Why Vaughan Emsley Left an Old School Ad Giant for Tongal’s Crowdsourced Creative

Vaughan Emsley spent a quarter century with venerable advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi, rising from director of Pampers for Europe and the Middle East to become the EVP in charge of its global business with Procter & Gamble, which spent $8.29 billion on advertising in fiscal 2015.

But life at the top of the old school ad game eventually lost its luster for Emsley. Inspired by a health crisis two years ago, he began looking to make a professional change, and, this month, he settled on Tongal, joining the company in the newly-created role of head of strategy and client development.

“What attracted me was it wasn’t five or a ten percent shift from what I’d been doing before, it was a really radical shift,” Emsley told VideoInk. “[Tongal is] raising the question of can technology disrupt the way in which agencies work, ideas are generated and films are made, and I thought that in itself was a fascinating question to get involved with.”

Like a big advertising firm, Tongal produces marketing campaigns, digital and social advertising, TV commercials and other original content for big name brands like LEGO, Johnson & Johnson, Mattel, P&G and General Motors. But instead of sourcing ideas from in-house creatives or a select group of high-priced production companies, Tongal calls on its virtual network of 120,000 writers, filmmakers and animators from 150 countries around the world.

A brand posts an online brief on the Tongal site outlining what it’s looking for, the community submits ideas, winning ideas are chosen, and the winners get paid a fee. Then directors give their pitch on how to bring the story ideas to life with storyboards, location photos, talent, scripts, etc. Winning pitches are selected and given a guaranteed budget, the projects are shot, and the brands select which videos to use in their campaigns.

For Emsley, the shift to Tongal may have been radical, but he said it didn’t require him to adopt a new, more casual wardrobe (“They stopped wearing suits at the big agencies in about 2001,” he said) or unlearn any old habits.

“I would argue that Tongal is rediscovering what the industry has unlearned,” said Emsley, who’ll divide his time between his home base in New York City and Tongal’s Santa Monica, Ca., headquarters. “The way Tongal operates from a cultural point of view and what drives them in terms of great storytelling and great human truths is closer to the way the industry was 30 years ago than to what it is now. So, for me, this is actually a little bit of a journey back in time. It’s both new and reassuring at the same time.”

Rob Salvatore[1]

According to Rob Salvatore (pictured, left), co-founder and CEO of Tongal, the company gets a boost from the enthusiasm of its community members.

“Work is not assigned, it’s opted into,” observed Salvatore. “They’re not only seeking out the opportunity to be discovered and to earn, a lot of them are coming forth to specific campaigns because they really like the creative assignment and/or love the brand that is putting the work out there. And we as a company feed off that energy.”

Although his new job is a trip back in time for Emsley some respects, working at the speed of Tongal has required a bit of adjustment.

“In the big agency world you might take two or three days to mull over things or longer,” said Emsley, who worked as a consultant with Tongal for six months before taking the job. “At Tongal, I’ve seen them get back to a client in the third of the time that it would take the agency to do it, and get to finished production in a quarter of the time the agency would tend to do it. The speed is phenomenal.”

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