Britney Alone”–style rants from celebrities’ fans, “Don’t Tase Me,
Bro”–level shenanigans of people in ridiculous situations, or scathing
spoofs of popular television commercials and brands.
It wasn’t long before marketers decided that if you can’t stop them,
embrace them—by providing consumers with the tools to craft com-
mercials for the chance to win prizes.
The idea: Entice hip young consumers to create their own videos
with the hope that the made-by-a-regular-Joe dynamic will build
interest outside the usual thirty-second spot, and that consumers will
email the homemade ads to their friends and build big-time buzz for
the brand. And today’s consumers seem more than happy to oblige.
“It’s a generational thing,” says Steven Amato, cofounder of Los
Angeles–based advertising-and-content studio Omelet. “It’s powerful
for brands, because it’s powerful for consumers. Consumers of today
don’t want to be advertised to—so much so that they would rather
make the ads themselves than sit back and have a passive experience
with the brand.”
The digerati like to call this kind of user-generated content (UGC)
the cutting edge, but it’s actually far from it.
“This label, ‘user-generated content,’ is new, but the concept dates
back to the origins of advertising in general, it’s as old as advertising
itself,” Norman Hayshar of Young & Rubicam recently told NPR,
adding that testimonials and jingle contests date back to the 1940s.
Indeed, for all the hype, user-generated content has been featured
on TV for nearly twenty years—in the form of ABC-TV’s America’s
Funniest Home Videos.
In Hayshar’s view, this new wave in UGC is being driven by two
forces: the popularity of YouTube, and the TV show American Idol.
“Mix these things together, and what you’ve really got is a creative
power-to-the-people movement that is reflected, as it always is, in the
culture in advertising.”
But it hasn’t been without its share of pitfalls.
Just ask Chevrolet.
WANT CONTROL? GIVE IT AWAY