Article: The High Price of Creating Free Ads

May 27, 2007 by  

A very interesting article…

From an advertiser’s perspective, it sounds so easy: invite the public to create commercials for your brand, hold a contest to pick the best one and sit back while average Americans do the creative work.

But these companies have found that inviting consumers to create their advertising is often more stressful, costly and time-consuming than just rolling up their sleeves and doing the work themselves. Many entries are mediocre, if not downright bad, and sifting through them requires full-time attention. And even the most well-known brands often spend millions of dollars upfront to get the word out to consumers.

That’s kind of a popular misnomer that, somehow, it’s cheaper to do this,” said David Ciesinski, vice president for Heinz Ketchup. “On the contrary, it’s at least as expensive, if not more.”

In the past, the main difficulty was getting sufficient volume of entries because the mass audience didn’t have access to Web cams, video cameras and video editing software.

I’ve been looking at the submissions for a campaign we currently have running and can attest that maybe 1% of the submissions followed instructions and produced an interesting video.

Lessons I’ve learned from experience:

  • Be sure to budget for the time to manage and review all entries.
  • Set up a fair judging criteria and process.
  • Make the requirements easy for consumers to satisfy, but be extremely clear about what is expected.
  • Put clear limits in place to help manage expectations. (i.e. limit to specific file formats, length of time, etc.)
  • Use a qualified promotions vendor to write explicit rules for your contest/sweepstakes/drawing. Let them manage the review process to narrow down the potential finalists. They can also handle the prize fulfillment details (i.e. affidavits, awarding the prize).
  • Don’t pass around entries to make fun of people. That’s mean spirited, might violate the promotion rules and could get you in trouble.

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