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Crowdsourcing – here to stay, but no threat to the special relationship says Weed

And the winner of Unilever’s crowdsourcing ad initiative is: Melody of Skin for Vaseline, by Japanese film-maker Ryoko Kwanishi.

Earlier this year, incoming Unilever cmo Keith Weed set agency teeth chattering by announcing a co-creation competition with Mofilm to source the public’s best ideas for 13 of its most sacrosanct brands. Was this the beginning of the end for the agency world as we know it, asked more than one anxious Cassandra?

Not really, on present showing. Admittedly, there are some really nice pieces of film, but rarely are they brilliantly insightful. The winner won precisely because it was a genuinely new idea: according to Weed, its “campaignability” across other media than television was an important factor in the final decision. See for yourself here:

So what are the implications of the experiment? Well, BBH – long-term partner with Unilever on the Lynx brand –  and other roster agencies need not worry about packing their bags just yet. In an exclusive interview with Pitch, Weed expresses considerable irritation with the above-mentioned Cassandras. Critics are simply missing the point, he says. It’s only natural that Unilever should be in the front line of creative experimentation, because it always has been. “It produced the first black and white ad in the UK, the first colour ad. We’re the first brand on iAd … We are the second largest advertiser in the world. If we can’t experiment with stuff and push out into new territory, then who can?” Good point.

What Weed fails to tell us is whether the crowdsourced ads will actually see the light of day, as opposed to provide valuable PR. But the clear implication is that crowdsourcing could play a valuable, if supplementary, infilling role. “It takes many months and hundreds of thousands of pounds to make a 30-second television ad and you certainly cannot afford that model to fill up the hunger for video that exists. We are trying to find ways to create content that is engaging but also economically viable.”

So no one in adland need worry about their P45 just yet. It’s a timely shot across the bows all the same. Stay sharp.

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