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UGC

Vine has been gaining momentum ever since its launch in January, piggybacking on Twitter’s considerable user base and fast becoming the new social media darling amongst younger users.

To this day, and despite the recent launch of arch-rival Facebook’s Instagram video sharing feature, it is showing no sign of abating. On the contrary, if anything Twitter promises us that with Vine ‘2.0’ soon in market this could well be the beginning of greater and bigger things to come.

In terms of reach, the latest publicly available figures stand at 40M Viners worldwide (up from 13M in June), with an estimated 50K in Australia (source:@SMN_Australia, thanks David!).

Now some of you may argue that’s a drop in the (South Pacific) ocean, hence not even worth considering as part of your marketing mix.

I beg you to reconsider and here is why.

Vine offers a unique, playful way to connect with your audience that drives differentiation for your brand.

Vining has been described as a new ‘art form’ by Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter, and rightly so. Simply, the 6-second videos (or Vines as they are known) are ‘little windows’ into your consumers and fans’ creative minds.

Unlike Instagram’s ‘generous’ 15 seconds and various props (e.g. 13 filters, cinema mode etc.), Vine’s time constraints and ‘raw’ approach to video creation truly put the power of your imagination to the test. The art of Vine-making is tricky to master as it requires you to be creative not only in the story you are telling but in its execution also – with only 6 secs to get your message across artfully.

And so not surprisingly, the 6-second short-form video is particularly popular with the creative community, with some art directors specialising in Vine-making and advertising agencies using it as a tool for hiring creative staff. It actually takes skills to create something meaningful and beautiful at the same time, in such a limited amount of time – just have a go and see for yourself.

The first Vines I saw were rather painful to watch, jerky and hard to comprehend at the best of times. However, as advertisers and Viners at large got the hang of it, the micro-video blogging network grew on me as did the quality of the content.

9 months later, it has turned out to be a great way for brands to seek participation from their fans. Successful examples of this abound in the US, where the adoption of Vine is the most prevalent amongst consumers and marketers.

Famously, GE with its successful ongoing #6SecondScience projects; one of which can be seen here. And its #GravityDay campaign – the longest Vine chain ever to my knowledge – as sampled here.

Other early adopters include Virgin Mobile USA with its #happyaccidents campaign and Airbnb which took Vine-making to a new level by inviting the audience to co-create the first short film entirely made of Vines.

Vine may never reach the same scale as Instagram (with 10 times as many monthly users today); however I can foresee its community and loyal following building steadily over time. Vine-making is hard to master for a start and so when you do, you tend to stick to it. Simply, as a brand it gives you an edge (or USP) hard to compete with in your category. As a fan, teenager or aspiring creative, it makes you stand out amongst your friends or peers; it makes you feel good.

In my opinion, it is the creativity at the core of its proposition that gives Vine longevity and makes it appealing to the hyper-connected 15-to-30 years old and creative at heart the world over. Twitter made that clear on the day it announced its launch and so did Dom Hofmann, Vine co-founder, when he said “constraint inspires creativity”:

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The arrival of Vine on the market was timely for a number of reasons.

Not only does it tap into our growing appetite for consuming and sharing visual content on social networks and on the go, it also gives advertisers a new tool to achieve cut-through on social media amongst the ever-increasing noise.

As recently outlined by Ipsos, competition for ‘image attention’ has indeed never been greater as we hop from one screen to the next and back, and our senses get solicited all day long by hundreds of messages in different media formats.

Vine is simply a great tool for creating attention-grabbing rich visual content and generating earned media amongst social media users.

How critical is Vine to your social media marketing mix?

GE’s CMO Beth Comstock admitted recently that social media had played a critical part in helping turn around the company’s fortunes. In her view, social media had helped make GE “relevant in a lot of new ways”.

I agree.

I recently became a fan of GE’s social media initiatives, and in particular of their marketing efforts on Vine, which I follow with great interest and amusement. For a company whom I never felt connected to in any way, and whose purpose and business were obscure to me to the say the least, through its own but also fans’ Vine videos,  this once faceless corporation has managed to make itself likeable and its purpose tangible – in other words relevant to me.

The performance metrics speak for themselves.

