduced some tools to make anyone into a rabid Twitter fiend and James from Saatchi poked the crabby bear that is the age-old debate on advertising’s merits as art and the ethics of creative borrowing. Good times. Hopefully the ladies enjoyed as much as we did.

Continue reading “HeSays-SheSays”

Whose Umbrella Matters?

I was a little surprised this morning to see one of my favorite blogs reference Do I Need an Umbrella, a site that, conveniently enough, answers the question Do I Need an Umbrella?

Turns out, Do I Need an Umbrella? (left) is a downmarket version of Umbrella Today?. Perhaps the most popular single-serving site out there. Umbrella Today? does the exact same thing (and more), was established earlier and has since become immensely popular. In the case of Umbrella Today? versus Do I Need an Umbrella? the former’s brevity of initial query and the quality it suggests shines through in all aspects, making the site, in every way possible, better than its more literal stepchild.

But, despite Do I Need an Umbrella? appearing to be a knock-off, it made me think. A few weeks ago, someone I know wrote something like “I didn’t like the weather report, so I just kept looking at other places until I found one that was suitable.”

So why not check and see if they agreed, and if not, which one was correct? I was after all, in the mood for something to tell me whether to bring an umbrella.

They didn’t agree. One told me I needed an umbrella, the other said I didn’t. So who do I trust?

I didn’t want to just toss it up between those two, so I hit my F12 and checked the old standby, the easiest weather report, the one I check nearly every day. My dashboard widget showed a thundercloud; the only icon for the day was rain. It’d have to be an umbrella day.

I hedged one more time–Weather Underground. My old standby said I could get away with not carrying an umbrella until 5pm, when the storms rolled in. (All these tests were done by inputting my zip code within a span of five minutes.)

Done, right? The binary yes/no nature of the Umbrella sites was conflicting, and Apple’s weather widget wasn’t detailed enough. With a better forecast I could make the decision.

But it’s interesting that the uniquely internet phenomenon by which we tend to select our news and choose only sources that are similar to our bias, say electing to receive only news that’s been run through a liberal filter, has extended to something that should be mildly scientific. I don’t want to carry an umbrella on a Saturday, so I’ll look around until I find evidence to support my position.

Meteorology is by no means an exact science, but we can now ask dozens whether it’s going to rain and get different answers. That sort of thing never happened down on the farm.

So, to that end, wrapping up this non-item item (really, blogging about the weather is about as prosaic and time-filling than talking about it) someone needs to develop an optimist’s Umbrella Today?, which will only ever answer with an emphatic “No” and indeed, additionally, let us know it’s going to be a beautiful day where we’ll get closer to our dreams then we ever imagined.

And we can curse the weatherman on the odd days it’s not correct, unless of course we want a spectacular summer storm and wind up getting one. I’ve been hoping for thunder and lightening from 5pm onwards today and Weather Underground has yet to deliver.

UPDATE: Never content to let an idea easily executed languish on the Internet unfulfilled, Noah Brier slapped up doineedanumbrellatoday.com, your one-stop shop for permanently sunny weather news. Another version of this whole affair came up recently when I was reading James Wood’s How Fiction Works. Speaking about the protagonist, Ricardo Reis, in Saramago’s The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, Wood writes “He reflects fondly on the story of the ninety-seven-year-old John D. Rockefeller, who has a speciall doctored version of The New York Tmes delivered every day, altered to contain only good news. ‘The world’s threats are universal, like the sun, but Ricard Reis takes shelter under his own shadow.'”

Dropping in to the 99% Conference

99% Conference Sneak Peek!, originally uploaded by jeffreyk.

I peeled myself out of the office briefly Thursday to stop over at Behance’s 99% Conference (“It’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen”) at the Times Center.

I was only able to see a few speakers, but I picked a good time to drop by. First, Seth Godin talked about squashing your lizard brain, the fearful primitive part of consciousness that’s forever impeding progress and preventing us from actually finishing projects with thoughts of fear.

After that, it was Jake Nickell and Jeff Kalmikoff from Threadless, who talked about implementation of ideas at various stages in their business (the slide above is one of their credos). Another laffer was a picture of a desktop PC set up in front of a door, monitor stacked on CPU with a desk chair in front. That was apparently Nickell’s setup to prevent himself from leaving the house in the early days of the site.

