Unilever-Peperami crowdsourcing for ads: sign of things to come?

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You must have read the news about Unilever asking consumers to create advertising for their sausage snack brand Peperami. This crowdsourcing experiment is not just one element of a campaign. It is the campaign. The agency which worked on the brand for 16 years, Lowe – creators of the ‘Peperami animal’ adverts has been sacked. Consumers are being offered $10,000 for their ideas which are to be submitted at a specially created website, Idea Bounty. Read more about it in Campaign UK .


Crowdsourcing, in the advertising context is not new. Several brands have asked consumers to create ads, write slogans, suggest brand names and such like. Doritos, Pringles, Walkers crisps, Heinz, Tide 2 Go, Nissan Cube and several others have done it with varying degrees of success. In India too, brands like Bingo have run promotions online urging consumers to create ads. Indica Xeta too created a shoot out which garnered over a 1000 entries. The scale of activity may vary but it is essentially done to make the consumer feel ‘involved’ with the brand. But the Peperami experiment is different. It isn’t an experiment. Unilever plans to fork out all future work on this brand this way, rather than appoint an agency. According to Noam Buchalter, Marketing Manager at Peperami, the trigger was to seek something fresh since it is ‘difficult to keep him (Peperami animal) fresh with the limited number of people working on the ads’.

Is this trend a threat to agencies? Unlikely, in my opinion – though it creates additional pressure on them. Stuff like logos and identities are also being outsourced to freelance artists. But when it comes to creating long-term brand ideas from scratch, I think you need professionals. In Peperami’s case a platform and an idea has already been set by Lowe, which it makes it easier for the general public to build upon. But such trends puts agencies on notice, in a way. It’s not the end of agencies as we know it, but the underlying message is that if clients perceive better value outside the agency, the New Media options available facilitates that into action. It also means that if agencies do not come across as being able to speak the new consumer’s language (and that usually is about younger consumers, technology trends, online conversations, new media consumption), they are doing themselves a disservice. In such cases, experience of the team is not necessarily an advantage – it could be furthering the client’s notion that it’s a bunch of ‘old world advertising’ people who have no clue how my consumer interacts with brands.

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