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A Tool, Now In Alpha, To Crowd-Hack Advertising

BY Nick Judd | Monday, November 29 2010

Imagine a world where you and 1,000 of your closest friends could chip in to buy a television spot for the cause of your choice.

That's the goal of LoudSauce, a website that wants to be a Kickstarter for traditional advertising buys. In its alpha release, LoudSauce has already almost fully funded the placement of a film teaser for The Story of Stuff during "Hoarders" on the A&E channel, according to its front page as of this writing, and is well on its way to getting all the money necessary to place environmentally themed posters on bus stop shelters throughout San Francisco.

Think of it as making it easier for everyday people to make cultural assertions the same way advertisers already do. Instead of an assertion like, "wearing Calvin Klein underwear will be flattering to your washboard abs," or "enormous sunglasses are so in right now, go buy some," Loudsauce's creators want to give people the opportunity to insert social messages into public life instead.

"Wouldn't it be cool if there was more meaningful content, that I could help shape, that would show up in places like on television?" Colin Mutchler, the site's co-founder, asked me during a phone interview Monday.

It's that spirit that will motivate the campaigns that are allowed to go up on the site, he said. While Loudsauce might eventually help put together the content of the ads, it is limited for now to campaigns that already have their own advertising materials. That made both the Story of Stuff and Green Patriot Posters, the posters going up in San Francisco, appealing candidates for this alpha test, Mutchler said — they both have their own advertising creative ready-made.

If LoudSauce sounds like it's left-leaning, that's not surprising. Mutchler said that most of the team working on the site are political progressives, but LoudSauce will stay away from political campaigns.

"If we do that in the beginning we will quickly be pigeonholed as, you know, MoveOn," Mutchler said, "and I think our vision is broader than that."

I asked him if he was giving people the opportunity to organize themselves for involvement in the culture war. He invoked a recent interview with Jeff Chang, the co-founder of Colorlines, and retorted that he was interested in change, not war.

In that interview with Colorlines' Jamilah King, Chang said:

Obama’s 2008 election marked the culmination of a cultural shift—the arrival of a new cultural majority—that he does not yet seem to grasp.

Culture always moves before politics. Think of how Jackie Robinson’s Major League debut preceded Brown vs. Board of Education, or how Ellen Degeneres’ coming-out preceded court rulings on same-sex marriage and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” Cultural change is often the dress-rehearsal for political change. Or put in another way, political change is the final manifestation of cultural shifts that have already occurred.

Sadly most progressives—whether they work in electoral politics or movement politics—have not yet figured culture into their theory of change. Unlike the right, they have no cultural strategy.

Mutchler described the site as being less of a tool for conflict.

"A lot of the political conversations are very destructive," Mutchler told me. "It's a lot about us and them, conflict ... I'm interested in facilitating a constructive dialogue."

He also said that LoudSauce was far from ready for prime time.

"This is the first time we're trying this, obviously we've had the hypothesis for a while," he told me. "It's our first attempt to test whether or not people really will be willing to chip in money to buy ad space for stuff they care about."

Mutchler, who has worked at the ad agency R/GA and still has a day job at a brand marketing firm, according to LoudSauce's website, said this new project should move into beta in January or February.

(via Brainpickings)