What does the future hold for crowdsourcing and UGC?

I recently listened to an interview with Film Director Danny Boyle, held at this year’s SXSW.

He spoke about the democratization of film-making, how easy it is for a new generation of film-makers to distribute their content on the web direct to the public (which I liken to self e-publishing for wannabe writers), and the fact that anyone with a smartphone camera can now create footage on the fly that may well end up one day on prime time TV news.

One other comment he made that resonated with me was his prediction on the future of movie-making.

According to him, soon, we will be given the license to re-edit movies ourselves, potentially leading to a ‘’whole new art form” – just in the same way as we are able to create new music tracks by remixing existing ones. This point reminded me of what has started happening with crowd-sourced advertising.

Crowdsourcing of user-Generated Content (UGC) for advertising or promotional purposes is nothing new. However, it was recently taken to another level by Ford and Coca Cola. These 2 companies are empowering their fans on creating content in new and bold ways, whilst being careful to retain some control over the final outputs.

At the start of the year, Ford announced its plan to recruit 100 new brand ‘’agents’’ (as they are known), all handpicked and socially-connected, to produce the next campaign for its 2014 Fiesta – that is 12 months worth of ads entirely generated by consumers…! Daring and ground breaking at the same time. And this is where it all starts if you wish to put yourself forward as a wannabe ad exec: simply go to fiestamovement.com to register (good luck! ☺).

This move stays true to the car marker’s existing reputation as one of the most social marketers. I see it as the natural continuation of its Ford Fiesta Movement kicked off 4 years, when 100 social “agents” were then recruited within the target audience to create content about their own driving experiences for seeding on social media.

This year’s campaign however ups the ante as it empowers the selected lucky few a lot more than previously. Their video clips will not only appear on social media but also on other media. They could be used as TV or online commercials, repurposed as digital, social media or press ads (generating substantial production cost savings in the process no doubt). Obviously, the casting of these agents is managed tightly by the advertiser as a number of filters and parameters for recruits to work within will apply. These are necessary to ensure all content created is indeed on brand and achieves the campaign objectives in terms of awareness, social media buzz (shareability and virality), hand-raisers and ultimately sales wins. However Ford also insists that it will be careful not to interfere too much with the creative process by giving its agents greater ownership and license than usual.

Meanwhile, Coca Cola also appears to be on a mission to redefine UGC as it continues to seek to create closer ties with its target audience by crowd-sourcing pop song writing in its latest campaign, the Perfect Harmony Programme. The programme was developed in partnership with Fox’s “American Idol” and lets you create a song with pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen. Each week you can vote on which of the proposed lyrics you want to see featuring in sections of the song, and each vote unlocks exclusive content. You also get entered into a prize draw for a chance to win a trip to the “American Idol” season finale and other related treats.

… And as I threw my vote in for week 1 of the campaign, I couldn’t help notice (with great delight!) that at any time Coca Cola didn’t force me to like their Facebook page to participate. Consistent with Coca Cola’s approach to creating genuine connections with its fans.

Now, let’s go back to Danny Boyle’s comment on the future of film making with both of these examples in mind.

I would say that the future of film making will not only be about empowering fans and wannabe film makers to remix existing movies, but also about letting fans and the public at large contribute to creating an entire storyline from scratch, in partnership with a brand, established film studio and/or film marker – with this collaboration simply enabled by the web and social media.

And this has already started happening to some extent. CollabFeature has been leading the way by allowing a collective of independent film makers all over the world to co-create, co-direct and produce feature films by simply collaborating online via a bespoke platform. Their first film, The Owner, won the German IPTV award for innovative format in 2012 and beat the Guinness World Record for most directors of a film with 25 directors directing from 13 countries.

The next logical instalment of this could be to see a brand (Red Bull and its media & content division, Red Bull Media House, come to mind) partner with an established film maker (or music artist) on crowdsourcing a storyline (or lyrics) for a feature film (or song) in a similar fashion i.e. by completely opening up the content creation process to their fans and wider public – not just to a limited crowd of professionals or within constraining parameters (e.g. choosing from ready-made lyrics). The idea would be to let the consumer be in the driving seat with the brand and film maker (or music artist) providing guidance only.

You then end up with a three-way partnership between an advertiser, a film maker (or artist) and their fans and consumers co-creating entertainment together for the enjoyment of the wider public. The key challenge will be to let consumers drive or at least have an equal share of voice in the project. This also throws all sorts of questions over whom ultimately owns that content. However the legal hurdles seem to be worthwhile as to my knowledge, this type of partnership is unheard of (let me know if you know otherwise) and yet, is in my view the ultimate brand-consumer connection to aim for.

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  1. I read this paragraph fully on the topic of the resemblance of most recent and earlier technologies,
    it’s awesome article.

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