People’s Insights Volume 1, Issue 36: LoudSauce


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What is LoudSauce?

LoudSauce is a crowdfunding platform that funds advertising for social good. People upload video, print & outdoor ads and pledge money, and LoudSauce organizes the media buy and publishes the ads.

San Francisco Bay Billboard Campaign (via loudsauce.com)

 Termed the ‘Kickstarter’ of grassroots advertising by GigaOm blogger Barb Darrow, LoudSauce has enabled 2,304 pledges of $131,045 for 35 campaigns, and the crowdfunded ads have reached 30 million people.

The campaigns are further amplified by media coverage and online mentions. Several campaigns received mainstream coverage, including: the Occupy TV spots, and the ‘See you in Greece’ billboard in NYC Times Square.

Excerpt from LoudSauce infograph (via bit.ly/LoudGraph)

Giving a voice to concerned citizens

Advertising was previously limited to deep-pocket corporate advertisers. LoudSauce was founded with the vision to give voice to individuals and small organizations. As a Triple Pundit blogger pointed out:

“The offering is targeted toward individuals, artists, and organizations that have something important to say but do not have the means necessary to reach millions.”

Blogger and social activist Jeremy Williams highlighted the potential for good:

“Most of us can’t afford a billboard. But if we got together with like-minded people and each chipped in a bit, perhaps we could use just a small part of the advertising network for something positive.”

Indeed, individuals and organizations have used LoudSauce to stand up for causes they believe in, connect with like-minded people and drive change. Here’s a comment from LoudSauce donor Rebecca Petzel:

“I would love to see a LoudSauce campaign to get billboards and commercials highlighting the corporate money in the no on prop 37 campaign… or just a pro prop 37 campaign. Do we have any friends who are working in this field? I would even give more than my standard $5 :)”

Up Greek Tourism ad using pictures of 333 amplifiers (via nytimes.com)

As Yorgos Kleivokiotis, organizer of the Up Greek Tourism campaign on LoudSauce, commented:

“Governments are trying to find solutions, but we as individuals should not wait, we need to help ourselves.”

When earned media doesn’t work

Several people have used LoudSauce in situations when a story was not large or exciting enough for journalists to pick up, and when earned media would not be able to reach the desired number of people.

Journalist Denise Tejada interviewed Marti Roach, one of the organizers for the Occupy TV ad, on why she chose LoudSauce:

 “According to Roach, the purpose of the ad is to raise awareness regarding the positive developments that are coming out of the occupy movement. She also says the occupy movement is so large and can be hard to understand, so it’s important to direct people to these solutions so they have a better understanding of the movement.”

Heath Wickline, an independent consultant who organized a successful LoudSauce campaign for NGO Uniting NC, shared his experience with earned media:

“One area where things didn’t quite go as expected was with earned media. Despite some concerted outreach to local press and bloggers in North Carolina, we couldn’t get folks to cover the campaign for the billboards. Several reporters told us that they thought the billboards themselves were the real story, and that they’d consider covering them when they were up.”

Indeed, many campaigns received coverage only after their LoudSauce ads went live (see point #3 in this blog post).

Reaching new audiences

Bloggers, activists and LoudSauce users agree that the platform helps them reach out to large audiences, many of whom would not seek out the causes on social media, and to increase their support community.

Blogger Beth Buczynski pointed out the importance of reaching new crowds:

“Most of these [social media] outlets require people to “opt in” to receive updates and invites. This means that for the most part, organizations with the ability to catalyze social and environmental change end up preaching to the choir.

The people who really need to hear, read, and see these messages are those who would never sign up for a newsletter about economic inequality or watch a YouTube video about climate change.”

Uniting NC billboard campaign in North Carolina (via hwickline.com)

Heath Wickline shared his NGO’s success in increasing leads via their LoudSauce campaign:

More than half of those who donated through the LoudSauce platform were new supporters of the organization. Those individuals’ email addresses represented a 5% increase in the size of Uniting NC’s list, and every one of them connected with the organization for the first time as a donor.”

Money where your mouth is

Crowdfunding platforms are increasingly popular as people have begun to do more than talk about and like causes they are passionate about. People are using their money to shape the world they live in.

As Heath Wickline observed:

“LoudSauce’s users are putting their money where their mouths are by crowdfunding ads from good causes that highlight smart ideas, get people thinking, and change hearts and minds.”

Colin Mutchler, founder of LoudSauce, explained this trend:

“Crowdfunding is often motivated by a desire to be involved in something worthwhile, and to feel the pride of giving to a good cause. We’re shaping what things are worth by spending our money in this way.”

Empowering only those with money?

