“Consumer-created” ads not what you think.

In Uncategorized on March 7, 2010 at 3:54 am

Confession right up front:  as an agency creative director for many years, of course I have a bias.  I am also aware that these days, it can be hard to resist the publicity value attached to contests in which “average Joes” supposedly come up with the ideas for a company’s television commercials.

But please – let’s stop pretending the gimmick is some kind of  brilliant democratization of the creative process, or an insightful way to present ads that really “connect” with today’s  target audience.

The reality is that almost none of the winning ad ideas or  produced spots that  win these competitions are submitted by  your mailman, your mechanic, or a couple of local frat guys.

Most of them are submitted by agency creatives. Or film directors. Or other people who already make their living in or around the ad industry. That was the case for a couple of pretty good spots for Doritos in this year’s Super Bowl. This post, on AdLab, provides many of the details.

Doritos has held such competitions for several years. I remember sneering at one of their previous winners – a real knee-slapper featuring a guy riding his bike into a light pole while trying to maintain eye contact with a girl across the street.  Wouldn’t sell any chips, but had the mandatory “guy getting kicked in the groin, hit in the head, or otherwise injured” that the viewing public apparently treasures.

I, for one, am tired of watching “winning” ads that would have been ridiculed out of the room by the client had its agency presented them. If all I had to do in a commercial was produce a sophomoric belly laugh, my job would be easy. But along with being “creative”  I’m expected to sell something, preferably using a real strategy or point of difference.  These contest winners – whether they are moonlighting professionals or snickering teenagers – have no such bothersome restrictions.

Mr. Client, if you so desperately need the extra publicity attached to these sham competitions, fine. But let’s not fool ourselves into believing that this says anything about amateurs’ ability to do “professional” work. If you disagree, I’ve got a great idea for next time your kid has a cavity that needs filling.


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