Refresh Everything - Crowdsurfing the Atlantic
Crowdsourcing: “a neologism for the act of taking tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, and outsourcing them to a group of people or community, through an "open call"…” (Wikipedia). A notion that attracts as much accolade as it does criticism. Whilst the main contingent argues it has the capacity to transform our world into a utopian model of business where the little guy has the ability to stand out above the rest there are also ferocious critics discharging their ammo at the ‘people’s target’. For some a vision of tomorrow, for others a mere PR gag. Either way you look at it crowdsourcing is going to become an increasingly discussed topic in 2010.
It comes at no surprise that big business has jumped on the bandwagon that is moving the masses. In fact they are not mere passengers, but have instead opted to take the driver’s seat. Pepsi has just launched a crowdsourcing cross cause-marketing advertising campaign worth $20 million called Refresh Everything. Pepsi, who recorded a 7.3% decline in sales in the first nine months of 2009 has made the discussion that the way to increase profitability is by making the world a better place. They are looking for ideas that inspire thinking and enhance the world we live in. In short, ideas that refresh. Pepsi goes on to say that it will spend 60% more on online ads in 2010 than it did in 2009 and what could be a better way to start this initiative than by ditching their annual Superbowl ad from the event that records a higher viewership than any other broadcast in the United States. This is the first time in 23 years the company has not done so!
Basically the campaign calls for the submission of any idea, big or small, that has the capacity to change the world. The grants that Pepsi will provide to a winning idea can range anywhere from $5K to $250K whilst the decisions are determined by the people’s votes. However, there is a catch: only individuals and projects based in the United States can participate. After shifting its ad focus toward the realm of the internet, the people’s global playground, it seems Pepsi still prefers its darling-American market to, well, anywhere else. So, does it really matter that they aren’t producing a Superbowl ad? Not really. America IS the Superbowl and the rest of the world is the people who don’t have a TV to watch it. It seems the company has missed the point with its crowdsourcing campaign and instead opted for a more constrained approach that only gives them what they deem to be the cream of the crop when it comes to creative ideas.
All in all I think Pepsi’s campaign is inspiring and definitely on a scale not seen before. Unfortunately it remains clear that the company isn’t actually trying to give the ‘little guy’ a chance, but instead the campaign seems to still include old school marketing thought by focusing only on the American market. This makes the Refresh Everything campaign smell more like a PR stunt rather than a truly evangelical attempt at sourcing ideas from the masses. Don’t get me wrong, I realise a company is ultimately dedicated to make a profit, but this does not deflect from the obvious fact that Pepsi has merely jumped on the fiery bandwagon that is crowdsourcing.