Tuesday, January 09, 2007


User-generated content has become mainstream in the past few years with the development of blogging and social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube. Corporations have been scrambling with how to profit from this new media content revolution and they seem to have hit on something big that could also be quite powerful, creative and interactive. But it goes beyond that— it’s also cheap and they are wired right into their target audience. We are experiencing a paradigm shift in the way media and advertising business is done and I have some concerns.

Doritos has launched a web based contest where users create a 30 second spot to be judged by consumers and aired on the most watched event of the year in the US—Super Bowl Sunday. As of January 5th there were 1066 “Crash the Super Bowl” user created commercials uploaded and the top 5 winners were viewed over 676,000 times. They’ve created the contest on a fabulous beta site called Jumpcut where video can be edited online. People are commenting, hitting “I love it” buttons, and coming back to the site to vote for their favorite commercial. The winner gets $10,000 and a trip to the Super Bowl. Frito-Lay will have already gotten all those eyeballs and website traffic prior to the commercial actually being aired. That’s getting away cheap—very cheap in Madison Avenue terms. Then on Super Sunday there will be free PR with everyone talking about the ad. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. What company could ask for more from its advertising? It’s sure to result in a surge of Doritos sales.

Ok, so I hate to be the naysayer here, but let’s not forget that in the past I enjoyed many an hour developing advertising concepts and design for large corporations. Frito-Lay completely bypassed its advertising agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners in favor of letting the masses create their ad campaign. I have no problem with this. But, how will ad agencies compete with this incredible new user created concept? Frito-Lay is not the only brand to tap into the masses. This is just the beginning. But here’s what I don’t like. They are paying these young creators practically nothing for their ideas, and if successful they will use them into perpetuity without the originator getting any additional compensation. I really hate to include the small print of their “contract” but someone has to point it out:

“irrevocably grants to Contest Parties and their affiliates, legal representatives, assigns, agents and licensees, the unconditional and perpetual right and permission to copyright (as appropriate), reproduce, encode, store, copy, transmit, publish, post, broadcast, display, publicly perform, adapt, exhibit and/or otherwise use or reuse (without limitation as to when or to the number of times used), the Entrant's name, address, image, voice, likeness, statements, biographical material and Submission, including, but not limited to, the video or digital recording and performances contained in any of the above items (in each case, as submitted or as edited/modified in any way by the Contest Parties, in the Contest Parties' sole discretion), as well as any additional photographic images, video images, portraits, interviews or other materials relating to the Entrant and arising out of his/her participation in this Contest (with or without using the Entrant's name) (collectively, the "Additional Materials") in any media throughout the world for any purpose, without limitation, and without additional review, compensation, or approval from the Entrant or any other party."

Isn’t that a mouthful?

What does this mean for the future of advertising? How about the young creators who are not only signing their creative rights away for pennies, but are also helping to push products by word-of-mouth, as well as buying and consuming them too? Who really wins with this model and is it a good economic one? I’m not so sure. I think user created content is great, but many of the young people who are participating in these projects may not realize exactly what they are getting themselves into.

Someone put on a critical thinking cap, please.