UGC Campaigns – Profits, Prizes and Pitfalls

Like a Lothario at a bar re-using his best pick-up lines, digital strategists continually fall back on the social media marketing campaign inviting consumer contributions as a YouTube video. In the past 6 months we’ve seen two massive Australian based UGC marketing campaigns; Doritos ‘You make it, we play it’ invitation for UGC commercials and Queensland Tourism’s ‘Best Job in the World’.

B&T reported backlash against the Doritos competition by applicants unable to submit their entries. The disgruntled vented upon their YouTube channel DoritosYouMakeIt, commenting like it was Britney Spears’ latest muffin top poppin escapade. The Gruen Transfer online forum was similarly inundated.

Community Girl questioned whether Doritos could have handled the situation better. I’m a firm believer in prevention over the cure. Like JetStar’s 5c sale-fail, you cannot cultivate demand and then fail to meet it. Its like prick-teasing, except in this case the virgin’s parents fitted her with a chastity belt. Doritos is bearing the brunt of their digital producers’ failure to meet demand. But the uproar does subtly indicate that the competition was wildly popular and increases Doritos’ exposure. Certainly can’t see it being any more harmful to a corn chip than the mono sodium glutamate its dusted with.

As a filmmaker, I’m naturally skeptical of these UGC campaigns taking advantage of upstarts desperate for a break. But I also love seeing unseen talent uncovered and nurtured. Its a mutually beneficial symbiosis, companies build a community and get content for next to nothing, users get the chance to showcase their skills.

We produced a short pilot that made it to the finals for Comedy Gold, Austar’s The Comedy Channel. As one of five finalists, we were invited to pitch our comedy series at the Screen Producer’s Association of Australia (SPAA) annual conference, paneled by Austar execs and HG Nelson. We didn’t win, but it was a helluva party, the contacts I made in 10 crazy hours alone were worth it.

I recently caught up with Darren Chau, Group Programming Manager for the Comedy Channel, to ask him what their objectives were for Comedy Gold. While most UGC campaigns are community building marketing exercises, Comedy Gold primarily aims to add new talent to The Comedy Channel’s stable. They have the option to produce the winner’s pitch and pilot into a series, although after two years of Comedy Gold, they’ve yet to produce a winning comedy. However, this is indicative of the mind-bendingly arduous development process more than their commitment to the winner’s series treatment.

Comedy Gold doesn’t attempt to build an online community or overtly market Austar or the channel. Twelve semi-finalists are picked out of the submissions by the judges, which are then available for users to view on the website. Votes determine the five finalists invited to pitch in front of an audience of producers at SPAA. You cannot comment on the videos or even see how many votes each has. It would seem obvious to use this competition as a marketing opportunity for Austar, but Darren told me that might taint the primary objective of Comedy Gold, to find untapped talent.

Does anyone think this is a noble idea or an idealistically short-sighted missed marketing opportunity? Sometimes underwhelming with a brand is the best branding exercise. Can anyone suggest how Comedy Gold could improve the competition and online component?

8 Responses to “UGC Campaigns – Profits, Prizes and Pitfalls”

  1. I had not heard of Comedy Gold before now, I think it is a great idea. I think the difference between this competition and the others is that the primary objective is to source talent whereas Doritos and best job were all about publicity.

    How would I improve on this for next year….Hmm, I think I would run the competition on Youtube. I think there is no harm in doing this, it is lowering the barrier to entry for alot of people and it is the preferred channel of watching video content online, go where the people go I say! I am sure if you spoke with Youtube Australia they would be more than happy to facilitate something, e.g branded channel.

    I would also have period of checking out who already creates comedy content on Youtube and invite these people to enter Comedy Gold E.g people like UpioFox http://www.youtube.com/user/UpioFox.

  2. Great idea Julian. Now that you mention it, there were bandwidth issues with their online video player. With limited controls, you couldn’t pause the video to let it cache. Friends overseas couldn’t very well watch our spry young stud Nafan as the online video equivalent of an old man inching along with a Zimmer frame.

    They got nearly a thousand submissions, but with the community and exposure YouTube offers, I’m sure they could get more.

    BTW – UpioFox are great, very quick to create comedy out of the latest zeitgeist and a great sense of the absurd. I wonder how older generations respond to them, they’re very GenY.

  3. NEWSFLASH – The Cannes Young Lions announced an additional means of entry, 48hrs to respond to a brief on YouTube, then 2 weeks to make it go viral. It appears to be open to anyone, making it a UGC comp.

  4. Building on what Julian said, the advantage of making it more community minded, is that the channel can get a read on audience reactions immediately, and they might even pick up on something that escaped the wisdom of the esteemed judges. Judges + audience reaction would be a great barometer for what would work for the channel.

  5. p.s that analogy about being a prick tease and not delivering is kinda offensive.

  6. Kate, I think you’re right, the judges will get an idea of public reaction through an online forum. As a finalist, we had to present before an audience of about 150 SPAA producers and the judging panel, giving character and episode rundowns and showing the video I embedded above. We got a lot of laughs and answered the questions well after. What was interesting was that the winner got few laughs and was unable to satisfactorily answer many of the questions, some of which I thought were critical. So I got the impression the judges had already made up their minds. An online forum would help them pre-decide.

    BTW apologies for the offensive prick tease analogy. I’m taking a leaf out of Zac Martin’s book and being a little provocative, after a heated discussion we had on his guest post for Julian. He subsequently posted on the exchange, a great read that provoked interesting discussion.

  7. Year of the Affiliate…

    The notion that success is more easily solved by attitude over aptitude may be one of the more subtly destructive forces at work in our society today….

  8. I was at SPAA last year on the Gold Coast and had a blast watching Comedy Gold. But the winner was awful! I figured he must have just scraped into the finals. His concept was unoriginal, the video got no laughs and his presentation was terrible. My colleagues and I couldn’t believe he won. And we weren’t alone, even if everyone had different ideas who should have won, everyone agreed the winner was a very bad choice.

    I love the Comedy Gold concept and its great to hear they’re doing it to develop talent, not as some cynical marketing exercise. But you have to wonder whether there’s any point when they bone up the final judgment.

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