There is a second problem: advertising made by the consumer is often bad advertising.
Exhibit A: The Doritos ads that debuted at the Superbowl
Exhibit B: the new Pepto Bismal ads.
These latter are really horrible, like the worst, most embarrassing outtakes from American Idol. (And this is no doubt the point. Advertising wants to occupy any new niche created by contemporary culture, especially when it can be played comically.) The PB ads direct us to a website where we may operate the Pepto-Bismal Dance machine…and this is so bad as to invite the suspicion of deep cynicism or new media incompetence.
Not all ads made by consumers are awful. The Converse spots were interesting. The Tahoe ads were, I thought, wonderful, because they found a way to let new voices and messages into the ad world.
It looks like we are forgetting 2 things:
1) marketing is about the consumer, not the corporation
2) advertising is exceedingly hard to do well. There’s a reason why we have professionals.
Bad advertising is never OK. Even when it comes from "the people." The only thing that consumers dislike more than being excluded from the production of popular culture is bad popular culture. (They will forgive you the first. They will NEVER forgive you the second.) Even very gifted creatives and planners have a hard time making great advertising. What makes us think that rank amateurs have anything to offer?
Andrew Keen was wrong on every particular, except perhaps this one: Amateurs are sometimes pretty hopeless. Don’t get me wrong. I accept what Keen does not:
Consumer-created content is out there.
It will change our culture.
It will change our advertising.
Culture and commerce will cohabit here too.
But it’s not clear to me we want to make a direct, unmediated connection. I don’t think we want consumers making ads directly. Not when we have trained professionals standing by.
Keen, Andrew. 2007. The Cult of the Amateur. New York: Doubleday.
McCracken, Grant. 2006. Chevy Cocreation. This blogs sits at the intersection of anthropology and economics. April 25, 2006. here.
McCracken, Grant. 2007. Cocreation and the real objectives of marketing. This blog sits at the intersection of anthropology and economics. September 21, 2007. here.
Clearly these are early days and we are still working on the model(s) that will bring cultural producers and consumers together in more egalitarian, participative, cooperative relationships. Rob Walker proposes one such models, suggesting that we call this process not cocreation, but copromotion.
Walker, Rob. 2007. Amateur Hour, Web Style. FastCompany.com. Issue 119. October. p. 87. here.