Crowdsourcing Creative

Tongal contest platform cuts out agencies

Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, made famous by its quirky Sasquatch ads, wants something different. Despite the success of “Messin’ With Sasquatch,” a series of TV spots created by Carmichael Lynch, the company wanted to look for more ways to continue engaging with a young, media-savvy audience. So Jack Link's called on an under-the-radar crowdsourcing platform called Tongal and its network of some 15,000 creative members.

Since its official launch 18 months ago, Tongal has asked its members—who range from brand enthusiasts to aspiring creative talent to video production professionals—to submit ideas for short video ads to hundreds of campaigns in partnership with brand advertisers. Their motivation for submitting ideas? Prize money of $15,000 to $25,000, provided by the brand to users who have contributed to a winning idea. The ideas are typically filtered by social media managers at the brand, then go through a “suggestion” phase. Eventually the brand chooses a Tongal member to make the commercial.

It’s a twist on the Doritos and Pepsi Max “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign, which offered prize money to brand enthusiasts who wrote and produced award-winning ads. Tongal facilitates collaboration, said President James DeJulio. The idea people get to work with execution people and eventually, with the brand. The prize money is typically distributed to 10 to 15 different members, and more importantly, “The people who are really good almost always get paid,” he said. More than 100 campaigns have come to fruition via Tongal.

Jack Link’s is one such brand. Its campaign on Tongal launched at the end of last week with a prize of $20,000 and deadline of June 30. Tongal expects around 500 ideas by the contest’s close. The “creative brief,” available on Tongal’s website, includes an all-caps, bolded Sasquatch caveat: Make ideas off-the-wall, but forget the Sasquatch. No more Sasquatch.

The brand relaunched its “Messin’ With Sasquatch” campaign last June after a two-year hiatus. The ads featured a somewhat dim Sasquatch on the receiving end of a series of “sophomoric yet well-known” pranks, Carmichael Lynch told Adweek.  The campaign “put the brand on the map” and “gave it a voice,” DeJulio said. Most importantly, the irreverence of the spots engaged a younger demographic that doesn’t respond to traditional marketing campaigns. Now, Jack Link’s wants to keep the momentum going with something new, and it's hoping that thing is online.

Carmichael Lynch is still the agency of record for Jack Link’s, DeJulio said. “But why keep going back to the same people when there are a billion people connected to you on the Internet? There has to be fresh ideas somewhere,” he added. 

DeJulio recognized that his service can cut out the need for creative agencies. Tongal works directly with brands, including Allstate Insurance, Benjamin Moore Paints, and Pop Chips. “We’re disruptive in the way that creative is usually getting sourced,” he said. No agency has expressed interest in working with Tongal; publicists like Weber Shandwick are more eager to partner up, DeJulio added.

In the instance of Jack Link's, Carmichael Lynch will work with the company to help it sort through submissions and choose a winning idea. "As we strike a big idea, Carmichael Lynch will take it forward," said Bret Ocholik, VP Marketing & Innovation at Jack Link's.

Update: This article was corrected to clarify the nature of the Jack Link's Tongal campaign and include the fact that Carmichael Lynch is involved.