Here are some recent stats on the effectiveness of the various social video formats in market:

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At a glance, during that one-month period, we can see that Vine outperformed Instagram on both engagement rate and number of retweets. Further, according to Unruly’s research in May, 5 Vines get shared every second on Twitter.

Together, these metrics clearly demonstrate how complementary Twitter and Vine are as engagement channels.

If that’s not enough, what else does Vine have in its favour?

Unless Facebook whose usage and appeal amongst millennials is declining, Twitter and by association Vine are still happily used by teens and 20-somethings (source: eMarketer May 2013).

So if you have a substantial Twitter following and Gen Y’s are a key target audience, then it is worth trying Vine in a complimentary way to Twitter.

Oh, and unlike Instagram, Vine will remain ad-free for the foreseeable future – which makes the user experience all the more immersive and attractive to social media users who are seeking to escape advertising-heavy networks (such as Facebook).

So all considered, Vine makes for a brilliant opportunity to build a 1:1 relationship with your audience, in a space free of competitive noise.

So come on, be brave, start SMALL but start experimenting NOW. Down Under or wherever you are.

Back in March, I published my first post on crowd-sourced advertising. My focus then was on Ford and Coca Cola’s novel efforts in co-creating advertising campaigns and branded content with their respective target audience.

I am pleased to say that since a few more advertisers have come out of their shell, gone the extra mile to successfully evolve (if not reinvent) the crowd-sourcing game with their consumers. Here are those that have stuck with me specifically.

In July 2013, Lexus released its LexusInstafilm.

In a nutshell, the advertiser invited 212 instagrammers to collaborate on the shoot of a promotional film for its 2014 Lexus IS model. The film was to consist of instagram shots only (all individual shots can be seen here). The shoot was planned like a military operation, with nothing left to chance, as the video below shows.

This was a one of a kind opportunity for the Lexus car lovers, creative types and Instagrammers who were lucky enough to be able to participate into the making of an ad for a brand they admire and aspire to.

Incidentally, the making of the film and final output are brilliant pieces of advertising for Instagram also – which makes me wonder what their contribution to this project might have been in $ or otherwise…

In August, Nissan’s #JukeRide project took crowdsourcing to a new level by inviting motorsport enthusiasts and social media fans to help co create a new car focused on improving the performance of Nissan’s Nismo team of drivers.

Ideas for new car features were captured via social media and also in person via brainstorms with ex-Formula 1 driver & brand ambassador Johnny Herbert and his team of engineers. In the end, more than 3,000 individual ideas were contributed to the #Jukeride product by over 1,000 fans. A social experiment that ladders up wonderfully to Nissan’s tagline: Innovation that excites.

Harley Davidson is notorious for pioneering crowd-sourced advertising. A few years ago, with the help of a crowd-sourcing specialist agency, it launched its Fan Machine – a Facebook app that crowd-sources campaign ideas from the brand’s fans. Its 2012 ‘Stereotypical Harley” campaign was one of the successful outcomes. Recently, they revealed they had extended their crowdsourcing strategy to product development with Project Rushmore. Their latest range of bikes is the result of a collaboration with riders and fans of the brand, as reinforced by the “Built by all of us. For all of us” tagline.

Lastly – my 2 favourites:

The award-winning “Perfect Lager Project” – a product launch campaign for winemaker Casella Wines that kicked off without the product per se. The campaign idea was indeed to use crowdsourcing to identify what made the perfect beer from Aussie beer lovers, which Casella would then brew for them. This was a clever way of standing out from the fierce local competition and overcoming the winemaker’s late entry to a very crowded market.

And –

As part of its Hollywood & Vines campaign, Airbnb has just released a short film made entirely of crowd-sourced vines – a first in the art of film-making. 750 viners participated by submitting their selected shot via Vine and Twitter (nice corporate tie-up here); 100 vines made it to the final cut that screened online and on Sundance channel.

This is how it all started:

The end result is truly magic, beautifully stitched together and a real prowess considering how challenging the app’s time constraints can be.

Given the diversity of crowdsourcing initiatives (from co-creating a car or a bike through co-brewing a beer to co-making an ad, a film or a song), it makes me wonder:

Is there anything that can’t be crowd-sourced these days?

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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