The 15-year-old kid who pulled in a cool $17K for creating videos for Lego will soon have to step aside. Tonight, Tongal, the Los Angeles-based crowdsourcing platform for video content for brands, announces the winner of its latest campaign. "The Force For Fun" project teamed up Pringles with blockbuster movie franchise Star Wars for a contest that Tongal’s president and cofounder James DeJulio says has been one of the most successful since the company’s quiet launch five years ago (see the winning entries in the slide show above).
The campaign called on creatives to develop a 30-second commercial tying the snack chips together with the Star Wars universe. A total of $75,000 in prize money will be distributed among seven finalists. The Tongal community submitted just over a thousand ideas. DeJulio says the quality and diversity of submissions surprised him. "My fear was Darth Vader," he confesses—and not because of the threat of a beam of the synth-crystal lightsaber. DeJulio explains that Lucasfilm originally intended to reshoot the winning commercial because "no one can do Darth." But the production value of 91 final video submissions changed everyone’s mind.
One finalist used household items to great effect, re-creating iconic scenes with cinnamon rolls for Princess Leia’s locks, a quilted sleep sack for a Jabba the Hut suit, and an exploding can of Pringles in the finale. The creators even shot an additional side-by-side video for die-hard fans to dissect the accuracy of the shots.
Big brands tapping the creativity and engagement of consumers isn’t new. Frito-Lay has used crowdsourcing for everything from the "Do Us A Flavor" campaign to bring Chicken and Waffles chips to market, to the "Doritos Crash the Super Bowl" effort, which features the best fan-made commercials for spots in the big game.
Tongal provides a go-between for big brands and independent creatives at all phases of process. They begin by getting together with the brand to determine the need, explains DeJulio, so the brief can be very specific. Then, in a twist on the traditional crowdsourcing formula, Tongal breaks up the campaigns by rounds with the best ideas advancing to completion. DeJulio underscores that this is designed to allow contributions from all types of creatives, "because not everyone is good at everything."
To that end, anyone is eligible to submit a 140-character idea for a commercial. The brand then pays out on its favorite five ideas (one of which was a 15-year-old first-time winner who won $250). Those ideas get pushed to the next round open to anyone to pitch how they’d execute a video based on one of them. Next comes the actual video round where the winning pitches get a budget from the brand to shoot the video. DeJulio notes that the Pringles-Star Wars "Force for Fun" campaign went live in December and took a full six months to evolve. "Creative people like time," he quips, "but they need deadlines." All the finalists receive cash prizes as well as 5% of the video prizes as a residual.
Though the take for winners varies from project to project, DeJulio maintains that unlike some other crowdsourcing platforms, participants can get consistent work through Tongal and some even make over six figures. "We want people to invest in their work," he says, even if it’s buying more tinfoil and Pringles cans to set up shots, "We make sure the prize is high enough to make it sustainable," he adds. "Are they profitable? I don’t know," DeJulio admits. Some are very particular about details, and the time spent could jack up the cost of production. Still, DeJulio believes that for those who emerge as winners, "I can’t imagine anyone not hiring them," if it is, indeed, full-time employment that they seek.
For Tongal, sustainability is just good business. The platform has doubled in growth every six months and snagged some choice brands such as Gain, Rit, Gillette, and Lego, among others. A Tongal ad even became a Super Bowl commercial last year for Speed Stick.
Are the Mad Men days over? Not yet. DeJulio sees campaigns like Pringles and Star Wars "Force for Fun" as just another way for creative folk to beam their ideas to the big brands and for those juggernauts to source fresh commercial fodder.