What do a major beer company, online flower business and large auto manufacturer have in common? They all have plans to integrate user-generated advertising into their 2007 marketing plans, of course.
Why "of course?" Well, in 2006, the theme was user-generated content (blogs, MySpace) and viral video sharing (YouTube). YouTube was arguably written about more ubiquitously than Google, which is probably one of the reasons they bought it. As a natural extension of this trend, there was nascent talk of user-generated advertising, including a well-publicized Chevy Tahoe campaign, and the industry waited to see if it took off as a formal part of brand-name marketing plans.
We'd submit that this coming year will be the inaugural year of user-generated advertising with marketers starting to put viral video sharing to formal and extensive use. This is a fantastic trend, and, if executed properly, will forever change the nature of the marketer/consumer relationship in a very positive way. It's time to take the excitement and passion of user-generated content as evidenced by YouTube and combine it with the discipline of online marketing.
So what does the marketer/consumer relationship look like today? I think it's pretty old news to everyone that consumers are inundated with marketing messages now more than ever, and common knowledge that it's becoming increasingly difficult for marketers to engage them. Even worse, there's no magic media buy anymore, as "Must-See TV" is a thing of the past.
What's not talked about as much is a secondary marketing challenge, which is that marketers don't really know who their most passionate and loyal consumers are. They might have an aggregate profile in mind, but they don't know specifically who their Top 100 Most Passionate Brand Champions are. And they do exist for many brands out there.
What if your most passionate users, equipped with a video camera and a little ingenuity, were able to create commercials at home that literally blew away the efforts of your Madison Avenue ad agency? This is aiming very high, of course, and if you selected this route, it's doubtless that many user submissions will need to be sifted through to find the diamond in the rough. Now, what if your ad agency was part of the process and roped in exciting new ideas from customers and helped you select, filter and bring-to-life these commercial spots?
Lately, with the growing shift towards greater consumer influence over media, marketers are starting to realize they may want to relinquish some of their control and embrace this new paradigm. Many are starting to consider that it's time to invite consumers to help shape the brand message because their voice can be the most authentic and credible.
Everyone agrees, YouTube is breaking barriers and causing a splash in the media world. But it's a little bit Wild West, which may appeal to its users but not necessarily the marketing/advertising world. They know they want to capitalize on the grassroots video trend (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em) and harness user passion and creativity-- but they're understandably a little gun-shy about giving the general public free reign with a brand they've taken years and millions of dollars to cultivate.
Marketers need to first find comfort in a standardized (yet customizable!) process that allows them to identify their most passionate users, solicit their advertising ideas, select the cream of the crop that works within the marketer's guidelines, and finally, encourage viral sharing.
Now, I know the objections already racing through your marketer head. What if someone submitted an ad full of inappropriate content? What if an ad was negative and derogatory towards my brand? What if one of those ads slips through the cracks and gets spread all around the web? How do I even sift through all of the submissions? Granted, you need an air-tight solution with sophisticated, automated filtering capabilities. Find a solution that works, and user-generated advertising will be the hottest advertising trend in 2007!
In addition to the brands I alluded to earlier and work with personally, The New York Times recently reported that advertisers like Chipotle, Converse, General Motors and MasterCard have been gaining attention by inviting consumers to use video technologies to create commercials, sometimes teaming with television networks to offer the video technology.
It's only a matter of time before there are hundreds of big-name marketers like these creating a host of different video platforms to solicit user-generated ads. This trend is to be applauded, though I'd recommend that the industry needs one standardized video marketing platform customizable to different marketers' needs. Overall, in 2007, I predict that advertiser demand for this model will rise, that consumer excitement will grow and that the marketer/consumer relationship will be transformed, as it inevitably should, to a more collaborative one.
Roger Jehenson is co-founder and president of UGENmedia. .