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Video Report: The Role of User-Generated Content in Advertising

Marketing Execs Weigh in at IAB Conference

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- What's more valuable: advertising around user-generated content? Or using user-generated content to create ads? Those were the types of debates circling the Interactive Advertising Bureau User-Generated Content Conference.

It was clear that both prospects still have some marketers worried, underscoring the need for things such as contingency plans and guidelines outlining the rules of programs that incorporate user-generated content.

Safer UGC
Advertising around user-generated content will get safer, promised Ian Schafer, CEO of Deep Focus, who predicted brands would move into the a space that has until now been primarily dominated by entertainment marketers. "Targeting and filtering technologies are getting better by the minute," he said. But marketers need to be bolder about entering this brave new world.

Art Sindlinger, activation director of social media and gaming at Starcom, warned that advertisers interested in asking consumers to get involved in a campaign need not just know their product's audience, but also their product's non-users. And several executives suggested that before marketers begin executing a user-generated campaign, they build contingency plans and prepare for whatever direction the campaign may go.

Fad or new strategy?
One panel debated whether marketers' tapping consumers to create ads was mere fad or newfangled strategy. There was never a consensus, but most of the panelists agreed one group that needs to wake up to the realities of consumer-created ads is traditional production companies.

The cost of production "is one of the last barriers to brands and agencies truly being able to communicate in a relevant way, a more micro way, on a regular basis," said Tom Lynch, VP, Avenue A/ Razorfish. Marketers throughout the day stressed the importance of tailoring messages to communities and how difficult that is to do within the current economics of the business.

"We talk a lot about our ratio of production to media, and we're really mindful of lowering it," said Cheryl Guerin, VP-promotions and interactives, MasterCard International, about the pressure of executing a fully integrated program on the same budget that used to take care of one medium: TV. And while she said marketers' abilities to do strong programs is reliant on bringing that production cost down, she said she also couldn't imagine brand marketers handing the reins over to consumers.

MasterCard experiment
Recently, MasterCard ran a fairly structured, fill-in-the-blank consumer-created "Priceless" campaign. And even within the structure of the program "we were hard-pressed to find a lot of good ads," she said.

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