Just when I was about to write off the “crowdsourced” advertising trend as a fad…I happened to read about Etsy.com‘s consumer-generated commercial campaign in AdAge. The online crafts marketplace launched a contest among its own members for 30-second spots, and some of the entries are wonderful. You can view them and vote for your favorite handmade moment here.
Of course, you might expect some extraordinary entries from people who are creative and entrepreneurial enough to market their own jewelry, crafts, and accessories on Etsy. It’s a wonderful community, but as with anything handmade, there’s a huge range in quality and taste. That’s why the homemade ads are such a refreshing surprise. They show the passion, creativity, and soul of the Etsy community in an effortless way. I can’t see a traditional creative team making it look so natural.
Yet, I still have big doubts about crowdsourcing. There’s no way the Etsy campaign is typical. In many cases, these kinds of contests are dominated by out-of-work advertising creatives (which I’m sure is the case with the Unilever Peperami sausage product that I blogged about earlier.) But, here the rules state that advertising professionals are ineligible to participate. There’s also a strong public relations component to the contest. All companies want to use their own customers as brand evangelists, but it’s unbelievably difficult to do that well, and with credibility. Here, it’s a natural fit, which is why throwing it open to this very atypical “crowd” makes for some terrific ads, and a well-crafted brand message.
Spending time at the international meeting of our sister consultancies (www.proi.org) has given me the chance to catch up with colleagues, commiserate about the economy, and share insights about trends affecting our business.
The caliber of the firms in our global partnership is extraordinarily high, and the discussions have been both passionate and eye-opening. It also doesn’t hurt to be in Vienna, a city that’s almost magical in its beauty and evocation of history. (It tends to put things in perspective.)
A few takeaways from our discussions that might be relevant for anyone growing a business during a time of uncertainty:
Ask yourself: What am I doing differently? Now is the time to take a risk. For us, that means on our own behalf as well as for our clients. Our partners are re-examining nearly every aspect of their businesses and in doing so, offering clients concepts and strategies that go beyond “traditional” PR thinking.
Overcommunicate to staff. That’s easy when things are good, but harder to face in a bad environment when decisions are unpopular. If you take employees for granted because the job market is tough, they could be gone when things turn around.
Think small….in the good sense of the word. Even in a large organization, an entrepreneurial spirit can be a powerful differentiator, and staff need to feel they have influence and mobility when so much is beyond our control.
Find partners. As an independent business, my firm has relied on our North America and global partners both for business development and company management issues. Think about building a network for sharing ideas or even leads with like-minded business owners in complimentary business sectors. Yesterday’s competitor is today’s ally.
Plan for the recovery. How do you want to be positioned when the recession ends? Smart businesses are planning now, and we need to do the same for our clients and our own companies.
Today marks our official rebranding as Crenshaw Communications, and we couldn’t be prouder or more energized. Though we’ve all been working together at Stanton Crenshaw, our old firm, for many years, it’s exhilarating to launch a new brand and website.
I’ve had my own PR business, in a partnership, for over a dozen years, so little of this is new. But being a sole owner changes the entrepreneurial experience. Make no mistake….I think PR is fundamentally a collaborative discipline, and having colleagues and partners to share in the creative process, as well as the risk, is a tremendous positive. But, one advantage to sole ownership among colleagues is a more singular and actionable vision for the business. We’re free to focus where we’re strong, to add resources as needed, and to shape our firm according to client needs, which have in many cases changed dramatically as the economy has changed. Finally, there’s the ability to move quickly when there’s only one, um, decider.
When I was struggling in an agony of indecision over whether to forsake my senior position at a global mega-agency and take the entrepreneurial plunge the first time around, in 1996, someone close to me said, “Don’t obsess over making the perfect decision; there are pros and cons to everything. Just make the best decision you can and do everything in your power to make it come out right.”
Good advice then. Good advice now.