Monday, October 24, 2011

Obama creating jobs by putting creatives out of work?

Adland brought to my attention a truly ironic move by US President Obama's 2012 re-election team: unpaid crowdsourcing for a new campaign promoting job growth.

From the Art Works site:

"Obama for America is seeking poster submissions from artists across the country illustrating why we support President Obama's plan to create jobs now, and why we'll re-elect him to continue fighting for jobs for the next four years.

Your poster can address the broader themes of the President's plan or pinpoint a specific aspect, from supporting small businesses to rebuilding roads and bridges for the 21st century. For more on the desired specs, read the creative brief.

We'll pick the 12 best submissions received by November 4th, 2011, then put the finalists to a vote. Three winners will receive a framed print of their poster signed by President Obama and a limited edition of their poster will be sold in the campaign store."

Here are a couple of gems from the "Creative Brief":

"You hereby represent and warrant that all equipment, materials, and facilities used to produce your poster are owned by you and were not provided by a corporation, labor union, foreign national, or federal contractor. Any disposable materials purchased specifically to produce the poster will be treated as in-kind contributions to Obama for America."

I'm sure this one is being violated repeatedly by people who cannot afford to have their own equipment outside of the office.

"All submissions will become property of Obama for America."

And for all that, here's what you win:

"Three (3) winners will receive the following prize: A framed copy of the Poster (defined below) signed by Barack Obama and all or part of the winner's Poster will be used and displayed on Sponsor's website and/or in other Sponsor advertising or promotional material (to be determined in Sponsor's sole discretion) associated with Sponsor's political advertising efforts (approximate retail value: $195)."

When a country's economy goes bad, the marketing industry — including ad and design creatives — is the canary in the coal mine. Companies in trouble tend to cut marketing budgets early on as they struggle to reduce the bleeding. Agencies lose revenue, then lay people off (or even shut their doors).

There is nothing creative professionals hate more than a paid work opportunity being given over to free crowdsourcing. The Obama campaign is well-funded, too — Adland says they have "$60 million cash on hand in campaign funding".

Creating jobs means supporting professionals who depend on a certain trade for a living. But this contest asks ll entrants to give away their work for free even if they don't get any credit for it. By undermining the value of concept and design, the Obama campaign has thumbed its nose at one of the USA's most celebrated industries.

And when you piss off creatives, you can get some very creative responses.


  1. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. All politicians, no matter what, are scum.

  2. The might be stupid, but there's nothing evil here. I see two outcomes:

    1. They're right and they get good creative for free, in which case your industry needs to reevaluate the kinds of additional value it provides to its customers.

    2. They're wrong, and your industry is vindicated for its current service model.

    I make my living as a consultant by giving customers advice, but I'm not concerned that there are gazillions of blogs giving general IT advice, as well as web sites (like StackOverflow) dedicated to free one-on-one advice. If I can't do better than them for my specific customers, I don't deserve to be paid.

  3. The problem, David, is not that there are people willing to give away design. It is the symbolic undermining of an economic sector by a politician with the irony of making it about creating quality jobs. It would be like using non-union talent in TV ads that were pandering to the labour vote. Bad karma.