User Generated Advertising (UGA) is getting a lot of press lately. A couple of examples show the diverse range of thoughts companies have on this subject.
VISA – Pulling Back the Reigns
Today, Adweek announced that Visa will not include traditional UGA – where anybody can create and submit an idea/ad – in their next “Life Takes Visa” branding strategy. From the article:
Visa says its research shows the best way to reach the goals of the current effort is to assign consumers a secondary role—at most.The company says its learned consumer content has its limits when marketing has specific tasks to perform.
The next campaign will include “users” acting within a walled garden of sorts. Visa has decided to sponsor 48-Hour Film Project, an international film competition where amateur filmmakers create 7-minute videos over the course of a designated weekend. Visa has chosen to sponsor 30 teams who will compete in 48-Hour, and they have requested that these teams film 7-minute videos that are in line with the “Life Takes” campaign. Winners get Visa gift cards, of course.
Kevin Burke, SVB Advertising, Visa, said “We want people who are skilled in storytelling and have a diverse and fresh point of view.” That’s a nice way of saying that Visa doesn’t want the schlock that comes with a traditional UGA campaign.
It seems the pendulum is swinging a bit for Visa:
I can’t argue with Visa’s decision. As I wrote in this post, I don’t think there are many examples where unbridled user-generated advertising is effective. It is too easy for clients to misinterpret the idea of “crowd wisdom” and end up with 100,000 homogenous and imitative submissions that somebody, billing a whole lot of hours, has to sift through only to discover the AOR’s creative team could have done better work. Best to involve a customer base through other means…after all, “user-generated” means a lot of things. It’s a shame how most advertising agencies seem to be stuck in the UGA field instead of looking to incorporate user generation elsewhere. But I digress…
Visa shows us is a new UGA hybrid is taking center stage. And I love it. In my opinion, we are beginning to understand that control needs to be shared in the world of Web 2.0. If companies and their ad agencies hoard control – as we have done since the dawn of time – we risk alienating our customers. Oppositely, if we give customers complete control we risk watering down everything. A balanced hybrid (the middle of the pendulum) may be the best place for our work to ultimately rest.
Taco Bell – Avatarsment
Taco Bell announced today that they are going to be making a big splash in the world of UGA come September. The press release reads:
Taco Bell has partnered with Gizmoz and MTV in search of three virtual consumer actors to star as animated talking characters in a 30-second Taco Bell television commercial. The ad for Fourthmeal — the late night meal between dinner and breakfast — will debut worldwide during the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) on September 9, 2007.
Let’s break this down.
First off, Taco Bell has already made the ad – or at least the script – so this is not UGA in the traditional sense where the customer has complete control. Taco Bell is merely looking for actors. Virtual actors.
Secondly, TB is partnering with Gizmoz, an Israeli startup that has developed a new technology enabling users to create their own animated, talking avatars and then plug them into social networking profiles, blogs, emails, personal websites, and eventually virtual worlds like Second Life. In other words, using Gizmoz technology I’ll be able to upload my face onto an avatar and surf the Web as my virtual self. Dig 555dwain’s Avatar below. He obviously needs to stay away from kitchen knives:
Taco Bell came up with a new term for this type of UGA – Avatarsment. Badum dum.
But seriously, this is a great idea and great incorporation of digital technology into a UGA campaign. Taco Bell maintains control and integrity over the creative output while inviting customers into the process with a new, fun carrot on a stick: Gizmoz avatars.
The customer has control.
The company has control.
Balance is achieved.
I can’t wait for the MTV Awards.
Well, not really. I hate MTV.
But I can’t wait to see this campaign’s final product.