User-Generated Ad Contests: What’s The Real Goal? March 25, 2009

Written by: Christy Wise
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AdAge posted the news about yet another User-Generated-Ad Contest sponsored this time by not one but several brands. Most notably, Doritos, Visa, Kodak, HP, and Marriott, are all launching a competition with the hopes of getting brand loyalists to help them form new creative concepts. In theory, this is a great idea. Giving consumer’s access to a brand along with some control over how products are positioned is primarily what major corporations should be doing. With so many companies being afraid of negative feedback, this appears to be a step in the right direction.


But how much of it is based on tapping the creativity well as opposed to just trying to drum up some much-needed publicity? Not that launching a promotion to generate PR is anything new, and in fact it’s a great idea to remind consumers about a brand while in between product launches, but I think it’s important for marketers to consider the ultimate goal. Doritos wants to sell more Late Night: Tacos at Midnight chips (you can actually taste the lettuce), Visa wants you to open more credit cards, Kodak wants you to buy more cameras, HP wants you to buy more printers and Marriott wants you to stay in their hotels.

So if this UGC contest generates two entries per brand, does it matter? If the entries are terrible and uninspiring – will this promotion be a failure? In the end will the brand care as long as the press and advertising around the contest makes them look like they are on the cutting edge of social media? That they are passionate about involving their consumers in the decision making process? It’s a question that agencies and their clients deal with regularly – but it’s safe to say that if this contest bombs horribly (and I’m not saying it will), Doritos won’t be out of creative ideas. They won’t suddenly stop making commercials. On the other hand, they may walk away with a ton of free press and a more positive brand association – which would ultimately make this promotion a solid success.