Crowdsourcing is starting to get agencies a little hot under the collar.

Once considered a cultish Web 2.0 concept for niche design, it has entered the mainstream zeitgeist big time. Why now? Well we already know that it takes a while for the rumbles of the underground to reach the lofty altitude of big time Adland…but when it hurts their billings the culprit gets a direct line to God.

So when you see agencies such as Lowe London being dropped like a hot potato after 16 years in favour, for the client’s idea to crowdsource its ad campaign (like Unilever did last month), you know the Suits are starting to panic.

Unilever’s comp for its Peperami account is nothing new. Doritos started dabbling in the crowd with its multi-million dollar Superbowl competition and over the last year LG, BMW and Red Bull have also gone down a similar path.

But its not always some dilettante creative stacking shelves at Walmart Indiana that wins, often its small agencies that may not have ever had a look in for a pitch to a major brand.

In the case of BMW, which used, the winner was the founder of a South African digital agency called Urbian. He pocketed US $3k for his pitch and no doubt an instant entry into the BMW global marketing lair.

But while big brands dipping their toe into the sea of the crowd seems ‘cute’, now the question is, will the result create a tidal wave away from using the traditional agency model forever?

For an industry where creativity is the real currency, crowdsourcing unleashes the beast of untapped creativity on a scale that the well-groomed marketing departments of big brands have never had access to before. And with no overhead and little cost.

What they do lose out on though is a commitment to the brand, the company and the fostering of an ongoing creative relationship. Passion, creativity and commitment can’t be crowdsourced as easily as an idea.

And thrown into the mix are questions of, “Who’s work is this really?” Stories filter through agency land, both from indie and top-end of town agencies, of over worked, strung-out creatives drinking from the (crowd)source before a big pitch. “It’s back-up,” they say, but how soon before it becomes a lazy practice? Imagine if the client actually likes that last minute idea? Does an agency owner really want it drifting out that the latest award winning campaign was actually a product of 17-year-old design student in Tunisia?

It may be easy for a web designer in Istanbul to put a template of elements together with some innovation but ensuring that those elements have a technical foundation, future proofing and flexibility that meets the need of the client is not so easy to spec without the back and forth of client-agency relations.

And if the relationship does continue, well, be careful what you wish for. What you thought was a gorgeous (but slightly cheap) Russian bride might end up being a case of playing Russian roulette with your brand and design integrity.