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(originally published by Booz & Company)


Marketing Gold: Consumer-Made Ads

Respondents who were told that a consumer had created the commercial judged it to be more authentic and trustworthy than did those who thought it had been made by an ad agency. This was true regardless of the consumer’s announced motives for making the ad — financial gain or love of the product. In addition, viewers in the two consumer groups were significantly more likely to say they intended to purchase a Kindle than were viewers who thought the ad came from an agency.

Extending the findings, further experiments showed that people hold consumer- and company-created ads to fundamentally different standards. Survey participants expected company-produced ads to be executed at a higher quality and have a “professional” look, whereas artistic originality and authenticity were deemed to be more important factors for ads made by consumers.

The authors argue that their study shows that consumer-generated ads engage viewers more than agency-crafted commercials on four levels: cognitive, emotional, personal, and behavioral.

As this form of advertising evolves, the authors write, more attention must be paid to how it is managed. For one thing, marketing executives should carefully consider how consumer-generated ads are chosen for company-sponsored distribution. If ads are created through a contest, for example, is it better for the brand’s image to use an expert panel or have consumers vote to decide the winner? And companies must also decide how much control they want, if any, over the creation of the ads. Some firms explicitly encourage people to create ads for their products, whereas others merely disseminate positive ads that pop up online.

The authors do sound a note of caution, however. Because consumer-generated ads are valued for their personal and emotional resonance, an overreliance on this type of marketing could eventually rob them of their inherent value.

If consumer-generated ads “proliferate such that high quality company-sponsored ads by pseudo-professionals” become the norm, the authors write, “expectations of [their] quality should rise in kind, negating the benefits of evaluation against lowered standards. Trust and authenticity could also weaken as the line between ‘real people’ and advertising agencies blurs.”

Bottom Line:
Commercials made by consumers about a company’s products are more effective than those created by the company itself, leading to higher levels of brand loyalty and purchase intentions among viewers. Consumer-generated ads have more emotional and personal appeal, and are deemed to be more credible and authentic, than those coming from the company.

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