Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has weighed in on the issue of crowdsourcing, a current hot topic doing the agency rounds ever since Victor & Spoils launched and Pepperami decided they were going to dump their ad agency and crowdsource a creative solution.

What Jimmy says is, I think, quite brilliant:

“In the consumer space, people aren’t going to do it for strategic business reasons, they’re going to do it because it’s fun.”

As clever as Victor & Spoils like to think they are, their approach does rather feel like auditioning freelancers and giving the gig to the best one. It doesn’t really have a collaborative feel to it in the same way as, say, editing a Wikipedia page does. The same with the Pepperami experiment. These people call it crowdsourcing because it’s a buzzword that the marketing press are currently into and they know they’ll get coverage. But their projects naturally exclude the majority of consumers, being as they are openly targeted at design and creative professionals. Who, whatever you might think, are not the majority.

Crowdsourcing should allow anyone to get involved. MyStarbucksIdea was a great example of crowdsourcing: open to all, and produced genuinely useful ideas submitted by genuine Starbucks consumers. Same for Walkers Crisps, which again allowed anyone to take part. And for that very same reason, Victor & Spoils isn’t really crowdsourcing at all. It is a great way of getting freelance creative teams to submit their ideas for free and then only pay for the very best of them. But that is surely something that freelance creative teams won’t be happy about for very long.

Crowdsourcing is a great idea, and I think there is incredible potential, particularly around how a brand engages with their consumers; it’s taking new ideas and using them in new ways. What Pepperami did was use this idea of “crowdsourcing” to help produce an old-school campaign. You’re still going to get a 30 second ad spot, it’s just written by a freelance creative. Honestly – how is this different to using a variety of freelancers?

But using the idea of crowdsourcing to connect directly with your consumers, to involve them in a deeper level with your brand, and have them actually help to create output they’ll then later consume themselves, well, that’s sorta cool, right?