I especially enjoyed Scott Belsky of Behance, who spoke just before lunch. Belsky touched on the different types of creative personalities, how we can pair people to max our their effectiveness by combining traits, how competition and conflict can spur things, etc. It was interesting, in part because it was similar to Hyper Island’s philosophies of group dynamics, which they illustrated last month at South by Southwest.

I ran into a chum of mine, Jocelyn Glei, who informed me she’s working with Belsky on a book-length exposition of his findings, which will certainly provide a grounds for greater comparison of the two groups.

Dominos, Orwell and Bloody Pizza Sauce

In just a few days we’ve seen a couple of dimwitted scumbags erode the brand’s credibility faster than you can say “Get the door, it’s Dominos.”

Unfortunately, George Orwell’s rule of thumb (“roughly speaking, the more one pays for food, the more sweat and spittle one is obliged to eat with it”) never applied to pizza franchises.

As the backlash against the two coworkers guileless enough to upload videos of their back-room chicanery continues (now, to the point of Dominos apologizing and the duo facing felony charges) I’m reminded of his classic Down and Out in Paris and London and one of its themes, that the working class and poor have a special code amongst themselves binding them to reverence and respect when they’re in a service role for those at or equal to their station.

Continue reading “Dominos, Orwell and Bloody Pizza Sauce”

Draplin Ditty Defies Deadlines

A funny thing happened on the way to this Talent profile of Aaron “All-American” Draplin that ran in March’s Creativity.

The piece had been done for a few months, and had gotten pushed to the March issue because it had certain evergreen qualities.

It was laid out, on the page, being proofed and minutes away from being sent to the printer when it was revealed Draplin, along with Chris Glass, another designer, worked with Chicago’s Mode Project creative director Steve Juras to develop logos for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) projects and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) team (seen here), which were unveiled by Big Boss Barack Obama in early March.

This was, as they go, a tiny bundle of candy placed into our lap by the great magazine fairy in the sky. And those are pretty few and far-between at the moment, so it was nice to savor. (The super-relevant photo, by the way, was taken by Mark Welsh from Nitro Snowboards back before Thanksgiving!)

We took around half an hour to rework it and a nice evergreen became much more timely and interesting.

Anyway, Draplin’s one to keep an eye on. Know how to do that? Via his kickass blog.

On my new gig…

I’ve got a new job! This just went out over the e-wire, and here it is now for some edification.

=-=-=-=-=-=-

Greetings,

My term as Creativity’s associate editor has come to a close.

I’m still under the Ad Age umbrella, though, and have exciting work ahead of me.

As of next week I’m moving into a role programming and developing content around Ad Age and Creativity events–recruiting speakers, creating leading content around concepts and panel agendas, making sure everyone knows what’s coming up, etc.–as Ad Age’s events content manager.

While it’s a disappointment to see my part in the day-to-day reporting in Creativity’s exciting world diminish, I’ve got something new to be looking forward to: shaping how we interact with you, dear reader, in the live space, how we help confer knowledge and make deeper connections.
Continue reading “On my new gig…”

The Transformative Power of Art, Pt. 239

the Glue Society's pigeon at Pulse
the Glue Society

Every once in a while you pop your head up from the daily slog and rise above the goblins of self-indulgence and negativity and fractiousness and see with crystal clarity, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool.’

Yesterday was one of those days.

I went to an early press preview of the Pulse art show with the express purpose of seeing a unique statue and writing a story about it.

Sure, the story’s just a humble few lines, but there was no need for me to do anything other than convey the facts: pigeon, man, statue, art fair, funny. An honest job, decently done. But it gives me pleasure to think of the time I spent putting this story together, and hopefully that’s conveyed. Briefly, this is something I struggled with: is it more accurate to say this is a statue of a man defecating on the head of a pigeon or of a pigeon with a man defecating on its head? Think about it.

I can say quite confidently that were fate to have brought me to the show this morning with a budget of $40k and a suitable foyer or other entranceway needing of adornment I could see no greater way to immediately communicate my worldview than this piece of contemporary art. Perhaps, one fine day, it could be mine.

