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Ideas for the Making

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Dave Evans, president of NuIdeaExchange, an online service that connects marketers with a la carte agency intelligence, is banking on behavioral change. Evans, a 30-year veteran of several Dallas agencies, is hoping a confluence of industry trends will prove the new business, a virtual marketplace for ideas, will help create a fresh model for the future.

Just out of beta testing this month, the site matches clients and creatives, what the site calls "seekers" and "thinkers." Marketers looking for specific services can post their requests for proposals, anonymously if they choose. Creatives can respond to specific RFPs or sift through their personal catalogs of ideas that were never produced and upload them into the "nuideabank," where their work could be used in exchange for a royalty fee. RFPs on the site at press time include Web site development for an equity firm, an infomercial for a new skin-care product and a direct-sales piece.

The idea for the online service, says Evans, grew out of his industry experience, which includes his current position as president of Irving, Texas-based agency Numantra. Recognizing that the best solution to a problem may not always come from within a company's own walls, NuIdeaExchange was formed as a separate corporation with venture funding and aims to provide all the services that an agency would, including research and media planning, virtually. Currently, it has more than 200 registered "thinkers" and 30 "seekers."

"There are probably a number of times when we could be delivering for our clients an approach that might allow them to look at things a little differently, utilizing creative talent outside of the agency," says Evans. "We want to take the concepts around crowd sourcing and the changing behavior patterns there as a better way to offer services to marketers than at a traditional agency."

Evans isn't alone in predicting the climate is ripe for alternative solutions. The last decade has seen clients more willing to parcel out projects than long-term partnerships. Agencies and clients have opened up their ideation process to include more disciplines, both from within their own companies and outside, and in recent years have even gone straight to consumers for their most expensive advertising buys, such as the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. And in today's Web 2.0 world, the net is being cast even wider, with ideas culled from around the globe.

A four-year-old London-based company, OpenAd.net, has gained significant traction in this space, growing its online community of creatives to 11,000 people from 125 countries. The company has hosted RFPs for clients such as Procter & Gamble, which used the community last fall to gather ideas for its Gillette Fusion razor for Puerto Rico, and Diageo, which commission a localized responsible-drinking campaign for the Phoenix market during Super Bowl XLII. "It's a model that is universally applicable," says Katarina Skoberne, managing director and co-founder of the four-year old company, which began in Slovenia. "It's being called the eBay of advertising."

And like eBay, where consumers seek coveted items at bargain-basement prices, professional creative services like NuIdeaExchange.com and OpenAd.net, and others such as GeniusRocket.com, which offers more "consumer"-created solutions, offer marketers cost-effective solutions from the convenience of their desktops. Marketers can post an open call for ideas with the offer of a cash award, a flat fee or their own pricing. Although creatives can participate on both sites at no cost, Openad works on a subscription model, charging marketers a yearly fee to join (packages vary depending on how many briefs are posted, how many categories of gallery work are accessed, etc.). NuIdeaExchange charges clients 3 percent of the final amount the marketer is to pay a creative for the assignment.

In addition to posting online RFPs, clients can also browse through uploaded work of registered creatives to buy concepts that have not made it through to production. "You have a number of things that happen on a daily basis that translate into unused ideas," says NuIdeaExchange's Evans, describing the typical campaign pitch that usually brings three options to the table. "Of course the client usually uses one, so there are two unused ad concepts. Within those concepts there are pretty strategic ideas. We wanted to have a place where the creative community could get those significant conceptual elements produced."

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