User-generated advertising contests

NewTeeVee uses the now familiar ‘ad in the middle of the Superbowl’ test to conclude that recent trend towards user generated commercial contests may be at an end. The trend was noted in 2006 but was really kicked along by a contest to make an ad for Doritos, winner to be screened during last year’s Superbowl.

Sizable cash prizes were still offered for all of these contests — the winner of the Kraft ad took home $50,000 while the Doritos winner pocketed just $10,000 — but the problem is that when you raise the dollar amount, you appeal more to the contest-entering set, as opposed to the skilled professionals looking for exposure. So the quality of UGC ads submitted won’t be as high.

And the UGC world can be risky. Chevy learned first-hand what happens when you make your UGC contest too open — users uploaded spoof commercials that made fun of the gas-guzzling Chevy Tahoe. And as The New York Times recently reported, Subway, Quizno’s and iFilm are heading to court over a UGC commercial contest in which Quizno’s openly called on participants to create video spots that bash rival sandwich shop Subway. The contest was held in the fall of 2006; the trial isn’t scheduled to start until 2009.

But despite all this, there are some signs of life for user-created commercials. XLNT Ads just signed Nestle to use its UGC approach. And a company out of Vancouver, Canada, called Memelabs is hoping to build a business out of UGC ads for companies, and has already landed clients including Wells Fargo (you could catch that winner during the Rose Bowl Parade).


3 Responses

  1. As someone who works for a user-generated commercial website I feel like user-generated ads aren’t at an end, they’re just going through an adolescent phase.
    User-generated ads are still a relatively new idea compared to traditional television advertising which has been happening for decades.
    I believe that much of the benefits of user-generated ads isn’t necessarily the final product that comes out of the competition. Rather the benefit for companies is the resulting hype, talk, and excitement that gathers around a brand as filmmakers talk about their commercial and post about the brand all over the web.

    That is priceless advertising.

  2. Fair point, Brian that this is still early days, and thanks for commenting. Do you have a view on what user generated-ads might look like in their mature phase?

  3. I definitely don’t think that UGC ads are dying — but I do agree that the time of totally open, big dollar amount ad contests is not attractive to brands that want to have control over their brand message.

    I work for Current Media (, and we have been successfully running UGC ad opportunities (we call them VCAMs — Viewer Created Ad Messages) for a couple of years now. We work with the client on the assignment brief, post it to the community, receive upload submissions that are hidden until the client has a chance to review, and then ultimately offer the client the chance to select up to 4 VCAMs that run on and Current TV (our cable / satellite TV network). To learn more, go to

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