Crowd-Sourced Ads: A Measured Response


crowd_small.jpgADOTAS — Want to know if an ad is resonating with your consumer? Why not ask them?

With the innate social nature of the Web, it’s interesting that no one has pioneered the concept of crowd sourced advertising yet. Every year, marketers and brands spend millions on focus groups trying to figure out what works most effectively to grab consumers’ attention. Unlike a billboard or regular TV commercial, online advertising allows for a two-way direct interchange of information between the consumer and the advertiser, but are we leveraging this channel to its full capacity?

Many print magazines have “Letters” pages, where readers can provide feedback on specific articles. Stories posted online include a “Comments” section for readers to provide their immediate reaction and perspective. Even Facebook gives users the option of letting their friends know what they like with a new thumbs up/down feature.

What if advertisers started asking the same of their audience? Are advertisements all that different from the rest of the content available on the Web?

Today’s digital savvy consumer is no longer interested in the one-way broadcasting model of advertising. It’s time to enter a new stage of advertising where the consumer is engaged in an interactive experience.

The goal of advertising is to cultivate brand awareness and ultimately lead to a purchase. Online, we measure this in terms of clicks, but what if we started to factor in elements such as popularity or positive feedback. Wouldn’t that be more useful than a random click that provides no information about whether the consumer engaged with the advertising content.

The current CPM-based model for ad measurement places value on a click that isn’t necessarily effective. It implies a level of value without any buy-in from the consumer, while making assumptions about its success. Why don’t advertisements or landing pages, ask if the ad was relevant? Or provide an opportunity for the viewers to provide comments or ratings? That way, the click has real value, the consumer feels more involved, and more importantly, they have been engaged.

By integrating a ratings or commenting system, the consumer can provide insight that will ultimately result in advertisements that are relevant to their needs and interests. At the same time, marketers gain first-hand knowledge into what their customers are interested in, while generating awareness for their brand. This type of ratings system works for Amazon’s recommendation system, so why not for advertising? Consumers generally want to see more of what they like.

Digg recently announced a similar concept with Digg Ads, which allows users to digg advertorial content the same way they currently digg editorial content. According to Digg, Intel’s recent “We Are Rock Stars” ad got more than 1,500 Diggs. Under Diggs new model, the more an ad is dugg the higher it’ll be placed in the rankings, mixed in with the editorial content. The more an ad is dugg, the less the advertiser has to pay, putting the onus of original, memorable advertorial content on the advertiser.

Digg is definitely on the right track, but it’s important to integrate this concept into advertisement on third party sites as well. We’ve heard a ton about engagement, customization and overall just giving the consumer more of what they want to increase online ad effectiveness.

Crowdsourcing isn’t a new concept, but with brands constantly seeking more interaction with the consumers, perhaps it’s a simple idea that advertisers should evaluate as the new generation focus group.


  1. I agree that crowd sourcing in under leveraged in the ad space and the typical cycle for any disruptive paradigm to reach maturity is about 15 years. For example, SponsorSelect is 8 years into that cycle. SponsorSelect is a premium ad network that is reinventing behavioral targeting. Built atop a robust ad server that has already been deployed with numerous publishers, SponsorSelect was the first solution that allowed Internet users to choose the advertising they wish to see in exchange for getting access to content. This concept is a kissing cousin of crowd sourcing and taps into consumers desire to have two way interaction with the advertising content.
    SponsorSelect was developed by AWS and integrated into its flagship property, WeatherBug, in 2002. From 2007 to 2008, AWS built a network of 3rd party sites leveraging SponsorSelect. Seeing the huge potential for SponsorSelect, AWS spun the company out. SponsorSelect works through a wide network of advertisers and publishers and acts as a micropayment to access free content. By allowing users to self-select advertising, SponsorSelect delivers performance without privacy concerns. When advertising is more relevant and performs better for advertisers, publishers make more money and can provide better content and services to users for free.
    A natural extension of our unique ad model will be to enable crowd sourcing.

  2. There are incredible opportunities in the field of crowd-sourcing. Groups (fans or spoilers groups and ideas communities) are excellent tools not only to evaluate concepts and ideas but also to co-create the ideas.
    Especially in the field on transmedia projects (stories that unfold through several platforms and with many different entry points) co-creation is a must.


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