AdAge just announced Gino Bona, a sales exec out of Portsmouth, NH as the winner of the NFL’s "create your own Super Bowl commercial" contest. And the NFL is not the only sponsor of viewer-created commercials. Chevy and Frito-Lay sponsored similar contests for their own Super Bowl spots.
Then last week the news broke about the entrepreneurial "J.P" who was seeking corporate sponsors to pay him to propose to his girlfriend during a Super Bowl commercial. The notion of using consumers to create ads isn’t new and clearly consumers are actively creating their own media. But these last few stories got me to thinking: What happens now that not only are consumers creating media, but consumer actually are media? Reality TV is huge. And I would bet most of us have some fairly close connection with someone who has been on a reality TV show (my ex-boyfriend was fraternity brothers with the guy who "won" ABC’s second season of "The Bachelorette.").
Rather than being comforted by the idea that I can now watch the goings-on of my fellow humans on YouTube or Television, I actually find it really troubling that significant life events (getting married) have been turned into game show prizes and marketing gimmicks. And what I’m wondering is where will this idea of "consumers as media" stop? Don’t get me wrong. I watch reality TV. With the same morbid fascination that made me and my second grade friends mix all the condiments in my Mom’s fridge together and eat it until one of us got sick.
Are consumers really better at creating media and marketing content than are people trained to do so? Is the purchasing public we really so transfixed by "train wreck" media (you know, something you can’t take your eyes off of, even though you know it is bad) that we can no longer discern quality? Is this part of the larger socio-economic trend that shows fewer, and fewer people are interested in cultural events like the theatre, symphony or museums?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say here that I actually believe that we have not lost our standards, and do appreciate well-composed media that appeals to their intellect or emotion. In fact I think TV networks will see a "reality TV backlash" within the next 3 years. TV viewers will demand higher content. If they don’t get it, they’ll move onto niche cable channels instead. I also think alongside of this, the fervor of consumer generated media and marketing will settle down. I don’t for a moment believe it will go away. Instead, I think consumer generated media will become another, established, medium that smart Account Planners consider when determining the best mix for their marketing plans. Do you agree?