Advertising Week 2007

Panel Extolls Virtues of Consumer-Generated Ads

As the Marketing Strategy Evolves, so Will Agency Role in Shaping Campaigns

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NEW YORK ( -- The secret to a successful consumer-generated campaign is to ensure its use as part of a broader marketing strategy designed to increase engagement.
Ann Mukherjee
Ann Mukherjee

That message was one of the themes during a panel discussion about the increasingly popular marketing strategy that took place as part of the fourth annual Advertising Week conference being held Sept. 24-28 in New York.

"Doing consumer generated for the sake of consumer generated doesn't work," said Ann Mukherjee, VP-marketing at Frito-Lay, North America, who oversaw a consumer-generated Super Bowl ad campaign for the company's Doritos brand that resulted in 1,100 amateur commercials.

Glad to be a risk-taker
Ms. Mukherjee remarked that a year ago she didn't have the same confidence in the strategy that she does now. "I'm glad we took a risk," she said, as the campaign was far better received than the marketer had initially anticipated.

In her experience, a sound consumer-generated campaign requires trust on behalf of the marketer. "In any relationship where you are trying to build loyalty you have to have trust," and if consumers feel that their work is being edited to fit the marketers needs, you will lose them, Ms. Mukherjee cautioned. "Consumers can sniff out something fake."

When properly executed, though, consumer campaigns can generate tremendous interest and positive public relations, said Babs Rangaiah, director-media planning, Unilever USA. At a time when consumers simply fast-forward past ads, "the hardest part is to get them to even care," Mr. Rangaiah said.

Mark Wnek, chairman and chief creative officer at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe, New York, noted that the movement is rocking the concept of the "ivory tower" when it comes to creative, and the notion of a writer and director going off for weeks to brainstorm over a traditional ad campaign is a thing of the past. Toying with logos for months on end is a concept that's "about to fall off a cliff," Mr. Wnek said.

Managers, not providers
"It's crazy for us to continue to believe we can be the sole solution providers," said Mr. Wnek, who believes agency professionals will gradually become managers of information, rather than providers.

The role of technology in transforming should be noted, said Bob Greenberg, chairman-CEO and global chief creative officer at Interpublic's R/GA, as tools like digital cameras and camera phones rapidly propel the consumer-generated movement.

But just because consumers are taking control of marketing and advertising doesn't mean a diminished role for agencies, the panelists stressed. That role is actually "even more important that it was before; it's just evolved" to require integrated marketing efforts, said Ms. Mukherjee.

Consumers are still amateurs when it comes to conceiving of marketing strategy, and the creative and strategic thinking offered by agency professionals will continue to be valuable. "I can't ever imagine that the consumer revolution is going to replace [them]," said Unilever's Mr. Rangaiah.
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