Should we be so quick to discount user-generated advertising?

Last Friday, my "News flash: user-generated content is dumb" blog post created a lively conversation in the comments. Especially with my headline writer, Ron Shevlin. Ron was quick to point out that he didn't mean that blog comments or user reviews are dumb, he meant that user-generated advertising is dumb.

If I interpret Ron's viewpoint correctly, he was stating that large advertisers are chasing the latest trend hoping to strike gold by blindly jumping on the user-generated bandwagon without careful consideration and proper measurement of these experiments.

Trey Reeme summed it up nicely with his comment:

"Creating a strategic framework for experimentation and then measuring the impact is the key."

Agreed.

The only thing I take issue with is discounting a marketing approach because you personally think it is dumb.

Dumb or not, the lure is undeniable. And here is the latest lure: Cherry Chocolate Rain by Tay Zonday brought to you by Dr. Pepper.

Tay Zonday? Unless you have been living under a rock, you must have heard his original amateur song, Chocolate Rain, posted to YouTube on April 22, 2007? It has been viewed more than 11 million times and has spawned a slew of copycats including my favourite by Chad Vader.

Dumb huh? No doubt. Cherry Chocolate Rain was posted to YouTube on November 28, 2007 and as of this writing, it has been viewed more than 900,000 times, not including the people looking over the primary viewer's shoulders. Has more Dr. Pepper been sold? I don't know, but I'll bet the folks at Cadbury-Schweppes are keeping track.

This particular example brings up another question. When user-generated advertising gets a slick production overhaul, is it still user-generated and does it still resonate? Read the comments below the Cherry Chocolate Rain video on YouTube and you will see the divided opinions! Even the highly stylized Apple advertising is getting in on the action. This particular ad for the new iPod Touch was a professional redo of a user-generated ad from Nick Haley, an 18-year-old Apple fan.

The reality for the credit union marketer is obviously different than the reality of the mega-brand manager, but we shouldn't just cast a marketing approach aside because we might feel it's dumb.

Ron's other comment:

"The UGC campaign that the bank I alluded to is running will generate a lot of submissions. Big deal. What does it buy them? More business? Deeper relationships? If they say yes, I'll say how do you know? And I'll bet the $7 in my pocket they don't have a good reason for that."

Very good point. This particular campaign does seem superficial, potentially boring and it will likely not pull in the new business necessary to cover the media buy.

But, what if we can think beyond the obvious and really collaborate with our credit union membership? I believe credit unions are ideally positioned to leverage their member relationships to create engaging content and, in doing so, deepen member relationships and sell more products and services. Just look at what FORUM Credit Union has done in Indiana with its user-generated advertising campaign. All user-generated advertising doesn't have to be dumb.

The Generation Y Extreme Checking account from Fairfax Credit Union is a real-world example of a user-generated advertising contest going on right now in the credit union space. Is it dumb? Maybe. Will it be effective? We'll see.

My advice: I think user-generated advertising should be considered by credit unions and if it fits your credit union's overall marketing strategy, do it. I agree with Jeffry Pilcher's comment:

"I'm also very curious and very optimistic that the collective yield holds greater possibilities than my singular vision."

Ron's first comment sums up that everything you put out on the Internet is fair game and has the ability to spark conversation.

"I feel compelled to clarify and—to a certain extent—take back my remark. On one hand, my comment was intended in an off-hand manner, but that's no excuse (blogging and commenting is a public sport)."

I will now officially lay off Ron. And Ron, thanks for your blog, it is one of the best and really makes me think and solidify my own perspective! Keep up the great work.

Credit Union Chocolate Rain anyone?

Tim