What is Crowdsourcing?

The term crowdsourcing was coined by Jeff Howe in an article for wired magazine in 2006. Jeff merged the words ‘crowd’ and ‘outsourcing’ to highlight the idea that content creation can be outsourced to a crowd of creatives.

Originally crowdsourcing was used for web design, problem solving and design work. But now crowdsourcing has been applied to marketing and advertising.

From the client’s perspective crowdsourcing works like a regular advertising agency. The agencies still have creative directors and account managers and operate just like any other agency.

The point of difference between a regular agency and a crowdsourced agency comes in the form of the creative department. The creative department is made up of freelancers that all work virtually.

The creative idea:

When a job comes in the team at the agency liases with the company to build the brief. The agency then puts out a call to their freelance creatives. These freelancers then ‘compete’ by working on the job. Submissions are made to the creative directors who screen the work, and then present it to the clients, who ‘crown’ a winner.

Who Uses it?

Crowdsourcing is used by a wide range of companies, from SMEs to well known, name brands.

Two major crowdsourcing agencies are Victor and Spoils and GeniusRocket. Both these agencies have produced content for name brands such as:

  • Harley Davidson
  • PayPal
  • Discovery Channel
  • Amazon
  • Sony
  • Unilever
  • Heinz


Crowdsourcing content is much cheaper than hiring a traditional agency, or recruiting your own in house creative team. The reason for this is the overheads associated with traditional models don’t come with the freelance only business model.

The cost to list a project depends on what you want to pay. Most crowdsourcers offer differing levels of service. crowdSPRING will generally start at around US$269 and go upward from there.

Vendors of crowdsourced solutions cover their costs by taking a percentage of the fee awarded to the winner of the job. This percentage varies between agencies, but crowdSPRING will take 15% of the amount awarded to the winner of the job.


Crowdsourcing provides huge opportunities for employers, freelancers, and students. Some of these advantages include:

  • Open calls for work mean previous experience isn’t as important.
  • Reduced labour costs for employers.
  • A larger talent pool that will always come up with ‘fresh’ ideas.
  • Provides feedback for those who don’t win the job so that they can still improve.
  • Breaks down geographical boundaries, which increases the diversity of ideas available.


Disadvantages of crowdsourcing come for both the creatives and for agencies, both crowd based and traditional.

  • When you factor in jobs you don’t win, your pay could work out to be less than the minimum hourly rate.
  • This also means it can be a challenge for crowd based agencies to retain top level talent.
  • Because the A-class talent tend to work in agencies rather than freelancing, there is a possibility that crowdsourced solutions will be of a lesser quality.
  • Traditional agencies are put at a huge disadvantage because crowd based agencies have much lower overheads, so can charge less.


The decision to utilise crowdsourcing to create your content will come down to the needs of your company. Some companies with smaller budgets for marketing can definitely benefit from crowdsourcing. Whereas a larger company looking for a highly integrated approach may see greater value in sticking to traditional methods. But for the most part, crowdsourcing can provide a cost effective way of sourcing high quality ideas for your marketing campaigns.

Crowdsourcing agencies: