Close-Up: Does Peperami ad make a case for crowdsourcing?

This week saw Unilever launch its first crowdsourced TV ad, for its Peperami brand.

The brief was posted on the web and everyone could submit ideas. The winning idea came from two freelance professionals, but Unilever reports it saved up to 70 per cent on agency fees. So is the new campaign actually any good?


Unilever used to use Lowe to handle the advertising for Peperami. But, last year, it ditched the agency in favour of crowdsourcing. A brief for the new ad was posted online by the crowdsourcing specialist Idea Bounty, and a $10,000 prize was offered for the winning idea. Anyone and everyone could enter.

From 1,185 entries, Idea Bounty chose an idea jointly entered by Rowland Davies, an ex-creative director from Munich, and Kevin Baldwin, a copywriter from London. Davies' press treatment has been turned into a TV commercial, produced and filmed by BPL Marketing.

Jonathan Ratcliffe, the marketing director of Idea Bounty's parent, Quirk eMarketing, says: "I think that Unilever got at least a comparable product to what it would have got from a traditional agency and has saved a massive amount of money.

"The ad was made on a trial, but there is no doubt that more and more brands are realising that the end product is as good as an agency can provide and more are willing to give it a test and extend it."

Not every brief is right for crowdsourcing. This was a particularly good one, because the hallmark character remains well known and it was easy to communicate the brief, with inspirational ideas to crack.

Awarding two creatives was a really exciting brief for us. The client probably saved well over 50 per cent of what they paid for this.

THE CLIENT VIEW - Matt Burgess, marketing director, Unilever

- Why did you opt for crowdsourcing?

We were looking to get more value out of the media and creative spend on Peperami, a small brand in the perspective of the Unilever portfolio. Though we were happy with our advertising at Lowe, we felt we could make it even greater. Perhaps the traditional model was not exactly right for this brief. Inspired by Wikinomics (a book about the collaborative space that has come out of the internet), we thought we could find a more cost-effective and creative route.

- Does crowdsourcing as a creative vehicle threaten traditional agencies?

No. The need for traditional agencies will remain as it is. But I think the industry should look very carefully at the output. Crowdsourcing is not a quick fix; the majority of briefs are best suited to the agency approach. Though, in this case, it cost us between 60 and 70 per cent less than using a traditional advertising agency.

- What have you learned from the experience?

Certainly that there is a lot of creativity out there. Peperami is very familiar and isn't the most difficult brief to write a script for, but whittling it down from 1,200 was certainly tough. It's a great vehicle to write an ad for. It was publicly displayed and we judged all the entries against their alignment and how they met that brief.


- Dave Trott, managing director, CST

There's not too much to say about this. It's a perfectly acceptable "next ad in the series".

Executionally, there are a few minor things I'd have done differently. You don't need the title card at the front, for a start. You could have had a couple of seconds' more animation. Things like that. But those are quibbles.

The original idea - "A bit of an animal" - is brilliant, of course. The voiceover is always brilliant. The animation is always really good. In fact, there's not a lot you can do to screw it up.

Which brings us to the most interesting part about this ad. It was created by crowdsourcing. And what we learn is that you don't get any breakthrough ideas that way. You get a bit more of what you would expect. Perfectly acceptable but no surprises. Which is OK, if that's what you want.

- Clare Hutchinson, head of planning, WCRS

Crowdsourcing is a great principle, you can see how easy it is to do with an established creative vehicle, but, unfortunately, Peperami Nibblers has ended up being "a bit of a dog's dinner" rather than "a bit of an animal".

It's lost the simplicity, brutality and edge of early ads such as "cheese grater". It's also lost the copy craft of immortal lines from the past such as: "Come back and finish me off, wimp!"

The result is two vignettes featuring apparent Peperami with its badly behaved kamikaze progeny playing on the swings and at bedtime. It is set up rather clumsily with a chalkboard frame outlining the idea "living with the little ones": never a good sign when an ad has to explain itself upfront. The end result is a watered-down, flabby version of a classic campaign. Crowdsourcing good. Crowdsourcing advertising? I'm not convinced.

- Ben Kay, head of planning, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

This perfectly decent extension to a great campaign provides as convincing a case for crowdsourcing as Chewbacca does for Male Pattern Baldness.

Let's look at the facts. It's written by a professional copywriter with buckets of Unilever experience. It uses the handrails of an established campaign and campaign thought, and it launches a sub-brand with an obvious position. No great surprise, then, that it isn't crap.

But let's think about what the client could have won. It's fine, but it's not great. It doesn't move the campaign on or change my point of view of the brand and I'm hardly going to be chuckling to myself to sleep tonight.

No, the only real winners here are the folks in the accounts department, who had to shell out a $10,000 prize rather than a $100,000 fee. Unfortunately, that's the money that funds the kind of people who manage the altogether messier, more complex business of coming up with better, newer ideas.

- Russell Ramsey, executive creative director, JWT

I like this ad - it's funny, entertaining and makes its point. But no more or less than any of the others in this long-running and successful campaign. All the rules have been followed. The main idea is the same. The style of animation is the same. The sound of the voices is the same. The endline is the same. So this is a slightly different story, probably not dissimilar to many of the scripts that didn't make the cut in the past.

It's probably true of all good campaigns that people start to think they can write the next one. So maybe the agency has been penalised because it's created a strong, simple idea. Crowdsourcing of creative ideas is easy once the agency has done all the hard work. So who really deserves most credit for this ad?