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UGC in B2B?

  • B2B Marcom
  • User-generated content (UGC) is all the rage. Who hasn't heard the story of high school teacher George Masters' homemade iPod mini commercial?

    Driven by the overwhelming number of uncommissioned "ads" published on the internet (serious and parodies), increasing numbers of companies are turning to UGC to both freshen up their messages and reduce their production costs. I love both goals, and the idea of giving an aspiring ad producer a chance at fame (or at least something else to add to their portfolio). But all is not quite what it seems to be - at least not all the time.

    NPR issued an interesting episode on this very topic as a build up to the Super Bowl (the holy grail of advertising). It got me thinking, so I dug deeper, into today's hottest UGC story - The DORITOS "Crash The Super Bowl" contest. The concept is simple: amateur ad creators submit 30-second ads, we the people vote online for our favorite ad, the final 5 contestants get trips to the big game, and the winner gets their ad played during the Super Bowl.

    I strongly prefer Check Out Girl. Everything about it resonates with me (character development, timing, ease at which the audience relates to the scenario, the editing, the lighting, the camera angles, the actors, the characters, etc.). So, I dug deeper and learned a little about the creator of Check Out Girl, Kristen Dehnert. I found out that her ad has it's own blog.

    Kristen's bio is as impressive as her work. But, here's my rub. According to her bio, "I'm a Location Manager and Scout for commercials as my paid 'day job'." She is a professional in the commercial industry. That said, she seems to put a lot of heart (and personal fianncing) into her commercial efforts.

    Then there's Joe Herbert, the creator of my #2 Doritos ad choice choice, Duct Tape. His bio makes it clear that he is a total amateur.

    Three points:

    1) There are a lot of vagueries in this UGC thing. Is Kristen an amateur the way Joe is? To me the answer is "clearly not."

    2) Someone ALWAYS has to pay. In this Doritos case, Doritos is saving a lot of money AND generating heightened buzz by:

    A) getting an "amateur" to make the ad (bypassing the traditional $1million ad creation step)

    and B) generating media hype via their contest.

    But the ad creators are bearing most of the costs. Their money, blood, sweat, and missed soccer games are the price they pay.

    We might say that this price is an investment (much like paying college tuition or buying a lottery ticket). I feel that, when the UGC buzz and hype gets old, struggling/aspiring artists will stop "investing" and will demand to be paid. So maybe there is a short life for ths type of thing.

    3) Getting complete strangers to create truly effective B2B promotional materials seems almost impossible. Sure, we all eat Doritos and live the complete experience. But what outsider can step into the world of electronics assembly materials, truly get the essence of the buyer/specifier dynamics, and "nail it"? It seems so unlikely to me.

    I guess that professional ad agencies have little to fear of UGC in the B2B arena.

    Do let me know what your thoughts are on this.

    Go CHECK OUT GIRL!!! Giddy Up!