Sometimes I find myself watching an episode of Ad Persuasion on television. It’s an interesting look at the world of advertising, where notable creative folk discuss its various forms; rationalize award winning work and salute the wunderkinds who captivate us during the commercial breaks. During the show, I was enjoying listening to art directors and copy writers discuss what they think about the clients they develop work for. In last week’s episode, a creative director from a US advertising agency went so far as to say “if only they (clients) would get out of the way of the creative process and let us do our jobs, the calibre of creativity would increase and there wouldn’t be a need for TiVOs anymore.” Is that what they think? If only the answer was that simple.
Yes, look at the adoption rate of TiVOs (in the US) and PVRs in Canada – but for another answer. The super cool digital cable TV box allows the viewer to control their experience… right down to zapping out the commercials. It’s true, experts estimate upwards of 70% of us actively look for ways to block advertising. Is it because the creative is boring? No. It is because we want something more unique and personal than the advertiser – sponsored content model of today. Young viewers who have been raised on the Internet demand they control their media viewing experiences – and they’re showing us how they intend to do it. Welcome to the world of user generated content.
Recently, a colleague and I listened to a keynote address by Hunter Madsen, head of marketing for Yahoo! Canada. He talked about how media companies like Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL are trying to make money in the user generated content world or social networks - where traditional advertising is verboten. Madsen spoke about three ways to get invited:
1. Crash the party – place commercial messaging into video streams and other online content – the most basic and least liked form but still effective
2. Hold a party yourself – Develop an interactive area for users (blogs, Q&A, question submits, etc.) and introduce answers by “industry experts”
3. Be a party promoter – employ viral marketing, blogging – even pay cool bloggers to show up – and generate buzz and interest around your event
To be heard and remembered in these forums, advertising (I mean sponsored content) has to engage, compel and provoke. Opinions matter. Production values not as much. Take for example the Doritos commercials aired during last year’s Super Bowl – each created for less than $10K a piece - now highly circulated on You Tube. The Dove beauty spot is another. Admittedly more costly but an innovative and captivating piece of film. It became popular, I believe, because it delivered more comment than commerce.
As we watch user generated channels enter and evolve in the market at lightening speed, the creative team that figures out how to develop relevant, breakthrough creative I’m sure will be featured on a future episode of Ad Persuasion. And I plan to watch it.