Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fad, my ass

Mack Simpson, fresh from his three-week hiatus of baby-birthing and commercial-birthing, points out a recent article by Marc Brownstein (of Brownstein Group, a Philadelphia agency) panning Consumer Generated Content - ads by people who aren't in advertising.

There's plenty of bile surrounding the subject of consumer-generated ads, content, etc. Mostly from nay-sayers who think creativity is best left to creatives. And as one of those, I think, yeah, leave that to me. I have a serious house payment that says I should be doing this instead of Joe Average Beer Drinker. I have a degree, dammit.

That said, I think looking at CGC as a fad is an over-simplification of what has become an ever more complicated issue. Face it, Marc. It's what consumers want: a voice. They said the internet was a fad (not Al Gore, though). Look at us now: blogging our lives away, engaging in Second Lives, e-commerce,, etc.

They said Reality TV was a fad. They said Donny Deutsch was a fad. If only.

I've heard this fad shit before. This may indeed by news to Marc, but fads are our business. If it's going on out there, we should atleast be considering it in here. (and by in here I mean my overly warm office). Ignoring it, dismissing it, poo-pooing it in AdWeek is sticking your head in the sand.

Consumers have been creating their own content for ages. It was called word-of-mouth. It's the most revered of marketing. And only with the recent conflux of do-it-yourself media (blogging, podcasting, YouTube, ) have folks truly been able to get their messages Neilsen-worthy ratings. And you know what? Some of them are kind of good. (plenty of them are friggin horrible - but they die the kind of death we could only WISH on mediocre traditional advertising) They're being done by kids and film students and disgruntled former employees who feel like there's a side to the story worth telling. And in many cases, there is. Great agencies like Butler Shine Stern and Partners have capitalized on Converse' fervent fan base and made the brand a channel. Like MTV (another fad, we were sure.)

People want to be part of brands. People "join" brands. And dammit, people are going to create content whether or not you ask them to.

Why not invite them to the discussion instead of holding them, Heisman-like, at arms length? Why are we still creating content in buckets of broadcast, print, outdoor, "guerilla" and "viral" Come ON. This is what the good agencies mean when they say "come up with a good idea. Then figure out how to best implement it."

A fad? We've seen political revolutions (see inset) that were resolved in less time. And that's what it is. A revolution in which consumers rip the voice of brands out of the ass-kissing mouths of ad agencies and turn the camera around to see the whole story. And sometimes it's a compelling one.

As surely as people are reading this blog, consumer content is alive and well.