In a recent crowdsourcing campaign airline Transavia asked the consumer to come up with a new slogan for the company – the prize: one year of free travelling around Europe and your slogan on a plane. An impressive 110,000 slogans were submitted. But to everyone’s surprise the top 10 nominated slogans were ridiculously bad. All of them were lame, hollow, and generic. Among them: “A good story”, “The choice of Holland”, and “We fly for you”. The eventual winner “Makes you happy” only makes some sense when referring to the fact that it made me laugh out loud.

This campaign is a strong example of bad advertising. Not because it didn’t create rumour around the brand, cause it did – though a fair amount of negative rumour. What is really sad about this campaign is that Transavia doesn’t have a clue what its own position in the market is. Why would Transavia make me happy? It is a low cost carrier, which automatically means the product and service is limited; there’s a minimum of leg room, you don’t get a drink (let alone a newspaper), and the airline buys the cheapest airport slots so that you have to fly at 6 in the morning. That’s not making me happy.

What is really sad about this campaign is that Transavia doesn’t have a clue what its own position in the market is

The only reason why Transavia could make me happy is that it’s cheap and it’s getting me out of Holland. But that’s exactly what every cheap ticket in the market does. If KLM offers me a similar deal, I’m just as happy to fly with them. In fact, since KLM offers more service, I’d rather fly with them. Transavia crowdsourced itself a slogan that doesn’t tell me anything about the brand.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against crowdsourcing. We all know that the crowd – when managed properly – is a smarter and more creative bunch than some of the best specialists. You can ask the crowd to create an encyclopaedia that in accuracy borders an old school encyclopaedia – created solely by experts. And even the FBI, extensively trained to solve complicated murder cases, recently asked the crowd to solve a puzzle in the form of an encrypted note found on a dead body.

We all know that the crowd – when managed properly – is a smarter and more creative bunch than some of the best specialists

The problem with this campaign is that even Transavia doesn’t know what it is looking for. So it basically asks the consumer to articulate its brand essence. But the average consumer is not a marketer, strategist, conceptor, and writer – all at the same time. So if you want some useful output, you better write a proper briefing. Even in the ‘real’ advertising world it works like that. What’s more, the average consumer is not extremely creative. So if you want an above average slogan, it needs to be lucrative for me to participate. One year of free travelling is not lucrative; it will only cost me money. So next time when using the crowd for commercial purposes, remember: you pay peanuts you’ll get monkeys.