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Crowdsourcing, Being first, King of Shaves


There is no shortage of idiotic online schemes.

The latest one to draw the hysterical attention of the advertising trade media is "crowdsourcing". Crowdsourcing is essentially a way to get unemployed freelancers to work for you on the cheap. If that's your idea of a good time ...

I have it on pretty good authority that one of the first major ventures into clownsourcing has been a complete failure.

Apparently, a clownsourcing agency, which recently opened to great fanfare, was hired to do a campaign for a major telecoms company. According to what I've heard, the campaign has been a total disaster. It hasn't just failed to attract new customers, it has cost the client thousands of existing customers.

Here's what I don't understand. Advertising is expensive. If you're a major advertiser, you're going to spend tens of millions of dollars every year. At least 90 per cent of that is going to the media. About 10 per cent will go to agencies. Of that, about half will pay for media planning and buying. Much of the rest will go to time spent on servicing the account. Agencies pretty much give the freaking creative work away. Of all the things you shouldn't do on the cheap, creative is number one.

It's like spending all your money on pots and pans and scrounging through the dumpster for the ingredients.

But you know me. I just don't get it.



It's entirely possible that you're racing. Racing to the market with a new product or a news story or a decision or an innovation. The race keeps getting faster, doesn't it?

If you're racing, you better figure out what to do about the times that you don't know for sure ... because more and more of your inputs are going to be tenuous, speculative and possibly wrong. Day traders have always understood this - all they do is trade on uncertainty. But you, too, if you're racing, are going to have to make decisions on less than perfect information.

Given that fact, what are you going to do about it? I think it's worth a few cycles of your time.

Is it smart to blog on a rumour? Worth dropping everything and panicking because of a news alert? Should you hire someone based on information you're not sure of?

What about changing your website (your pricing, your layout ...) based on analytics that might not be absolutely correct? How long are you willing to wait?

Given that you will never know everything for sure (unless you're opting out of the race), some of the issues are:

What's the cost of waiting one more day?

Are you waiting (or not waiting) because of the cost of being wrong, or because loud people are yelling at you?

Is the risk of being wrong unreasonably amplified by part of the market or your team? What if you ignore them and focus on customers that matter?

And have you thought about the costs of waiting too long? If you don't, you'll probably end up last.

Have you noticed how often stock analysts quoted in the news are wrong? Wrong about new products, wrong about management decisions, wrong about the future of a company? In fact, they're almost always first and almost always wrong.

Rule of thumb: being first helps in the short run. Being a little more right than the masses ultimately pays off in the long run. Being last is the worst of all three.



I thought it might be worth posting about the arguments going on about King of Shaves' new online video. Brand Republic is host to some vivid discussion about it, and the overall consensus is not good. An opinion I share.

However, the brand has been doing something positive; and that is responding and engaging in debate rather than hiding away. Whether it is actually Will King (the founder) or some other employee, I don't know, but it is a positive move; and much more like the brand I would like to see King of Shaves be than the Loadedesque chaufeminism of the video.

They went on to Brand Republic and tackled comments of sexism. When I talked about it on Twitter, they got in touch, discussed the issues I had, and offered me a free trial of the product. We agreed to disagree but they listened, responded and made a point of noting my comments. I still think it was a shit ad, but if this is an indication of the way they treat customers and handle social commentary, they have the potential of a brand that could start to do much better.