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What Advertisers Say about UGM

Dawn Anfuso
What Advertisers Say about UGM Dawn Anfuso

What's your approach/attitude toward user-generated media? Have you embraced it? If yes, how? If not, what will it take to get your clients involved with it?

Christine Bensen, Vice President, Media, Modem Media:
This is an incredible opportunity to learn and share with customers. We have definitely embraced the idea of UGM; honestly you have to in order to be a marketing agency in 2006. However, we are approaching UGM cautiously. This is not because we are afraid of the mechanism itself, but because we are cognizant of potentially intruding on a communication trend before it is ready for advertising.

Stephen D. Kempisty, Director, Business Development, Flatiron Media:
I have experience with it as the advertiser from my past role at another organization. It can be an effective way to reach new consumers and it can also be a way to advertise in highly targeted content.

Lee Slovitt, Media Supervisor, Heartbeat Digital:
Yes I have embraced it, but it varies by client. Some are willing to try it out and others are not. It will take a lot more education and more safeguards from the sites.

Jason Weidner, Director of Performance Marketing, Refinery:
I believe it is the future of the internet. Yes, I have embraced it personally with my own blog and MySpace account. Professionally, blog development is a core recommendation from our agency.

Michael J. Konowicz, VP Integrated Strategy, MarketSource IMS:
User-generated media is a fad that comes and goes with time. User-generated content should always be factored into a brand's strategy-- inbound dialogue can help craft new products, improve existing ones or alter the way a business maintains/grows success. However, a brand marketer and its agency should never put consumers in the driver's seat of their marketing strategy. Consumer dialogue is meant to enhance marketing, not replace it. I think some brands are jumping on the user-generated content bandwagon too aggressively, leaving Marketing/Advertising 101 principals behind. And there's also other brands that are equally ignorant of consumer content, and do nothing to incorporate consumer thoughts and opinions. Marketers must find the happy medium between the two and engage consumers with an efficient two-way dialogue. Anything more or less and you expose yourself to business risk.

Erik Harbison, Director of Performance Marketing, Refinery:
We view UGM as a strategic piece of a campaign/site's overall presence. We are in the process of helping a client implement this within their site; however, because of its infancy we are in a holding pattern with legal. We want to make sure that the proper monitoring system is in place and that fair and reasonable expectations are set.

What are the benefits and risks of UGM?

Christine Bensen, Vice President, Media, Modem Media:
I am not sure that we are far enough along to have identified many of these yet. However, there is definite appeal in finding an extremely vocal "consumer credible" marketing channel who is willing to talk about your brand without being compensated. The downside, of course, is that they may or may not say what you want them to about your company and/or its products/services.

Bryan Wiener, President, 360i
There are many benefits:

  • It engages consumers as active participants with the brand.

  • It provides content that can be optimized, creating a broader footprint in search engines.

  • Often UGM content is of a viral nature; it facilitates organic traffic growth.

  • It increases the base of registered users, especially if there's a community aspect.

The risks include opening yourself up to negative feedback and having to play the role of censor. Depending on the scope of the UGM program, it could require extensive staff resources to monitor the content.

Stephen D. Kempisty, Director, Business Development, Flatiron Media:
I know this will sound like a cop-out, but sometimes it is good, and sometimes it is bad. If you are comfortable with the risk you face when exposing your brand to this type of media and the attention it can garner, then it can perform well for you. If you are risk-averse, stay away. There are always ways to make sure that you minimize the risk that you will face (GM received criticism for this with a recent promotion, but was still able to capitalize on the trend).

Lee Slovitt, Media Supervisor, Heartbeat Digital:

  • The traffic is immense (MySpace); they have great reach into a demo that many advertisers want to hit.

  • The risk is that you are never more than a click or two away from profanity/sexual content, et cetera.

Jason Weidner, Director of Performance Marketing, Refinery:
For top marketers: control and moderation. It is a fundamental change in believing the company controls the brand as opposed to users/consumers controlling the brand. The risk is control; the benefit is true partnership with consumers.

Michael J. Konowicz, VP Integrated Strategy, MarketSource IMS:
User-generated media can lead credibility to a brand. There's no better advocate of a brand than a consumer who communicates effectively and positively about a product or service. However, that power can backfire-- and there's nothing worse than a consumer who can manipulate the media to communicate effectively and negatively about a product or service. The rewards must be weighed with the risks.

Erik Harbison, Director of Performance Marketing, Refinery:

  • Provides your consumer with an outlet; allowing them to feel more connected to your brand

  • Provides additional, relevant content for your site; resulting in greater opportunity for success in organic rankings


  • Without proper monitoring, brand is at risk for negative feedback from consumers… brands must be aware of the downsides before entertaining UGM as an option.



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