IAB – Taking Control of UGC

Bad, bad title. Setting up everyone to believe you can take control of the masses out there. As was acknowledged eventually in the panel conversation, taking control is out of the question but it seems that none of the panel had questioned the title in preparation. Again, this is taken from rapidly scribbled notes.
The panel were:

Stacey: What is an operational defintition of UGC?

John: It means different things to different people. It’s a community environment; it’s not new – message boards, newsgroups are all UGC.

Dean: It’s content, of multiple medias, designed by non-paid professionals or amateurs. ie they are not paid by a company/agency to produce the stuff.

Mary: HP looks at UGC the way dean defines it.

Stacey: Is UGC and consumer control putting pressure on the marketeer?

Mary: Yes. we are not used to giving up control. have to let go and accept that users have a voice. Teams have to change tack from push to pull. It is a different mindset for 90% of the work.

Stacey: Are publishers changing their mindset?

John: Yes. It is a major paradigm shift.You have to deliver something unique, create a reason for the user to engage. It’s collaborative; as a publisher have to tak to clients. It’s more of a challenge, more creative.

Stacey: Could collaborative processes become best practices in the ‘traditional’ properties with Fox, as traditional becomes more digital?

John: At the end of the day digital is the sizzle. TV is still mass. Views it as co-dependents, need to work together to do a collaborative campaign. Fox can provide multiple touchpoints. Publishers have to deliver the platform across the panels.

Dean: Online brings new transparency; marketing is supposed to be about the consumer, online supports this. the good brands will survive the transparency.

Mary: Agrees that we need many channels. Last year HP committed to double online spend year on year. They were at 10%, so far the trend is ontrack. There is definitely a metrics challenge with talking to traditional side and sees problems in trying to bring the two systems together (to make a common standard). Let them be content with their reach and freuqency if that’s what makes them happy. Would love to see traditional become more accountable. But online we say the key metric is engagement and we still can’t explain that in a satisfactory manner to traditional advertisers.

From here on in, there was little clarity between the differences between advertising on UGC sites such as MySpace and UGC as in content that supports (or not) the brand from entities other than paid agencies. Some times a question was answered from both perspectives. There was no pointing out the differences between the two approaches, both of which have advantages and disadvantages, which confused some people, if those sitting next to me were to go by.

Dean: Consumers are in control and that is good as consumers will make the decisions that are good for them and good for the brand.

A straw poll was conducted at this point and only one person admitted to being scared to death over the consumers being in control. I think more should be, it’s going to change a lot of people’s jobs.

John: UGC gives immediate feedback as to where users are connecting with positioning and proposition and allows you to examine the brand. It’s an immediate focus group.

Stacey: What are your top 3 concerns about UGC?

John: Cost! it delivers value (said half tongue in cheek). Trust. Security. Delivery.

Mary: Sees data that says that social networks (ie myspace) don;t trust content/products that advertise in the network environments, There are good examples, but product messages are not the answer; building microsites can take the user out of the network which is also not good. Worried about the learning cost of understanding UGC.

Dean: we have to be interesting. great messages. we have to break through with stuff people want to receive.

Next was an audience Q&A session – a lot of questions.

Q: How do you trust the UGC?

John: you can start by putting your toe in the water, [advertise] in safe places on the network, ie myspace homepage. Start to build up your credibility and trust. Some advertisers only want to be in protected areas. The risk takers are the automotives, fast foods, entertainment/studios.

Q: How far can you go with pulled content (ie can it be more edgier than traditional bought media)

Mary: a brand needs to create content that people want to pull. Create complete messages. As you get to the longtail how can you control? HP is slowly dipping toes in this area. Wants to be more associated with content that is sort of peer reviewed and is not prepared to go to the tail.

John: if innapproapriate content is placed around ads, they can (and have) pulled the ads. It puts pressure on media planners to be careful.

Dean: Kayak launched a TV campaign that was controversial, extended it online by creating an ad tool and asking users to create their own ads. they did moderate and remove things hateful, too sexual but it did go further than normally allowed (on network). It was seen as a way to extend the media buy.

Here, Mary may be doing a service to all us smaller bloggers out here..it’s often about influence, not total reach and just ‘cos we’re out on the tail does not mean we are edgier. But I though only Dean answered the question about can you go more edgy online, or when consumers are choosing to create media or whn advertising next to uncensored stuff. I’ve seen the types of lines that can get cut from ads ‘cos the TV networks don’t like them and was shocked by some of the decisions, what was not allowed in. On line is slightly less restrained and you can stretch the brand, although you always have to remember that users can stretch it far further.

Q: is it really a paradign shift as marketing has always been about engagement and is it just an opportunity shift?

Mary: marketers have to think differently now across the channels.

Stacey: we have had a dialogue before but limited reach. Now we have a dialogue with a channel as consumers are a channel too. Consumers spread the word so this challenges how we engage.

John: it is having a huge impact on the ad infrastructure. The audience is fragmented, you have to customise more. You have to increase badnwidth to address this fragmentation.

Dean: it lets us do it faster, better, cheaper. Has unlocked a creative renaissance (all the tools). it is truly exciting.

Q: If Fox is selling the protected spaces, what % of reach is actually seeing this space?

John: the protected areas reference was about giving advertisers a safe space if they were uncomfirtable. many are moving into the unprotected areas. The home page gets about 15m uniques, about 200m impressions. This is about 25% of the user base.

Q: what happens when UGC heckles the brand?

Dean: that’s life! Not everyone likes the brand. we can’t get crazed about it.

Mary: It’s no longer the email that goes round the company, now everyone can see the problem. But if you are in the right the user community will stand up for you and defend you. If you are credible and stay true, the community will stand up.

Stacey: problems start with this when a brand ‘plays’ at this and does not really let up control.

Q: how much control is too much before you lose credibility?

Dean: You can’t take control and should not. things like Payperpost will backfire and cause problems.

Stacey: If you are just looking at spreading the brand then you are missing the boat. We should do more to learn about how users see the brand. We can’t just count eyeballs.

And there time was up. For me, this was a far better panel than the first one. Some realism that things have to change. But like the morning session, still a lot of confusion about what this means.

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