By Steve Outing
User-generated ads are a risky business, as Chevrolet found out with a campaign that invited people to create their own ads for the gas-slurping Tahoe SUV. (The New York Times reports on some nasty submissions. Here’s one of the user ads.) But just because Chevy got muddied by people making fun of its product on its own website doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to invite online users to participate directly in ad campaigns.
But here’s some advice for advertisers: Don’t go there if you have a product that’s ripe for public ridicule. You’ll probably want to avoid public interaction if you’re advertising SUVs, cigarettes, Wal-mart … you get the idea.
For my company, I’ve been working with a sponsor for our upcoming first website, and I’m trying to talk them into allowing website users to comment on their ads. It’s a safe product that is unlikely to get blasted, and probably would benefit from a direct exchange with consumers. They’re rightfully cautious about the concept, but are considering it.
The user-generated advertising concept is a bit like the wiki. Wikis can be deployed for lots of interesting and useful applications, but there are some things that simply should be avoided — like opening up a newspaper editorial to the wiki format.