Argy Bargy: The Argentine Crisis, From a Creative Perspective

Beach Freeze

It’s rough out there. The seas are roiling. Companies are folding. You don’t need more than a limited grasp of economics to know we’re in for more turmoil.

For many, though, times of prosperity aren’t all that familiar. All over the world emerging economies have made do during tumultuous years as a result of mismanagement or forces beyond their control.

Around a decade ago Argentina was dealing with similar issues, yet the show went on. In the latest Creativity I tracked down six gentlemen of advertising who were around during those years and got their take on how the crash happened, and what they learned from it.

Perhaps the most obvious (yet striking) statement? “When you see the country in flames, people getting killed on the streets and the president resigning and fleeing the government house in a helicopter, well, you don’t exactly have to be a genius to say ‘Fuck, marketing budgets are going down to zero.’” Trenchant observations from Patricio Cavalli, who’s been blogging for Ad Age recently.

But it’s not all doom and gloom–there are lessons for playing it smart in tough times, most importantly, “the ones who panicked did bad work.”

Highlights from the Creativity 50

A few avid readers of both Creativity as well as this thing may not need the spur, but we’ve just posted our annual list of 50 interesting people and groups in the innovation game.

The Creativity 50 has changed a bit in the three years I’ve been involved, and I’m glad to say this year we have a great balance of both interesting and inspiring people in the world at large and the world of marketing. The latter can be myopic to a fault at times and one of the parts of the magazine I’m gladdest to bolster is introducing new viewpoints to our readership.

So, to that end, I was really excited to get to talk to some interesting people for this edition, above and beyond exciting achievers in advertising. Jason Fried is the CEO of 37Signals, and knows a thing or two about productivity and development. Aaron Koblin has an exciting worldview and is one of the few who’ve been able to wrap samples of our world’s data in elegant cloaks. Jonathan Blow, the creator of Braid, is part of a group of game developers pushing to make things that are much more intellectually and emotionally stimulating than the standard entertainment offerings. I had an in-depth and highly informative conversation with Blow, but that’s still under wraps until April.

Lastly, I got a chance to talk with the ever-interesting Dean Kamen, a guy I consider a real pioneer. The full Q&A is on our site now, and I urge you to check it out. Kamen has some very exciting opinions about growing up in our era and how our future innovations will come about.

Browse through this year’s list of honorees; you may come across a nugget of wisdom or two. Special thanks to Von for the kickass cover illustration.

Update: Something screwy came about between the ampersands in the Creativity links and my WordPress RSS feed. If you’re into the links and they’re returning noise in the syndicated version, click through to the actual post and they’ll work from there.

Reality TV Tunnel

My first reaction when I turned on the radio the other day and heard NPR’s TV critic Andrew Wallenstein complaining about how hard his job was, and his epiphany–that he has to watch even the bad TV for the rest of his life, because he’s a TV columnist–was a throaty sound of contempt, a disdainful uvulation. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Times New Gloaming, but to hear anyone griping about having to watch television for a living, however bad it is, strikes me as haughty and ungrateful.

But then I considered it a bit more, and wrapped my head around the fact reality television is absolute garbage, trading on the most odious traits of humanity, and responsible for a large part of the general decline in social values historians will surely cite as part of our millennial breakdown. I’d rather be slapped in the mouth repeatedly with a sock full of bolts than watch two prime-time hours of network reality programming. So if Wallenstein is going to fall on the grenade, as they say, and subject his mind to a raw drip of poison to spin that into a thirty-second dirge for my entertainment, hey, have at it, buddy.

But here are some reality shows I’d like to see.

Continue reading “Reality TV Tunnel”

Pick up this week’s NY Mag (not just for my ad spread)

nymag-parish-advertising

Over the last month or so I helped compile a list of the most memorable New York-styled ads for New York Magazine, and, at long last, here it is. We polled a whole host of past and present NYC ad luminaries to determine a big list of spots that had grabbed the city’s attention, then narrowed them down with a poll to find out which rated highest.

New York’s 40th Anniversary issue is fat, well worth the $4.95. Head over to NY Mag’s site to read my bit, but don’t forget to pick up the magazine–there’s a ton of good stuff inside.

Spark it up! We’re talking Facebook next week.

Next week is Advertising Week in New York, the week many in the industry gather for a celebration of selling things. It’s not all parades with mascots down Fifth Avenue (though I can’t find any info this year about the “Procession of the Great Icons”); there’s some jibber-jabber too, and an unhealthy amount of socializing.

I’m going to be moderating a panel Tuesday, talking with three very intelligent guys about the potentiality for big ideas on Facebook and other social media. If you’d like to come by, it’s free, all you have to do is RSVP. (Oops–I just looked, and it says it’s sold out on the Advertising Week site. Contact me if you’re interested in coming, or just show up early.)

Anyway, we’re going to be (hopefully!) talking about interesting stuff, including a pretty conceptual look at what some future hypothetical Facebook marketing efforts might look like. I’m joined by some great creatives/forward-looking digital guys, so expect some cool ideas to pop out.

The Facebook Spark Series: Spark The Big Idea

How do good ideas spread? What does it take to get people to share branded content or offers with their friends? Top creative thinkers discuss innovative work and the methods to developing big ideas worth sharing in today’s social media world.

Moderated by Nick Parish, Associate Editor, Creativity

Panelists:
Rei Inamoto, Co-Chief Creative Officer, AKQA
Richard Ting, VP & ECD, Mobile and Emerging Platforms Group, R/GA
Rick Webb, Co-Founder and COO, The Barbarian Group

Tuesday, September 23
9:00 AM to 09:45 AM
The Times Center
242 West 41st Street
New York, NY

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone for coming to what turned out to be an interesting session. Audio is here, and video may or may not be coming soon. Ad Week saw fit to dispatch a reporter, who summarized the event quite well.

Michigan’s Digital Production Divide

All this looks like small beer compared to the meltdown here on Wall Street this month, but I was back in Michigan over Labor Day and found myself thinking the state’s huge production incentives program isn’t being fully utilized.

Up North, things are particularly bleak. In the town where my parents stay, Boyne City, 95 people started Labor Day weekend with a pink slip, as LexaMar, one of the biggest corporations in the town of 3500 laid them off on Friday. It made small talk everywhere, downtown, strolling past the classic cars on display, at the police-sponsored drag race at the city airstrip, another midsized manufacturer slicing off jobs as the economy expels another ragged breath.

The one point of light in a state with its biggest industry, automobiles, breaking down, is film production. It’s exceptionally cheap to shoot anything in Michigan right now, and that has ushered in the closest thing to a business renaissance the region has seen in years, at least the latest Band-Aid to create an economic buffer around the doomed car business, like Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s Automation Alley plan that began about a decade ago.
Continue reading “Michigan’s Digital Production Divide”

Burgerman Bogusky Flips and More Late-Summer Follies

It’s been an interesting, albeit slow, few August weeks round these parts, so here’s a bit of a Creativity-related fill-in.

One of our favorite publishers, PowerHouse books, sent by a catalog for its new season, which, strangely, included a huge, front-and-center push for a book on small-plates portion control written by none other than Alex Bogusky. If you failed Know Your Advertising Creatives 101 (and no shame in that–certainly other coursework has greater world relevance) Mr. Bogusky is the Chief Creative Officer of Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, the Miami-based ad agency whose clients include Burger King and Domino’s. The evangelical pizza business is new, but CP+B’s relationship with Burger King is going on a decade, in which time they’ve revitalized the marketing, with a rock-n-jock approach hitting hard in the agency’s breadbasket, the young adult male. Continue reading “Burgerman Bogusky Flips and More Late-Summer Follies”

Nerd Farming

Here’s a piece from the June issue of Creativity I feel came out quite well. Pulling in young talent is a constant source of gnashing whether you’re blogging or running a basketball franchise–but as far as digital marketing goes, it’s time to take the next step from hiring designers and coders who can make things look cool to hiring developers who can form concepts and bring together a team with knowhow to execute higher level things. Software tools. (Like, imagine if Chase built Mint.) There aren’t any great case studies yet as to how these things will look but smart agencies are already thinking beyond microshites to applications.

Here’s the full thing; poke around on the site for more goodies–we were all really proud of the June issue (let me know if you’d like me to send one). I’ve also pasted it below for convenience (erm, and search engines).

Continue reading “Nerd Farming”