Disrupting the Advertising Industry with Crowdsourcing

Updated on 19 April 2016

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How this startup is hoping to disrupt a R620 billion industry with the power of the crowd

The crowdsourcing trend is responsible for some of the biggest and disruptive companies existing today. The most well-known are arguably Uber, the world’s biggest taxi service, and Airbnb, which despite not owning a single property, is the largest hotel chain globally.

Techpreneur, Trevor Wolfe (32) along with co-founder, Remon Geyser, is hoping to similarly use the power of the crowd to disrupt the advertising industry. The former New Yorker and veteran entrepreneur is with, Delvv.IO, a market research and consultancy startup, looking to build the continent’s biggest network of creatives and to tap into this knowledge base on-demand.

Faster and cheaper

Market research is a branch within the advertising sector which deals with assessing the viability of a new product or service through techniques such as surveys, product testing and focus groups, and advertising effectiveness research.

Big multinationals (the likes of Coca Cola, Nestlé etc) and even smaller companies depend on this to evaluate the strength of a planned campaign.

While lesser known than the more visual aspects of the advertising industry, the sector is massive and is estimated to be valued at R620 billion globally.

“As it is, between 4 to 8% of advertising spend goes to research. Fifteen years ago, 1.4% was spent on research. This is even more important for South African businesses who are expanding into the rest of Africa. Research helps them better understand the market they are moving into a lot better and increases their chance of success.”

Traditionally this industry has been dominated by large firms who have hundreds of employees at their disposal.

Delvv.IO wants to make this process faster and cheaper.

The startup currently has a network of over 120 000 “freelance” creative professionals who can be called on to provide “professional and localised” feedback on marketing and advertising materials and briefs based on: the strength of the concept, local trends, brand activity and on how best to build impactful brands and campaigns.

How it works is that users are able to upload a creative concept or an actual advert (radio, print, television etc). The platform’s technology and team will then choose the 30 most relevant professionals in terms of location, industry etc.

Five days later users get a feedback report detailing the campaign’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement to gain optimum success.

Delvv.IO currently counts Unilever, Loreal, and locally the Medical Nutritional Institute (MNI) as clients.

The power of the crowd

The concept of crowdsourcing involves acquiring the services of freelancers and volunteers typically via online platforms for a particular project or goal, i.e collaborative creation.

The core of the model is using the wisdom and skills of the masses to make your business a success, says Wolfe, who has previous crowdsourcing experience through his previous startup, Springleap, an online marketplace that helped brands access a community of thousands of creatives for design projects based in Cape Town and New York.

There are so many opportunities for SME business models to take advantage of flexible work populations, says Wolfe. “It is a surprise that not many companies are adopting the trend first,” he adds.

SME South Africa talks to Wolfe about the opportunities for SMEs to take advantage of flexible and on-demand freelance communities and why crowdsourcing is proving to be such a popular model for disruption.

The problem we are solving

Our first opportunity is to help SA brands, SMEs and agencies grow into other African markets with our network of on-the-ground professionals. We think this could keep us busy for a while but also hope that some of our strategic investors and partners will help us tap into other brands around Africa that are also looking for expansion opportunities.

While Uber and AirBnB are using a “crowd” of independent drivers and hosts to disrupt traditional industries, we think our model will help existing creative industries to tap into a flexible and on-demand resource that will help them take on more clients, grow into new niche disciplines (mobile, social, etc) and better understand other African markets without needing to hire a hundred more employees.

“One of the great opportunities for all businesses is finding a scalable way of tapping into a global knowledge base for fresh ideas, independent thinking”

We tap into the power of cooperation and collaboration

Any industry that has a large, digitally literate and distributed freelance population (creative industries, consulting, accounting, legal, etc) has a unique opportunity to invite independent and collaborative groups of professionals to find growth opportunities, crack into new markets and build more innovative products.

The growth of a business has traditionally been proportionate with the growth of its staff compliment, but unstable economies and the rise of the startup mentality has led to many managers looking for mechanisms to scale without bringing on more overhead.

Virtual freelance communities like freelancer.com and elance.com have allowed many SMEs to outsource functions like low-level accounting, HR, graphic design and data entry, and we think the next movement is to allow “the crowd” in bigger business challenges.

Crowdsourcing is, however, not without its challenges

Enforcing quality of output [is one of our biggest risk factors]. Because we don’t employ the actual creative professionals, guaranteeing quality is not as easy as if they were full-time staff. We have several ways of counteracting this, including the use of a panel (not just a single professional) and ranking algorithms, but quality will take up much more time than other traditional businesses.

Crowdsourcing can help drive entrepreneurship

Many in the creative industry are learning (or preparing) to run their own small business, design studio or agency right out of varsity.

Curriculums at some of SA’s design schools include entrepreneurship because there is simply not enough entry-level jobs in the industry to support all graduates. Rather than abandon their creative passion, many students chose to carve out their own niche and build their own business.

By participating in our projects, they are able to supplement their income while working on projects that help build their portfolio.

What I learnt from our first crowdsourcing venture

[The biggest lesson I took from Springleap was] focus. At Springleap, we tried finding one scalable path to market but ended up running three separate business models and three separate businesses.

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