There’s a fairly new skillset required of marketers as sponsored, user-generated video takes shape this year. Historically, marketers are trained to listen to the customer, shape the messages, and manage the agency to achieve “reach, frequency and single-minded propositions.” Rinse. Repeat.
Along comes viral video. At first, marketers sit on the sidelines. They watch. Then they decide to get in the game, and they have agencies produce faux viral. In some cases it takes off, but it mostly fails. The next evolution involved partnerships between creators, brands and new media channels. Recently Coke did a promotion on YouTube where it paid ‘tubers to make short Christmas videos (no mention of Coke required) and send them to friends. They also sponsored EepyBird in another Mentos/Coke video, and paid them reported 6-figures and put significant media dollars behind it.
So what’s next? Yesterday I spoke with a product director of a well-known consumer brand. He wants to sponsor videos that mention his product, and he’s ready pay a fee for the video. We’ve been communicating for months and he approved my first video with some minor changes yesterday evening. Then MediaMoGirl pitched him and his boss on a new idea we’re planning to shoot this weekend. Let’s just say it involves me wearing spandex and leave it at that.
Here’s what struck me about the way these two marketers were handling our conversation. They stepped back and exhibited an incredible faith in our creativity. They didn’t push us to insert brand messages, and they didn’t even treat us like an agency. It was like watching a parent give a child some room to be as weird as they wanted. The feedback we received was subtle. All they really wanted from the video is for it to appeal to their target market, and have full transparency that they sponsored it. The VP stepped off the call to FedEx a box of product to MediaMoGirl to use as props. I was blown away by this dialogue.
At Johnson & Johnson I took some classes by former Procter & Gamble guys that taught how to manage and lead creative agencies. They made you spend a night creating a commercial, and then have it deconstructed by the class the next day. You got to feel how feedback (good and bad) is received, and you’d never, ever manage the creative process the same way again.
In 2007 we’ll inarguably see more consumer-generated content. Unless marketers “buy their way” to the game, they’ll have to embrace it with some faith. Instead of squeezing it to death and forcing messages, they’ll have to let the creators take them slightly off message. I’m going to argue that’s a fairly new skillset for an agency, much less a traditional marketer.