Why user-generated content is killing the ad business
Is the Web 2.0 cultural revolution of user-generated content good news for the ad industry? Will the explosion of fashionable blogs and social networks increase the size of the advertising economy? Can the YouTubification of professional creative content and the wikifying of mainstream authoritative media benefit advertisers and advertising companies?
Evidence of the crisis of mass media is depressingly ubiquitous.
recorded music business is in free-fall
As Craigslist gives away free classified ads and fewer and fewer of us are reading a daily newspaper, so journalists are being laid off while physical papers are shrinking in size and even being shuttered
Magazines aren't doing much better, nor is radio
Meanwhile, the advertising-driven television business is about to be engulfed by the perfect technological storm of the digital video recorder and the YouTube content revolution.
So how does this cultural freedom and its chaotic corollary, the eruption of infinite user-generated content, affect the advertising industry?
What Web 2.0 is doing, compounded by the online consumer's shrinking attention span and his or her hostility towards the "inauthenticity" of commercial messages, is radically deflating the value of advertising.
Web 2.0 advertising is like user-generated content: inane, ephemeral and annoying. In a word: worthless.
By most accounts, one of the smartest moves a marketer can make is to solicit, and interact with, consumers' comments and critiques about their brands.
With that in mind, a number of marketers have ventured into social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn. But while some were warmly welcomed, others, including Wal-Mart and McDonald's, have gotten burned
One company that has met with success is Target Stores, the retailer that positions itself as a hip, rood brand for the masses.
Target made its first foray into social networking by sponsoring a page on Facebook, a site rich in college students. (Half of Facebook's 46 million members who logged on in the last month were in college, according the company.)
Its already strong brand identity with younger consumers and a Facebook page in rune with its brand values of design and affordability helped make its initiative a positive experience.
(Its back-to-school campaigns in their entirety helped lift sales 6.1 percent in August 2007 compared to August 2006, per the National Retail Federation.)
Target rejiggered its marketing approach from storytelling to, well, party planning.
all brands should research the conversation and community before jumping in: "Just like going to a cocktail party, the savvy attendee will know how to dress and won't jump into any conversations before understanding the context."
Target then focused on the finding that college is a period of anxiety and worry for students, who are moving into small, boxy rooms, often with strangers.
As a result, Target's Facebook page was given the theme of "Dorm Survival Guide."
"It was all about the box," says Charlie Taylor, group account director at AKQA, referring to the small rooms.
Attention was paid of course to essentials such as comforters, pillowcases and furniture, but the real focus, Taylor notes, was offering aid.
Along with member posts and discussion groups, the site gave students design advice, recipes for the odd ingredients likely to be in their refrigerators and a personality test tied to their furniture.
The page initially included video and photos of dorm rooms designed by roster shop Wieden + Kennedy, later replaced by photos of members' actual dorm rooms. The site also helped members upload and swap pictures of their homes away from home.
." A brand has to fit in if it wants to be accepted there, he explains. "Target's tips about decking out your dorm totally fits with the brand perception of bringing design to the masses for low prices, so the students didn't reject it,“
By watching the discussion threads, Target could identify the people who tended to serve as mentors for future marketing efforts.
"Wal-Mart is known for discounts, not style," says Renegade's Neisser. "They are stepping away from their core brand truth and trying to play in foreign waters. Students immediately perceived the inauthenticity of Wal-Mart trying to give fashion/style/taste advice and called them out on it."
more than half who have posted--criticize the company's labor practices and corporate reputation. One posting reads: "Wal-Mart is toxic to communities and livelihoods." Another notes: "We don't support dais company's use of a space for social networking to further horrendous business practices."
McDonald's is another company that has been bruised by social networking. Its career recruitment-sponsored page on Facebook, McCareers, was put on the site in mid-summer. Not too long after its launch, it was filled with negative comments about the company and its employees. The brand subsequently turned off the posts and discussions.