Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Virgin America Flies With V&S on Web

V&S did not use crowdsourcing to create the campaign -- it crafted the work to enable crowdsourcing

Virgin America has rolled out a Web campaign created by crowdsourcing agency Victors & Spoils. The campaign is a promotion designed to draw attention to the carrier's expansion into Toronto, marking the first time the airline has flown outside the U.S. It is centered on a Web contest inviting users to submit video entries to be named "The Virgin America Toronto Provocateur." Contestants will be evaluated based on whether they have the "creativity, talent and vision" to represent the brand in Toronto. The position comes with perks that include free trips on Virgin America for a year. In a twist, V&S did not use crowdsourcing to create the campaign. Rather, it crafted the work to enable crowdsourcing. V&S co-founder Evan Fry said the shop would work both ways with clients to tap into the power of the crowd. "We're an ad agency built on crowdsourcing principles," he said. "We'll use the crowd to come up with ideas, or we'll come up with something that allows people to create ideas." The Boulder, Colo.-based agency bills itself as the first shop to rely on crowdsourcing to get work done. Earlier this month, it launched a TV campaign for Dish Network. The writer and art director on that project requested anonymity because they have day jobs at other agencies. V&S uses its internal database of over 1,000 creatives as a sort of outsourced creative department. For other work, it uses tools like crowdspring to run creative contests.
Critics claim this approach commoditizes creativity. Fry is sympathetic to those concerns, pointing out V&S prefers to pay all participants for their time and ideas.

"We don't like the work-for-free element of it," he said. I agree with people calling it an evil thing. I don't call it evil, but I see where they're coming from." But, he added, the growth of easy-to-use tech tools makes the democratization of creative services inevitable. "We're seeing a lot of interest from a lot of brands," he said. "We're getting a lot of curious brands who have agencies of record and want to do a project with us. They're interested in whether our approach is more nimble and cost effective." For this project, V&S kept the lion's share of the work in-house, with the concept and strategy handled by V&S staffers. The Web work was handled by an outside developer. V&S shot an intro video showing Virgin Group founder Richard Branson randomly dialing hotel guests, introducing himself and trying to get out his pitch for the Toronto ambassador position. Visitors can vote up or down on entries on the Virgin America campaign site, which V&S built on the Google Moderator platform, a free tool for user-contributed questions, ideas and feedback.
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