Broadcaster turns to crowdsourcing to find new progamme ideas

A TV company is turning to the crowd to find ideas that “appeal to the Y Chromosome”. The brief is live on creative crowdsourcing site Alternativegenius.com and shows the increasingly serious use of idea competitions in more sectors. (They don’t want to tell you who they are yet, but the £5000 prize shows they mean business).

Crowdsourcing has been around longer than most people realise – The Longitude Prize was a reward offered by the government via the 1714 Longitude Act for a simple and practical method for the precise determination of a ship’s longitude. Useful at the time when getting lost at sea was generally fatal. The French government also created Montyon prizes to reward poor Frenchmen for virtuous acts.

Marketers are at it – Peperami, Doritos, Coke, Starbucks, Pepsi GM – the brand list is long, but often temporary in execution, with some brilliant ideas and the occasional mixed result. Perhaps the term crowdsourcing itself doesn’t help, and creative crowdsourcing isn’t everybody’s cup of tea depending on whether you see it as disruption or not. What is clear is that the market is polarising into two camps -  the ‘cheapest’ or the ‘most interesting’.

One the one hand, you can get a logo designed for $99.99. One company recently experimented with a logo for under $5. @oneminutebriefs are really fun and will do an idea in, well, one minute.

On the other, companies like Local Motors (who I had a fascinating discussion with at SXSW), have built a community of car designers and engineers who work on projects including the RallyFighter, a car suitable for the Arizona desert, and are now designing a new electric vehicle for Domino’s Pizza. They even crowdsource engineering and manufacturing. Move over pop up shops, hello pop up factories. That’s interesting.

And what’s interesting about a crowd sourced TV idea is that the next wave of TV programming has to take social media into consideration from the beginning.  The lovely Bruce Daisley from Twitter tells us that Dynamo, Magician Impossible, improves rating unusually during the show as the #hashtastic twitter volume control goes up. Luck or judgement? You decide.

Despite the independent sector breaking through the £2bn barrier for the first time since 2008, it’s still a hard to access market. Fewer shows are commissioned, development budgets are difficult to achieve, and a ‘follow the leader’ mentality (‘have we got shows for you’, ‘River Cottage industry’) means it is more difficult than ever to get original ideas made.

Who is supporting independent, unsponsored ideas in the face of fast-pacy, product-placy multi-layered, highly intelligently US produced shows (Psych, White Collar). Somebody should. For creatives wanting to make a mark, it’s definitely worth a punt. And it shows that approaches to generating ideas really can come from anywhere.