The big question at the Internet Advertising Bureau's User-Generated Conference this week was which is more valuable: advertising around user-generated content? Or, using user-generated content to create ads?
My question is, is that the right question? Or, should the question be, which is more valuable: user-generated content? Or, user-generated distribution?
Obviously, since I raised the question, I'm leaning towards the latter.
If an advertiser can create content so interesting that it is passed around by users, isn't that the ultimate?
In fact, I don't think it's content that the industry is talking about when they're talking about user-generated content. It's really distribution. Content created by an individual that no one watches isn't the user-generated content that advertisers usually reference.
What they want is a viral infection. Content that is so intriguing, interesting, motivating, okay, weird, that users will send it to all to see.
Whether it shows their brand in a good or bad light, seems to be less relevant than the fact that 10 million people have seen it.
Today it seems that everyone has accepted the fact that advertising agencies can't create intriguing, interesting, motivating, okay, weird, content.
Until an agency does a something that goes viral.
"Okay", the industry says, "but that's an anomaly." True enough.
But so is a really good piece of advertising content created by an amateur.
My question is, can 'user participation' be equated to sharing, rather than creating? I'm not sure. But I believe it can. The Web is a social medium. It's about sharing. Everyone on the Web can easily share.
Creating is harder. Creating something good is harder still. Creating something good about a brand's promise is damn near impossible.
To send something on to someone else means that you endorse it. It is still peer to peer interaction. It's still participation in a brand whether you have created it or not.
And, it's so much easier.
Perhaps the best tool that we can give users to participate in brands is the type of advertising that they want to share.
But that requires advertisers giving their agency creators the same freedom that they give their non-agency creators.
Some advertisers understand this.
Unfortunately, their numbers remain small.