If consumers are your ad agency, they may need to be fired.

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

Remember when consumer generated ads were all the rage? It was predicted that Main Street will run out Madison Avenue with cheaper, more clever advertising. Kind of made sense, right? Let your customers make the ads. If they make it, they must like it, and thus, will buy your product. Now that several years have gone by, the results have been much less than predicted. Brands who have depended on consumer generated ads (CGA) haven’t increased overall sales dramatically. They haven’t made any significant difference in what their brand stands for in the minds of their consumers. Often, it was fun, cool, but no really good. There were many more bombs than gems. The media only played up the two or three hits while ignoring the hundreds of failures. If you’re banking on a .200 success rate, be my guest. That’s even bad in baseball.

• Not novel any more – Brands used to get kudos for taking such a bold stance. Firing their agencies in favor of crowd sourcing. Well, the results have been short lived. More times than not, the submissions have been progressively getting worse from Folgers to GM. It seems the general public doesn’t take it serious anymore and see it more of a way to either make fun of the brand or bash it in some way. The talent would even embarrass the worst American Idol contestant.

• Not a long term strategy – Sure, the consumer generated ads got a lot of PR run and a few of them were funny (Doritos and CareerBuilder), but the vast majority were completely off the mark and couldn’t sustain the marketing objectives over the long haul. Consumers don’t really know how to create strategic marketing that will help build superior brand position over the long term. They are more interested in the “now” and not the “now and forever”. Rarely is novelty a good substitute for insightful brand strategy. Crowd sourcing may be good for many things at a particular point in the process, but it’s not a great way to build your brand foundation. The average Joe doesn’t look at what’s ahead, only what’s going on today. Business can only survive by looking at what tomorrow should look like.

• It’s still done by pros – Many of the so-called winners of consumer generated ads have been from ad pros submitting the work on their own. The Doritos winners were two experienced film guys. The Heinz spot was created by an award winning documentary film maker. And Unilever’s Peperami was created by two ad guys with over 50 year combined experience.

The biggest difference I see is that, under the guise of being consumer generated, the brand puts less constraints on what has to be and allows creativity to take over. Did they ever wonder why their agency can’t come up with some of the cool ideas that the so-call consumer generated ads have been able to come up with? One, they give more freedom to the CGA’s than an ad agency. Too many times, the agency is handcuffed with misguided restrictions. Second, just by the fact that it’s usually ad pros who win the CGA competitions, they reinforce the fact that there is great talent in the ad world if they can only be allowed to do their best work without irrelevant limitations.

If brands would allow their marketing agencies to produce brilliant work without getting in the way, not only will the advertising be more engaging, but also on target with the long-term vision of the brand. It won’t just be a novel ad that has nothing to do with the core brand itself.



About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

One Response to “If consumers are your ad agency, they may need to be fired.”

  1. I use a company called Drive. You can find them at: driveyourbusiness.com

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