User-generated content is all the rage at the moment. It’s cheap, and often free, for the average person like you and me to create content eg by blogging, podcasting or uploading videos to YouTube. There is also a social networking element in that others can read/ listen to / view that content and comment or create other content in response. For example, when you watch some YouTube videos, there’s a sidebar on the right where you can see other people’s video responses to that video. On blogs, other bloggers may be inspired to write something on their blog about what you’ve written - and they may agree or disagree with you.
So it seems a great idea for companies to involve their customers and everyone else in creating content relevant for their brand. It creates a buzz around the product or brand. It brings people together around the brand. It taps into people’s creativity and desire to be noticed and rewarded for their endeavours. That’s the theory.
Heinz launched a competition inviting anyone to submit a 30-second video ad for their ketchup. The New York Times reports:
“Heinz has said it will pick five of the entries and show them on television, though it has not committed itself to a channel or a time slot. One winner will get $57,000. But so far it’s safe to say that none of the entries have quite the resonance of, say, the classic Carly Simon “Anticipation” ad where the ketchup creeps oh so slowly out of the bottle.”
So what kind of entries did they get? Some examples given in the New York Time article are:
- a teenage boy cleans his teeth and shaves with ketchup
- another kid rubs ketchup on his face and puts pickles in his eyes
Videos that have been rejected by Heinz have ended up on YouTube anyway.
Heinz have also been criticized for trying to get cheap advertising by looking for user-generated campaign although they say that it has actually been more expensive in terms of managing the process and sifting through all the entries.
There are concerns that the campaign has damaged the Heinz brand by its being associated with “gross-out” video images of its product being used in inappropriate ways - and appearing in cheap, home-produced, badly uncreative images.
You can view the Heinz ad competition and the videos on YouTube for yourself.
Here’s one involving a toilet….
I think that the idea and the intention of looking to the public to create content around a theme relevant to your brand or product is a sound one. The issue here is the management of the particular project or campaign. In the old days, when a company launched a competition eg to choose its new logo or tagline or the image that most represented its brand or some such, it controlled the process entirely and no-one would see the rejected entries. These days, the bad, irrelevant, scurrilous stuff gets circulated anyway by the very tools that makes this new form of advertising possible. It’s worth doing a full risk assessment on any social media project - as in any big project - assuming the worst case scenario in human nature. Perhaps Heinz - naively? - just expected more of the people they were bringing into the video conversation…
But it’s not all doom and gloom. On Monday, I’ll look at a user-generated video campaign that worked.