The slogan above means ‘Work Makes You Free’ and could be found over the door of all the Nazi Concentration Camps during the Holocaust.
Today I want to voice my objections to the ‘Crowdsourcing’ campaigns that are so de rigeur at the moment. In simple terms, Crowdsourcing is the name for virally seeking input from interested parties to collaborate across the web on various projects that may tickle their interest. The term was coined by Jeff Howe, in his excellent study on the subject (you can find his blog here).
In his study, he cited excellent examples of Crowdsourcing revolutionizing the internet, based on the premise that many heads are better than a select few. At its finest, Crowdsourcing has been responsible for Wikipedia, Linux, Threadless and so on. Where it becomes a little worrying is now that the term has become a marketing buzzword, and every digital talker is keen to Crowdsource everything, so save on costs for creative work.
Wimax are currently using a jingle that was written as part of a competition. The dude from Pittsburgh, PA, who won, with an admittedly very good jingle, may have won €1000 for his video, which, as I understand it, is the ad. His lyrics may also have netted him €500. His face is on every billboard that Wimax advertise on, no doubt part of the competition terms.
€1500 probably seems like a good deal. Commercially, it sucks. As recently as two years ago, music producers could commonly expect €25,000 for creating a commercial jingle, including usage in a region, as part of a commercial campaign. Additionally, actors who were cast in ads could command hefty fees for appearance rights, and look forward to continuing royalties as their likeness was used to promote a product in campaigns that ran for many years, and with good cause. If you were an actor, and you had just done the latest Guinness ad or whatever, people didn’t want to use you for a Centra Ad for a few years, until the public had ‘forgotten’ your face. So, it was well paid work, as taking a gig effectively excluded the actor from future ones. When we open these benchmarks up to Crowdsourcing, the rule book, and your rights, disappear out the window, in a move that initially seems to be one of Corporate Benevolence and open competition, but that is, in effect, asking people to work for free and devalue the industry they work in.
It would be unfair to single out Wimax as the only guilty party in this capacity, they are simply listening to their ‘digital whisperers’ who are advising them that this is what all the cool kids are doing, and its a great way to get everyone to ‘play’ with your Brand. It is, in some ways, but why not even the score, and provide their service free, with no obligations for a year, to anyone who entered the competition? Or would this not make commercial sense?
Twitter is a Twaddle with a million digital ass hats every day who are digital talkers. Experts of the one line opinion, commanding legions of adoring followers, who lap up every tweet as if it is the new Gospel. Some of the backfire of this is that the exact credentials and expertise of many of these experts remains to be proven. However, they are very quick to embrace the idea of asking for free creative work, as they are thin on actual original ideas themselves. This simultaneously proves that they place no value on creative work. In the twitter feed in Ireland, in the last week we noticed an Online PR company looking for people to design a T-Shirt for them, the reward being that it would help ‘get your name out there’. One witty designer responded that he’d like free PR services from them, and this seemed a little lost on an agency that prides itself on ‘listening to the conversation’…
We’ve also enjoyed many ridiculous offers to join in a competition to make a video for a major Brand, to have a chance to win a nominal amount, should we win the popularity contest. We’ve been told that this would be good for our ‘Portfolio’. We’ve been professionally producing Video and Audio content for a Decade now, our ‘portfolio‘ is full to bursting, and our friend book is full.
In short people, if you want to work for free, in your spare time, for a company with more than enough money to pay for your services, go right ahead. Join the Digital Slavery Revolution. When you decide you want to make a career out of it, there won’t be any Production Companies left to work for, as all Production will be done by the YouTubers for free. And should you decide to start your own, nobody will want to pay for it anyway.