Can crowdsourcing platforms for creatives disrupt the traditional agency model?
What do you do if you have a creative brief to fulfil but don’t have a good writer, photographer or designer to call on? Until a few years back it meant either doing it yourself (badly) or going the full hog and employing an agency, with all the accompanying overheads and formal processes.
Things have become easier with the arrival of web-based platforms where a client can post a brief and receive bids from specialists for the work.
The beauty of this system is that a client has a cost-effective way of getting the job done quickly – as long as they can find someone with the right skills and experience. And the freelancer can build a portfolio and find work if there’s a gap between projects – as long as they don’t mind being faced with often laughably low rates from people who don’t understand the value of their services.
Copywriting sourcing platform Copify, for example, says cheerily ‘you will be paid between £0.02 and £0.04 per word for your work!’, ignoring the fact that a good copywriter will always use fewer words instead of rambling on. On Peanuts People Per Hour you see demands for highly-experienced creatives who can complete a job urgently…and are expected to work for an hourly rate of below £5. Then there’s crowdSPRING, where a designer has to do the work, upload it and keep his fingers crossed that the client picks his offering. So if yours isn’t chosen you’ve done all the work and shared your ideas without payment.
In light of all this I was interested to see a new ‘Creative Exchange’ called blur Group all over Twitter encouraging people to sign up. Their strapline is Crowdsourcing Creatives and they say their ‘unique business model and advanced technology will radically alter the marketing services space.’ I spoke to Tom Cornish in their London office to find out what benefits they are hoping to bring to the client and the creative.
What is blur Group and what does it offer?
Blur Group is a Creative Services Exchange. The CSE is a totally different way of approaching the creative services industry based on getting optimal value, choice and creativity for corporate brands. Companies come to us with briefs (and budgets), and we open them up to our Crowd of over 9,500 professional marketers, designers, writers etc to pitch for the business.
There are three key points:
- We are not a freelancing platform: we broker the delivery of creative services to corporates
- We cut out the needless costs of the traditional agency model – ‘no frills’.
- We manage the process and make sure the match works for both parties
How long have you been going?
blur Group started building our infrastructure and growing the Crowd in 2009, working in stealth mode to build brief numbers in 2010 and formally launching the Creative Services Exchange this month.
How does it differ to other platforms like People Per Hour, Elance, crowdSPRING?
These are fundamentally freelance platforms where the work types are limited and the process is more competition-led to win work. This is why they have attracted some negativity from freelancers. With blur Group the briefs are from corporates for creative services projects – everything from a simple design through to full marketing strategies. We only ask for pitches from Crowdies, not for completed work, so this is no different from their usual way of pitching for work – portfolio, credentials, basic approach. Because it’s a managed process, not crowdsourced competitions, the briefer only sees appropriate and best quality pitches from people qualified to carry out the work- not sifting through thousands of inappropriate submissions!
How do you differ to content farms like AOL’s Seed?
AOL Seed isn’t in the same space as blur Group. We find the right creative services providers to meet briefs for corporate clients, and our Crowdies are paid the amount specified, upfront, in the brief.
What’s your own background – are there any particular problems you had as either a client or a creative that led you to set it up?
We started blur Group to disrupt the traditional agency model, to become the WPP of the web. In other areas of business, the ‘no frills’ approach is advanced but the traditional agency, or ‘Madison Avenue’ model hasn’t been challenged in this way. Using our founder’s experience of creating online trading and marketplace platforms, we’ve brought this to the creative services market, providing a way for any size of company to source any type of creative services cost-effectively but to the same standards they expect. We offer creative services without flashy offices, or free lunches. People are re-assessing how much they actually NEED to spend in this area, and blur Group can provide work which is at least as good for a fraction of the price of an Agency.
How does using Blur benefit the client?
Blur Group benefits the client because while we can save them money, we also broker the brief process. We have a dedicated team who are responsible for managing the briefs as they come in, and handling pitches from the Crowd. They make sure the client gets great pitches from professional and reliable Crowd members.
How do you set your rates and how do they compare to industry levels?
We don’t find work for freelancers. Corporate brands submit briefs for campaigns with a budget and the crowd can pitch. The going industry rate is irrelevant to the process, because a budget is determined by the person submitting the brief. The whole point of the Creative Services Exchange is that optimal value is for both the briefer and the creative.
How do you monitor the quality of the work?
The briefer is given the three best pitches; when they have selected their best they engage directly with the creative.
How successful has it been so far, what sort of feedback are you getting?
We currently receive over 30 briefs a month, and our Crowd is continually growing. These briefs come from companies across the globe, from SMEs and large corporates. One briefer from a large corporate brand said that a significant advantage of our approach over working with a traditional agency is that they can break up briefs so that the optimal provider is found for each element, and the costs are considerably less. Our feedback is overwhelmingly positive for reasons like this.