My CNN bit on “User Generated Content” SuperBowl ads

All Your Base Are Belong To Us by Josh JohnsonJust got back from the CNN studios in London, where I commented about the “user generated content” SuperBowl ads (youtubed version hopefully to come unfortunatly, due to a seried of technical glitches, I don’t have a video of this segment, and would be thankfull if anybody out there has. I only have “bootlegs” that I only dare show to friends & family.).

On this year’s superbowl, some of the adverts feature user generated content. But are they, really?

  • The NFL run a competition where members of the public pitched ideas, but the winning idea was created by a professional marketer and will be professionally shot.
  • Doritos & Chevrolet will air ads shot by users, but (the brilliant) finalists look just like professional ads.
  • Alka Seltzer will broadcast the winner of what is practically a jingle competition (those were quite popular with 40’s and 50’s radio campaign).

The points I was trying to make (and hopefully did – with TV you can never know until you watch it, and it was a live recording):

  • This looks more like a case of brands trying to tap into UGC as a hot media/popular culture trend to get the buzz and free publicity. Most cases won’t even have that “home made style”, they will look just like any ad. Especially if they are re-shot. It is as safe as any manager would want a $2.6 million spot to be. Even just by selecting the winners, the brands still pretty much (try to) control the message.
  • The superbowl is the ultimate exception to a scarce attention reality. Truly one of the last old-world examples of prime-time TV glory in the new billion channel world. It is estimated over 90 million people will tune-in to watch it, and the ads are an event by themselves, as well as a status symbol for brands. (more from seth)
  • Airing those ads to 90 million viewers massively affects their context. When you take the creations and broadcast them, they become broadcast communications, not really different from any traditional superbowl ad.
  • It’s interesting to see brands “outsourcing” their creative to the audience, or leveraging professional level amateurs out there (pro-am culture, anyone?). However, that doesn’t mean these brands are trying to create a dialogue, have loosened control, introduced transparency or authenticity. This only happens if they will be brave enough to create a wider, ongoing context for a direct dialogue and interaction with their audiences (e.g. by helping them celebrate the brand, collaborate, share and interact. Or by emphasising the values that drew them in the first place in everything you do (apple, myspace))
  • What’s interesting here is not these brands trying to create buzz by tapping the trend, but that their efforts are a symptom of a bigger power shift, and of something more fascinating that is happening thanks to how today’s web accelerates and empowers networked communities.
  • What’s the big change? Those empowered communities mean you can’t control your messages in the market at the same level you did in the broadcast age. Consumers can (and will) expose just how inadequate you are and bad news travel fast. But – if you deserve it, some users will also celebrate your brand, and you can help them do it, encourage, maybe even leverage that.

Finally – are marketing people obsolete?
They are, if they don’t evolve. It’s an obvious point that marketing needs to change, but that’s exactly why there’s still so much to do (“client-side” and “agency-side”). Creating the environments (concrete, virtual or conceptual) where the new conversation can flourish, calls for insight, inspiration, courage and other quaintest that can drive ambitious endeavors. It’s a highly sophisticated practice, and professional collaboration will be key to discover the rules as we go along.

That aside, like I hope I managed to say on TV – as a content generating user, all I really want to say is “All Your Base Are Belong to Us”.

On a more personal note, things I’m sure I’ll think after watching the segment:

  • Stop stuttering! (update: wasn’t so bad, but my israeli accent shows more than i thought)
  • Put me on camera without makeup and you get an big-headed bespectacled corpse. (update: hmm. yup.)
  • Still trying to lose that cough I got in Israel and reinforced in Bombay, suppressing it really affects my focus. (update: oh boy, right again.)
  • Well, at least I managed to say “all your base are belong to us.” live on CNN. (update: YES!!!)
  • Well, I didn’t say it just for fun, it is a carefully placed reference to one of the earlier prominent memes that were user generated, collaborative, global, multi-cultural etc…
  • Ok. So I said it mostly because it was fun. shoot me.
  • Darn! Was that early morning or what? How can anyone be coherent at 6:45am, after waking up at 5:00am?! (update: could have been worse i did TV before on national levels, and this was actually not so bad.)

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3 thoughts on “My CNN bit on “User Generated Content” SuperBowl ads

  1. Pingback: וובסטר 2 - חנן כהן » ארכיון הבלוג »

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