Q&A with Wil Merritt, CEO of Zooppa: Crowd Creativity is a Resource for Brands

Zooppa is the global social network for creative talent. It partners with companies to bring its community members opportunities to create great ads for leading brands. We interviewed Wil Merritt, the CEO of Zooppa on how the company is helping brands and its advocates come together.

Written by Priti Ambani

Mar 29, 2013


Zooppa is the global social network for creative talent. It partners with companies to bring its community members opportunities to create great ads for leading brands.

Companies develop a creative brief describing their brand’s attributes, the target audience, and the objectives of the campaign. Community members are then invited to create ads in various formats. For example, producing a viral video, designing an animated sequence, creating a print ad, even writing scripts or concepts for potential ads. Once members upload their content, clients generally select and award the best content, but many campaigns also allow community members to vote on content submissions in order to determine additional award–winners.

We interviewed Wil Merritt, the CEO of Zooppa on how the company is helping brands and its advocates come together. Prior to coming aboard as CEO of Zooppa, Wil made a career at the intersection of media and technology. For four years he served as a Senior Vice President for the Corbis Corporation, Bill Gates’ wholly owned private digital media company. Wil also spent eighteen years with Time–Warner, Inc. in posts around the globe including President for Europe/Middle East/Africa for the Time and Fortune Publishing Division.
1. Why is people-powered brand energy relevant today and how does Zooppa fit into the big picture? (tell us a bit about Zooppa)
Brand marketers and advertisers are grappling with a content crisis right now. New devices and networks have put brands in a position where they must create and distribute content in such a way that traditional processes can no longer accommodate — they need new tools and processes to meet this new scope of demand.
Creative crowdsourcing is one of these practices. By working with the crowd, brands can gain discerning insights, innovative content and creative executions to support larger projects. Zooppa provides a platform for these brands to activate the crowd’s brain trust easily and efficiently.

2. Wil, you gave an excellent talk at the Crowdsourcing Week workshop in NYC about branding and crowdsourcing. You mentioned that consumers are moving away from being a “downloading” audience to becoming an “uploading” audience. Did this changing attitude foster crowdsourcing or did crowdsourcing lead this change?
This shift in attitude is largely driven by advances in consumer technology and the adoption of the social web. While the principles of crowdsourcing are not necessarily new, these recent developments have broadened the scope of what a company or individual is able to accomplish through the crowd.
These days anyone with a smartphone and a YouTube account can command an audience of millions. With this kind of media environment, it’s in a company’s interest to discover how this new generation of individual content creators  type of crowd creativity can contribute to a longer-term brand strategy.

3.  How is Zooppa building a creative community? Tell us a little bit about your partnerships with schools and industry associations.
Through the Zooppa Creative Network we partner with film schools and creative organizations around the world to promote opportunities that help develop the next generation of creative talent.
For example, in November two of our team members travelled to the Miami Ad School to host a workshop on the role of crowdsourcing in advertising as part of their Industry Heroes lecture series. We’re planning to expand our network and form new types of partnerships to ensure that young filmmakers and designers have more chances to make money, build their portfolios and get their work in front of big name brands.

4.  On the Zooppa platform, what are brands mostly trying to do – build engagement or find fresh ideas and content? And how often do they end up using the crowd-generated content for offline branding?
Each brand the launches on the Zooppa platform has its own, unique marketing objective that it’s trying to accomplish. Some brands are looking for new creative content, others engagement. The most successful brands are the ones that have developed a brief that reflects these these objectives. For content-based needs, it’s critical that the brand’s creative brief is open and aspirational to invite participation from as many creators as possible. For campaigns that have an engagement objective, it’s important to articulate how the crowdsourcing element is just part of a larger engagement strategy. Fro example, emphasize clear calls to action to vote, comment, remix or share the content being generated by the crowd.

While a major part of the content crisis mentioned above is happening online, brands regularly use the Zooppa platform for offline purposes. Uses have ranged from broadcast-ready TV commercials to creative product packaging. Through the big need is online, the truth is that crowd creativity is a resource that can also enhance traditional modes of marketing as well through insights and execution.

5.  A “good idea is a good idea”, How will this notion change the way – brands, professionals and consumers work in the next 5 years?
To borrow a phrase from Frito-Lay CMO Ann Mukherjee, brands now recognize that “they no longer have a monopoly on great advertising ideas.” We think that crowdsourcing will continue the trend of become a more commonplace practice among both in-house and agency teams as a way to supplement and augment their insights or creative departments, perhaps even on an ongoing basis. On the participant end, we’re witnessing the growth of a very active community of professionals and consumers who spend a significant part of their time creating and submitting to these types of projects. While this work will likely never take place of freelance and regular assignments, it has nonetheless created new, efficient opportunities for folks seeking rewards for their creativity.

6.  How can brands use the influence of crowdsourced content competitions to reach their consumers who are not really content-creators?
For brands who are seeking participation from an audience that goes beyond regular content creators, we generally recommend four things:

  1. Make the brief as open as possible.Avoid overwhelming participants with technical and branding requirements. Instead highlight on what is aspirational about the value proposition of the product or brand, something to which anyone could relate.
  2. Supply brand materials to use.By giving participants examples, images or design elements and a bit of direction, they’re more likely to deliver the tone of creative execution you’re seeking.
  3. Go beyond a simple cash incentives. Offering a significant cash incentive can go a long way in activating participation, but offering special awards that are uniquely relevant to your consumers can attract the desired creator audience.
  4. Invite fans to judge the best crowd work. Another way to reach consumers who may not be content creators is to ask them to choose the best work for you. Create an opportunity for them to comment on and vote for their favorite work to increase engagement online.
About Author

About Author

Priti Ambani

Priti Ambani is the Global Media Director at Crowdsourcing Week, a thought leader and prominent writer on social and environmental enterprises, start-ups and Web 2.0 businesses. As the Director and Managing Editor of Ecopreneurist, Priti has been instrumental in growing the site into a notable social business resource.Specializing in her ability to work with impact organizations from the ground up, Priti has developed successful business and communications strategies for fledgling start-ups, social and environmental enterprises. She also serves as a sustainability consultant at GreenDen consultancy and advises on CSR and the triple bottom line. Priti is a Professional Engineer and holds a Master’s degree in Biological Resources Engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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