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On Advertising’s Big Night, Are Consumer-Generated Ads a Touch Down? Can They Work For You?

on January 29 | in Marketing | by | with No Comments

While football fans are following the stats and predictions for the Broncos or the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday, media gurus, researchers and major corporations will be collecting stats of their own – on Super Bowl ads.

Ad Age started weeks ago to compile their annual “Who’s Buying What” chart, highlighting new additions to the commercial line-up, interesting new creative, and specific products being promoted.

Last year, the price of a Super Bowl ad surpassed $4 million, setting a new record. That steep price tag means companies want to make the most of the opportunity, bringing their best new creative to an audience now primed to expect as much.

Georgetown McDonough professors Prashant Malaviya and Debora Thompson focus their research on that very topic – which innovative marketing trends are resonating with consumers? Most recently, they’ve looked at the popular trend of consumer-generated commercials.

In 2006, Frito-Lay introduced the “Crash the Super Bowl” contest which asked Doritos fans to create their own commercials for prizes. It was an intriguing new concept – tap into the crowd itself to endorse and sell a product. But would it work? In the age of social media, visibility and distribution isn’t always a problem, but effectiveness could be.

In a study recently published in the May 2013 Journal of Marketing, Malaviya and Thompson found that audiences were either skeptical of the ad creator’s competency or unable to relate due to a lack of brand loyalty. They concluded that, in order to make these types of commercials effective, companies should share background information about the ad content and creator with the audience to build credibility.

Whether your organization is placing a multi-million dollar ad during the Super Bowl or looking to do more grassroots marketing online, Malaviya and Thompson’s research has real-world implications for businesses of all sizes.

  1. Move beyond assumptions. It is easy to assume that content coming from a consumer is more trustworthy, but how that content is disseminated and publicized makes a substantial difference.
  2. Do more than just disclose. Telling consumers that an ad was consumer-created but offering no additional information may backfire. Consumers often will be skeptical of the quality.
  3. Tell a good story. For consumers to move beyond skepticism and toward identification, they need a narrative that resonates with them.
  4. Tell that story in appropriate channels. Consider a word-of-mouth approach. Air the ads in traditional venues such as TV, but tell your creators’ stories online and on social media.
  5. Find your fans. In many cases, a consumer-generated campaign will work best among your tried-and-true customers, rather than new consumers.

  From Georgetown Business, Fall 2013.

Prashant Malaviya is Associate Professor of Marketing at the McDonough School of Business. His research focuses on understanding how consumers use information to make product judgments and consumption decisions.

Debora Thompson is Associate Professor of Marketing and specialized in the study of consumer behavior. Her research interests are in the area of judgment and decision-making, information processing, and attitude change.  


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