Unilever Turns to Crowdsourcing to Promote Snack Food Brand

Published Nov-28-11

A crowdsourced TV and Print campaign for Unilever’s Peperami brand.

Unilever, United Kingdom

The Story:

Unilever Turns to Crowdsourcing to Promote Snack Food Brand Having dropped the ad agency for one of its popular food brands Unilever decided to hold a crowdsourcing competition to find advertising ideas for Peperami, a meat snack. The company was looking for innovative ideas from people that could be turned into a TV and print campaign with the winner receiving a cash prize of $10,000.

Participants were encouraged to let their creative juices flow. The only caveat was that the advertising had to feature the animated cheeky TV character ‘Animal’ that the snack brand is instantly recognisable for.

Fresh Ideas Wanted

Although Unilever had been happy with the ad agency used for this brand it wanted some fresh ideas and new thinking. It believed this couldn’t be achieved by only having a limited number of people involved.

Unilever was keen to point out that its crowdsourcing competition was different from those set up by some other food manufacturers as it was after more than just one line ideas. It wanted fully thought through and comprehensive concepts for both the TV and print aspects of the marketing campaign.

The food manufacturing giant worked in conjunction with Idea Bounty (a platform for crowdsourcing creative ideas) and set up a website for participants to submit their ideas.

Non-Traditional Approach

This 2009 crowdsourcing competition was a first for Unilever as it had never previously tapped into crowdsourcing to help it market a product. This non-traditional approach ruffled a few feathers in marketing circles as agencies that survive by selling their ideas felt threatened by a newer and cheaper model. However, Unilever never saw it as a threat to these companies.

“If there is a campaign with a straight-forward and well defined brief, then crowdsourcing is worth considering, though I don't think that it will replace the need for creative agencies,” said Noam Buchalter, Marketing Manager for Unilever in an interview with econsultancycom.

“I don't think agencies should be worried about the threat from crowdsourcing, they should embrace it. More forward thinking creative agencies may well embrace this in future and use the model for their clients' campaigns.”

In addition to the naysayers there were some supportive noises from marketing experts who said the concept was a great way to tap into creativity, as there is no monopoly on great ideas. They can come from anywhere.

Competition Winners

Almost 1,200 entries were submitted to the crowdsourcing competition which was won by two advertising executives, Kevin Baldwin and Rowland Davies.

The TV advert had its first airing in August 2010 and promoted Peperami’s bite size Nibblers range. It featured the Animal character reflecting on a day spent with his mischievous offspring.

Crowdsourcing Competition Benefits

Ultimately the crowdsourcing competition saved 60% in costs compared to a traditional marketing model, a fact that caught the attention of a number of companies that were looking more carefully at their budgets during economically straightened times.

However, saving funds was not the only or indeed the deciding factor that encouraged Unilever to switch models. The company was also seeking new and deeper levels of brand engagement with its consumers.

The competition’s main objective was to come up with a superb ad, but as with other brand crowdsourcing efforts it discovered that the attendant free publicity was a valuable offshoot.

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