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Want to know the next big thing in advertising? Think user generated content

Posted by Steve Hulford on 20.02.12

February 20th, 2012 - Toronto If the recent Giants-Patriots Super Bowl spectacular proved anything, it’s that two evenly-matched teams make for a far better game and fan experience—and advertisers are becoming increasingly creative at how they spend their millions of dollars per second to boost awareness of their brands.

This year’s edition of the NFL’s big game saw ads from the hilarious to the highly innovative gain widespread buzz across social media channels, blogs and even news websites—many of which went viral. Some of the most interesting were the ones that deployed user-generated content to make their point.

It’s a burgeoning trend we’ve been discussing with our clients for the past year. In a bid to decrease costs, engage prospective customers on a different level and out-market their competitors, major brands are turning to their existing fans to do the advertising work for them.

A great Super Bowl example was Doritos’ Crash The Super Bowl Contest, which invited fans to produce user-generated ads for a chance to win $1 million. The winner, Sling Baby by Kevin Willson, proved to be a social media sensation almost instantly.

Other companies have been experimenting with the UGC ad model including FGL Sports—which owns the Sport Chek and Atmosphere brands in Canada—which is inviting customers to submit outdoor photos for its fall flyers, in-store signs and its Facebook page. In another example, the Canadian Tourism Commission leveraged UGC in 2010 by using amateur YouTube videos to showcase this country’s great destinations through the eyes of average Canadians in its Keep Exploring campaign.

Why the move towards using UGC in advertising?

Put simply, a brand’s customers can come up with content that’s just as creative as that produced by an ad agency—and at almost no cost to the major brand using it in a campaign. The enthusiasm that a UGC ad generates among consumers is virtually priceless and offers a far more transparent, authentic glimpse of what makes a brand unique and appealing to its target audience.

Perhaps most importantly in an era of constant online connectivity, these ads have a tendency to go viral on social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. That increases brand reach exponentially—again at almost no extra cost.

So if you liked those user-generated content ads between plays during the Super Bowl, get used to them—they’re going to be around for a long time to come.

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