Spec work. Design contests. Crowdsourcing. Does it really matter what label we hang on them? The dangers always remain the same. For years now, we’ve been barking about design contests, and their recently re-packaged cousin crowdsourcing, as an extremely risky way to have anything designed. By anybody. For anything. One of our major caveats is that clients and buyers always run the risk of purchasing copied work. Simple theory really, and a predictable problem when you ask a whole bunch of anonymous people to submit designs into a contest, without paying them to do so. Someone will always take a short cut, helping themselves to somebody else’s stuff. Maybe submit free vector art, downloaded from some obscure design blog. Maybe some stock art, pinched from iStock, Shutterstock or some other image library. If the design doesn’t win, no harm, no foul. If it does win, let’s just hope that nobody notices. This isn’t reactionary hand-wringing from some bedwetting designer either. It happens over, and over, and over again. I did, however, think that fan-based contests were pretty well immune to the “copying bug“. Rather than a potential way to may a couple of bucks (in this case Euros) in some $250 logo design contest, this is heady stuff for a product you’re supposed to love. Social medializing and all that. With the large prize money involved, and the personal identification that’s usually required, nobody would enter pinched material into a high-profile crowdsourced contest. Right? Oh, I dunno. Maybe you should ask Cadbury Chocolate.
Cadbury Chocolate €10,000 wrapper design contest
Curated by advertising giant Ogilvy Mather, the Dublin-based division of candy giant Cadbury, asked fans to design a wrapper for their Dairy Milk bar, jumping on the trendy ‘crowdsourcing’ bandwagon. Up for grabs was €10,000 (about $20K give-or-take), certainly a little more than chump change, which attracted a ton of entries from designers and non-designers alike. Judging of the design contest was web-based through Cadbury’s Facebook page, after the designs where whittled down to a final 5, and votes ran in the tens of thousands, with the two top entries garnering about twenty-five thou a pop. So far, so good. Alas, when the winner was introduced, it very quickly became apparent that the winning design bore an uncanny resemblance to someone else’s artwork. Facebook freaked out. The winning designer (we’re not going to mention her name) nuked her Facebook account and disappeared. Cadbury’s Twitter account was flooded with complaints, accusations and reports of plagiarism. Red faces all around no doubt. This morning, this very carefully worded comment was quietly added to The Apprentice contest website homepage.
I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this either, so we can label this story as developing. In the meantime, congrats going out to Paul Ruane, who’s now getting a little bit of the glory he should have had in the first place.
[Hat tip: Benjamin Royce. More details and comments at the link]