It was bound to happen. As the size and scale of crowd-funded projects continues to expand, so too does the need for aspiring Kickstarters and IndieGoGoers to market themselves more effectively. Now agency Fallon, Minneapolis wants to help. The ad agency has created the Fallon Starter Kit, offering crowd-funding hopefuls the same in-house creative assets and marketing know-how the agency traditionally saves for major brands like Arby's, H&R Block, and Under Armour.
Not too long ago, Kickstarter was a place you could go and fund a quirky new graphic novel project, an aspiring musician's new record or an art installation. Creative ideas, earnestly pitched. Then, projects like Pebble came along and changed everything. Now the crowd-funding site was not only a place for eclectic artistic pursuits but mass produced consumer products. Next thing you know, celebrities and established Hollywood names like Zach Braff, Spike Lee and Rob Thomas were using it to fund major movie projects.
On one hand, Kickstarter puts the idea of Hollywood stars and everyday people on a level playing field—letting the contributing audience decide what deserves backing. But often, the difference between meeting your financial goals for a project and not is how you sell the idea to that audience. And chances are, that video shot on your phone won't have quite the same sizzle as the equipment and expertise available to the makers of Veronica Mars.
The idea for the Fallon Starter Kit came after a few of the agency's creatives helped the owners of Robbinsdale, MN restaurant Travail create a Kickstarter campaign for its new building. It raised nearly $256K to became the most successful restaurant Kickstarter ever. Starter Kit, says Fallon director of innovation Marty Wetherall, "started with a sudden realization that crowdfunding campaigns need everything that we do—smart strategy, effective storytelling, community management—and that all the coolest new ideas I was seeing were springing up on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. If we could find a way to help those ideas before they launched their campaigns, when they could use us the most, we'd be able to shape tomorrow's hit brands before they happened. With crowdfunding, good marketing actually unlocks the ability to make (the product), rather than being an afterthought. Travail was simply an ideal opportunity to prove that we could do it while helping a business we loved."
It's an intriguing concept. For years, agencies have been talking about and trying to establish their own intellectual property. The growth of Kickstarter presents agencies with a unique opportunity. The Starter Kit's compensation model is tied to success, whether a percentage of funds raised or—more interestingly—a small equity stake in the finished project or product.
An ad agency offering its services to the crowd-funding masses adds marketing muscle to Kickstarter's reputation as a meritocracy of ideas. For the agency it could be an effective way to cultivate its in-house talent. But more to the point, depending on how successful its Kickstarter clients are, this could eventually become a contributor to the agency's bottom line.
The Fallon team will be looking as much for the people behind the idea as the idea itself, says Wetherall, and will interview prospective "clients."
"We'll be looking for clients who have a great story to tell and a unique position that they intend to occupy in their market," says agency CEO Mike Buchner. "We're investing our time and resources, so like any investor, we have to do our homework to ensure that we're placing the right bets on the right companies."
Or, as agency chief creative officer Jeff Kling sums up: "We're backing the doers. Everywhere. The doers under our own roof, clients who do, and people making the future. Generative energy everywhere. Let's do, and do good. Let's party."