So the film is out (tho nothing to embed yet: you'll have to look here), and the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse have yet to appear over the horizon.
A few random thoughts then now that we can see the fruits of Unilever's brave new world of advertising(with the obvious statement of vested interest that I work for an ad agency which produces a lot of film content)...
First up, I agree with Unilever's Matt Burgess that the advertising industry should be open to new ways of doing things. But to quote The Strokes, is this it? Arguably, it's a model that only works (if it does at all) on straight-forward, well established campaigns with very simple, clear rules. With more complex campaign ideas, or when developing a new campaign, let alone repositioning a brand, a free for all will be far less effective (and possibly detrimentel). I still believe you need the skill sets, multi-disciplinary teams and client-agency processes of the 'old ways' to crack these kinds of challenges (and Unilever say as much).
Secondly, tho theoretically crowd-sourced, the two guys who won are still freelance creatives (I worked with Kevin Baldwin at my last agency). So before we get too over-excited about a completely new way of doing things, this is less user generated content in the way we currently understand it and more a form of outsourced in-house creative development, facilitated by a digital platform (or 'cost saving' in other words). And let's not kid ourselves that the archetypal boy-in-his-bedroom or 'my mum' is going to come up with a half decent 30" tv commercial - not saying big, 'old-school' London agencies are the only answer, but it really is a lot harder than people think to deliver decent ideas, and don't believe those who say otherwise.
Thirdly, there were 1200 entries…and this is the best?! Because it's not actually that great, compared with the cream of the Peperami campaign. Are we really saying that you would have got nothing better from a more conventional approach...which can only be the true test of success (why not just try a different/smaller/more cost effective agency and get a full-service alternative perspective?). Though the basic idea is probably OK, it just feels a bit 'everything but the kitchen sink' in terms of content, and a bit wooden in execution - it's almost like an advertorial.
And I wonder if this highlights one of the problems you get with the pen/camera for hire model - there's no one to hone, prune and craft an idea, or to push back and challenge when someone starts down the 'and another thing…' path. Because 'being difficult' is actually one of the benefits you get when working with an agency (and even if you export process management, you won't get this as there is no pride and passion involved). It's the give and take between agency and client that gets you to a better place, and that's actually worth paying, not the 'whatever you say, it's your money' attitude that can (sometimes not always) come with the one-off freelance model.
But then, and finally, maybe that isn't seen as a problem when the cost of the finished product is apparently 60% less then ‘traditional ad agencies’. And when you've got a shed load of PR (at least in the media/marketing community) as a consequence. Maybe 'good enough' is good enough given the (short term) savings. But what about the longer term implications? As most companies know, you can cut product quality in the short term and see no real issues (and lots of extra cash). Until one day your business falls down like a house of cards. And your brand/comms are no different - unwise disinvestment is the path to self destruction.
Although having said all that, if Unilever deems the Peperami experiment a success, and does the same again, expect others to follow suit.