Some bloggers pointed out that crowdfunding does not highlight the voice of everyone, but only those with money. As blogger Micaela Samodelov noted:

“The downside to the democratic aspect of crowdfunding is that participants have to vote with their dollars. The ads funded, or elected, reflect the interests of people who can afford to spend more.”

Others argue that crowdfunding is a community-engagement process. Joe Brewer argued this at length in his blog post, Why Crowdfunding isn’t Really about Money:

 “Yes, there must be money pledged by fans. And the amount of money raised needs to be sufficient for achieving the goals set out initially by the project’s host. But the central action centers around meaningful engagement that empowers the crowd to create something new. This is why crowdfunding has so much potential for “game changers” in the arena of social movements. It is a fundamentally empowering process that engages people in meaningful action.”

Crowdfunding shouldn’t replace other efforts

Activists warn that funding an advertisement is good to create awareness for a specific cause, but not a solution to broader societal issues.  As Jonathon Rutherford commented:

“Given our situation [LoudSauce] (like so many other things) is largely a waste of time and energy in my view. The best thing concerned activists can do to save the planet and create a more just world, is build the local non-market alternatives economies/institutions in the towns and suburbs where they live.”

Micaela Samodelov pointed out that people should continue to support efforts and organizations that are tackling these issues:

“Funding a LoudSauce campaign may represent a good alternative to using disposable income to buy some unnecessary and unsustainable consumer product…but a donation for a non-commercial advertisement should not replace broader support for organizations working toward social justice, environmental sustainability, or countless other worthy causes.”

Limited potential?

While several people agreed with the potential of LoudSauce in reaching wider audience, most agree that the platform is best suited to bringing about change at a local level. As Jeremy Williams wrote:

“It’s futile to see [LoudSauce] as a big solution. But for a specific issue in a local area, I think it could be powerful. It’s one tool among many, and no substitute for actually building the alternatives.”

Others point out that the potential of crowdfunded ads is limited, since billboard companies can and have refused to run the more controversial ads. One such campaign targeted Senator Scott Brown in Boston, and was banned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

Banned on the Boston subway, these ads made an appearance on bicycles (via loudsauce.com)

While the Boston campaign was promoted using bicycle ads as an alternative, not all campaigns have found creative solutions. As Byron Smith pointed out:

“Here and there, an occasional campaign may have tactical advantage in using these options, but the benefits are limited. Witness the attempt to SumOfUs in the US recently to respond to the Heartland mass murderer billboard with a campaign of their own on the same billboards… The billboard company refused to run it, saying that they won’t run anything that is critical of corporations who are also their customers.”

Role in election

Some bloggers believe that LoudSauce can play a role in amplifying the voice of the crowds in the upcoming presidential elections. $194 million has already been spent by the Super PACs this year.

As former LoudSauce campaign manager, Caroline Henderson, commented on Facebook:

“I’m beginning to see how the crowd can take back the conversation from Super-PACs and the super wealthy.”

Blogger Barb Darrow of GigaOm.com noted:

“As the rhetoric of this election year heats up, there will be more ads. But for anyone who is not a Koch brother or a gigantic company but wants to be heard will probably need help with funding. That’s where LoudSauce fits in.”

Future of media & advertising?

As people debate the impact LoudSauce can make on society, some have begun to consider and discuss the possibility of more advertisements that reflect the voice of people and not just messages of consumerism.

A blogger at Springwise commented that such advertising is overdue:

“Big media has had control over the advertising space for such a long time, isn’t it time consumers had some say over what gets shown?”

Advertiser Michael Caissie found the concept inspiring:

“This is the kind of idea that many, I mean many agencies should start offering. I work in advertising and my goal is to make a more human way of communication and this concept of ideas coming from the public is almost to me revolutionary. Talking about potential.”

Social entrepreneur Connie Kwan put forward the golden question:

“Is it possible to transform advertising from a medium of consumerism to one of citizen participation?”

*

(MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.


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As an example, 50+ thinkers and planners within MSLGROUP share and discuss inspiring projects on corporate citizenship, crowdsourcing and storytelling on the MSLGROUP Insights Network. Every week, we pick up one project and do a deep dive into conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — to distill insights and foresights. We share these insights and foresights with you on our People’s Insights blog and compile the best insights from the network and the blog in the iPad-friendly People’s Lab Quarterly Magazine, as a showcase of our capabilities.

As you can imagine, we can bring the same innovative approach to help you distill insights and foresights from conversations and communities. To start a conversation on how we can help you win with insights and foresights, write to Pascal Beucler at pascal.beucler@mslgroup.com.)

Nidhi Chimnani

Nidhi Chimnani

Nidhi is Director of Research and Insights at MSLGROUP. She tracks digital consumer trends for People’s Insights and is community manager of MSLGROUP’s insights community SPRINT. Tweet her at @nidhichimnani

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