consumer generated content

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Yahoo is buying Associated Media and its federation of 380,000 writers (Posters) who according to ComScore generate 16M monthly uniques.  Yahoo is paying $100 million for the ability to advertise to Associated’s audience and the deal also includes some technology which allows for the monitoring and prediction of reader content proclivities. This is a big move for Carol Bartz, Yahoo CEO, and shows she is putting money into the content strategy.

I look at content portals like Yahoo and AOL a little bit like big retail malls. A good portal, like a good mall, has lots of tenants but there is always what is called an anchor tenant — a big store that draws in lots of people.  In my view, this $100 million play is more about finding an “anchor” tenant (or ten) among Associated Media’s writers who will propel Yahoo’s numbers upward, rather than a crowd sourcing effort to generate mass.  It’s like putting a seine net in the ocean to catch krill but finding some big fish.  Yahoo needs next generation big fish. Big Posters. It’s a very expensive move, but should work for them.  The portal story, IMHO, is about quality not quantity.  But that’s just me.  Peace!

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If ever a brand owned an idea it was Coca Cola. McCann-Erickson got it. Early Coke brand managers got it. The people definitely got it. The idea was “refreshment.” Coke ads made you feel in your bones the total and utter refreshment from its unique, thirst-quenching taste. 

(Not a big Coke drinker, I once came off the Appalachian Trail parched, craving a Coke. I found one and it was other-worldly.)

Pepsi which has always had smart marketers on its team realizes “refreshment” is Coke’s provenance and has for the most part stayed away. But today Pepsi is jumping on the word in its new “refresh everything” campaign tied to change in America.  As it is with much of Pepsi’s work, this is a borrowed interest approach (not based on an inherent product quality) so it won’t be that effective. And the consumer generated content side of the program is a bit weak. But Pepsi will spend so it may muddle the “refreshment” waters.  

Coke needs to defend its refreshment position and it needs to do it now. Get back to what refresh meant.  

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I’ve been following the growing gaming category recently and was surprised to note that gamers exhibit a high degree of creativity. The litmus was a story about a game company that provided tools to its users so they could develop and share graphic creatures or machinima game elements. The expectation of the company was that by the end of the first year they would hope to have 1 million consumer-generated graphics. In fact, they had a couple million in a few weeks. Wow!

 

I’ve always felt that consumer-generated content was a nice fad, but the really creative stuff should be left to the most artistic. Now I’m having second thoughts. Not all consumer generated ads suck. Not all second tier blogs suck. Not all neighborhood YouTube videos are boring. 

 

Creativity and artistry should not just be the domain of the top 10%, but of everyone. And we should encourage consumer-generated art and creative. We all need to be more creative.

 

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I don’t want to sound like a broken CD, but this whole consumer generated content (CGC) thing in marketing is really getting to me. Consumers recommending products to other consumers is an important, integral part of marketing. It’s what happens to good products during the normal course of the selling and buying process. Traditionally, that happens after marketers and ad agencies have done their jobs and a transaction has occurred. But CGC takes the agencies and marketer out of the process. It’s lazy. 
 
Are marketers and ad agencies so burned out that they can’t figure out new, compelling ways sell? Isn’t that what they are saying every time they sponsor a CGC contest? Where have all the industry’s creative people gone?
 
I believe it has something to do with the way we ingest media. For entertainment and relaxation most Americans ingest media. They take in TV, radio, and video games. Often this is mindless, inbound entertainment. Reading books is a form of ingested media, but it does require interpretation, concentration and visualization.
 
Creative individuals do less ingesting of media and more thinking. They look for patterns and lack of patterns, mashing up things to form new ideas. Artists has always gravitated toward advertising, because they are more right brained. They ingest less drivel.
 
As the industry cedes more and more of its creativity to consumers, it will dig itself deeper into a hole, out of which it will be hard to crawl.
 

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Viral or virus?

To view consumer generated content (CGC) as anything more than consumers itching a creative scratch is silly. That’s not to say consumers can’t do a good job of entertaining and/or even selling a product or two. But if they are not making deposits in the “brand bank” they may actually be diluting brand values.  
 
When this CGC contests are run and “aired” on paid media, good brand managers will select only the efforts that best deliver the brand promise, but they should not overlook all the people generating “off brief” creative and sharing it on their own. If this happens, a brand manager isn’t managing the brand, s/he is monitoring it. And that’s when viral turns to virus.  

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