How big brands can benefit from digital crowdsourcing

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, Thomas & Friends is chugging into new digital territory. It's reaching out to consumers through the digital crowdsourcing platform Tongal to create a documentary of the brand's past, present and future. Read on to find out how big brands like Thomas & Friends are benefiting from opening their creative projects to the public.
August 7, 2014

As kids are increasingly going online first for their entertainment, big brands are on the hunt for new ways to engage with and stay in front of their audiences. Enter Tongal, a digital crowdsourcing platform that lets brands interact with their fans while also getting something in return – access to a wider pool of creative talent.

The digital crowdsourcing platform lets anyone come up with new ideas for ad campaigns. It hosts creative challenges from sponsors, typically big brands like Lego, Kool-Aid, HIT Entertainment or Hasbro. The creative projects can be anything from ideas for TV commercials or music videos to graphic designs or product launches.

The winning submissions are offered monetary rewards, as are the individual filmmakers who sign up to produce the projects. In the end, the brand gets new original content, designed by a fan or artist instead of a traditional marketing agency.

Thomas & Friends is the latest kids brand to tap into the crowdsourcing platform’s community. To celebrate its 70th anniversary, it recently launched a campaign to come up with ideas for a documentary focusing on the past, present and future of the cheeky train engine. The project is set to announce the winners of the concept phase this afternoon.

Tongal founder James De Julio explains why more kid-geared brands are using the digital crowdsourcing platform to come up with content.

“These days, brands are realizing they need more than just market research to gauge the pulse of their audiences,” notes De Julio. “The best of them have learned that marketing is no longer a spectator sport – it’s participative. They seek to engage consumers and fans in a more direct way – now with social media and an increasingly connected world, we are able to do that much more effectively than ever before.”

“Kids are primarily getting their entertainment online, so brands need to find ways to keep staying in front of these audiences – and turning to your fans to help develop or steer content is a great way to do that,” says De Julio, noting that from the Thomas & Friends perspective, they can now tell the 70-year story through the eyes of fans – people who are personally familiar with the characters.

For the project, Thomas & Friends has allocated US$75,000, which includes US$60,000 for the first concept phase and another US$15,000 for adding animation and other elements to the video phase.

The beloved train-focused brand will tap into more than Tongal 50,000 users (called Tongalers), who regularly generate a variety of content including ideas, videos and original music for global brands. And it’s not just the veteran creatives contributing to the platform – young talent is also getting a start.

“Some of our community members come from entertainment studios and ad agencies,” says De Julio. “While others, such as 17-year-old Zach Boivin in Texas, are young aspiring filmmakers looking to make their name in the creative industry.”

Along with unique content, the crowdsourcing platform offers brands a more cost-effective route.

“I do think brands will increasingly look for ways to better engage with their audiences, and do so in a cost-effective way,” says De Julio. “Some will continue to use the traditional marketing or ad agency model, but forward-thinking companies and brands know this global talent pool exists and they can consistently generate some great broadcast or online content for a fraction of the cost that a bigger production would demand.”

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