(Selected, Rarified)-Consumer Generated Ads

For Chapter 6: "Spot On"

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In the last post, we revisted XLNTads.com, a startup which has finally found two -- and most likely four more -- marketers to run consumer-generated ad contests on their site next month. As acting CEO Neil Perry says, "We're getting there."

They're getting there with the continually evolving strategy, based on the advice of "creator" panelists like Kevin Nalty and the often ugly outcomes XLNTads has witnessed involving CGA pioneers in the real world. Such as Heinz, whose contest attracted the Ketchup Man/Prince of Darkness entry and another featuring a guy shaving with ketchup.

"They went out to the world. They did USA Today ads. They put it on their packaging. As a result, they got well over a couple of thousands entries. And 50%-60% of them were junk -- but somebody had to look at every single one of them. We're trying to avoid that trap."

Trying to avoid those pesky, you know ... consumers.

XLNT has hired community coordinators to beat the bushes of the amateur video world in search of the 500 premium contributors so that brands using the site to host contests will not have a Heinz-like inundation of crap from the clueless, but rather a ready supply of dependably watchable material.

And surely that will make CGA contests run a lot more smoothly with a lot more satisfactory results. But doesn't that sort of obliterate the whole point of CGA? First, the contests will be dominated by a relative handful of ringers, which defeats the purpose of a consumer promotion -- i.e., promoting widespread engagement with the brand.

Furthermore, you can scarcely tap the wisdom of the crowd if your first move is shrinking the crowd. If the concept is to exponentially expand the pool of idea generators, cultivating a Dilettante Elite the would seem antithetical to the goal. Right, Neil?

"Not so, dear friend."

Unsurprisingly, he does the math a slightly different way. If, at any given time, XLNTads.com is hosting 10-15 CGA contests, the anointed 500 will be spread more or less evenly among them. Their presence, he says, will merely guarantee a sort of content liquidity -- for the same reason beggars and buskers toss their own coins into the hat the moment the open for business. Passersby then are more likely to toss in money, too.

But it's not just the dynamics of video-hobbyist behavior he's trying to capture. It's also the medium's essential authenticity.

"CGA to me is also about the advertising style. It's about handheld camera, lowcost/lowdown production, simple ideas and simple executions. That's what makes it so relevant and that's what makes it feel so different from the Madison Avenue way of doing things."

So, wait, Neil...are you sure you mean "authenticity" and not "amateurishness?"

"That's my story," he says, "and I'm sticking to it."
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