Is it crowd sourcing? Or just an agency re-skin?

Harley Davidson worked with Victors and Spoils, a crowd sourcing agency in Colorado. The agency has set out its stall as a crowd sourcing agency, but with the familiar structure of a normal agency (to check the ideas are on strategy!). So they are a normal agency, but with a bigger stable of freelance creatives and a bit of technology for issuing briefs and sifting responses. Perception is always more important than reality… and the client has a great ad.

NEW YORK ( -- The first work from Harley-Davidson's new linkup with Boulder, Colo.-based crowdsourcing shop Victor & Spoils has debuted on YouTube.

The consumer-created spot is born of a new agency model the motorcycle maker adopted after parting with longtime agency Carmichael Lynch in August of last year. In November, it tapped Victors & Spoils to help with creative ideas, Starcom to handle media and Digitas to handle digital work.

The video, "No Cages," part of Harley's HD1 factory customization program in which buyers can design their own rides, will run on cable TV as part of a campaign bowing tomorrow. The idea came from a Kentuckian, Whit Hiler, described by Evan Fry, Victors & Spoils' chief creative officer, as a "passionate amateur." Mr. Hiler submitted the idea in response to the original call the shop made in September to get the attention of Harley Davidson and Mr. Richer.

Ad Age caught up with Harley Chief Marketing Officer Mark-Hans Richer by phone to discuss the new work.

Ad Age: Tell us about the ad.

Mr. Richer: We're really happy with the way it came out. "Cages" is a concept that comes out of the motorcycle lifestyle ... typically it meant no cars. But the crowd and Victors & Spoils took "cages" and make it more about liberation from your boring life. We liked that expansion of the idea -- it started with an insider motorcycle idea and they did a great job of finding a bigger idea. ...We think it validates our new creativity model, which is centered on sourcing ideas from customers or consumers through Victors & Spoils. We showed this work at a dealer show in Orlando and global dealers were high-fiving and [saying] it's terrific.

Ad Age: What are your plans for this work?

Mr. Richer: "No Cages" is a new campaign, it launches on Tuesday [Feb. 15]. It's tied to a new program, HD1, which is pretty radical. It's about factory customization -- you can go online and design your own Harley and get it in as little in four weeks. It's a big deal in our industry and even in automotive nobody can really do that. So this is not just a big product launch for us, but also a new campaign, though "No Cages" won't be limited to HD1.

Ad Age: When you hired V&S you were essentially hiring the "crowd." Were you nervous about whether the ideas would be good?

Mr. Richer: We're willing to take risks but you want to mitigate those. So we ran through the [V&S] process a couple times on some lower-level stuff ... put a couple lower-level creative briefs in the system to see what we'd get and were so impressed with the quality of that work, the expansiveness of the ideas that we became comfortable this would be a workable model. And then we brought other agencies into the mix once we had this core concept. We're working with Starcom on media and Digitas on web creative.

Ad Age: You mentioned a "new creativity model." What do you mean by that? How does that affect your agency relationships?

Mr. Richer: We have stricken the AOR [agency of record] phrase from our language. We work with lots of people, whether they're at agencies or otherwise and have moved past the idea that there's a lead agency. ... The majority of our marketing dollars are spent in experiential. We want powerful ideas that drive all of that and we've learned through this that those can come from this new model.

Ad Age: Is there other "No Cages" work to come?

Mr. Richer: We'll have print, a more traditional media mix. TV breaks [this] week -- it'll be mostly cable TV. And there'll be web video, lots of Hulu.

Ad Age: How did the relationship with V&S come to be? Didn't it all start with a tweet from V&S CEO John Winsor?

Mr. Richer: He tweeted and said, 'Hey Mark-Hans we're working on Harley-Davidson.' [Victors & Spoils announced on its blog in September that it had put out a brief to its crowd of creatives to come up with ideas for the Harley brand.] That became the first test -- he put a specific brief out there. I was intrigued with the model and surprised at how good it could actually be. Victors & Spoils has some talented people who can, as they call it, curate ideas.

We've all seen crowdsourcing in the Super Bowl. With us, it's not a promotional thing but an everyday philosophy we've had for a long time -- we are radically customer-led. A lot of marketers say that, but it's about how deep they want to get into that.


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