Consumer Generated Advertising
Social media can be an incredibly effective way to spread a message. In 2010, a Facebook campaign led to Betty White being invited to host SNL and in 2012, a viral YouTube video led to Joseph Kony becoming a global fugitive. In addition to the potential sizable audience, marketing conducted through social media can more readily produce engagement with a brand through website visits, re-posting of information, and consumers generating their own content.
Existing major social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, and Yelp provide a number of methods to share and create brand promoting content. Consumers post information to acknowledge brand experiences, to indicate they are currently located at a business, to share pictures or videos incorporating products, and review past experiences. Consumers’ online brand related activities (COBRAs) and electronic word of mouth (EWOM) can serve as free advertising for a brand.
Beyond consumers’ independent social media participation, companies are increasingly involving consumers in the process of developing ads and marketing tools. Social media marketing and consumer generated advertising are expected to significantly increase engagement with the brand for both those creating the content as well as those viewing it. However, only limited research exists examining how consumers view peer created content relative to traditional content.
To investigate this issue, Debora Thompson and Prashant Malaviya presented advertisements to consumers and varied whether the source of the ads was attributed to fellow consumers or ad agencies. In actuality, some of the ads were consumer generated and some were professionally generated. They also considered whether factors such as brand loyalty, distraction while viewing the ad, and identification with the ad’s creator impacted consumers’ perceptions.
Results from four studies show that awareness an ad was consumer-generated triggers two opposing effects: skepticism about the competence of the ad creator and identification with the ad creator. Skepticism emerges when the audience challenges the ability of regular consumers to design effective advertising, perhaps recognizing that effective advertising requires particular skills and expertise. Identification emerges when the audience perceives similarities between themselves and the consumer creating the ad. The effectiveness of consumer created advertising, therefore, depends on factors that hinder skepticism and heighten identification with the ad creator.
More specifically, the research shows that attributing the ad to a consumer backfires when the ad creator is simply portrayed as an unspecified fellow consumer. Importantly, this negative effect can be mitigated and even reversed in the right conditions. For example, when the audience identifies with the consumer creating the ad, such as if they are depicted as sharing a background trait with the viewer, consumer generated advertising is perceived to be better than traditional advertising. Moreover, if the audience consists of loyal consumers, attributing the ad to fellow consumers enhances viewers’ perceptions of the ad and the focal brand. In this case, loyal consumers identify with peers that are engaged in creating the ad. Finally, in high distraction viewing conditions, when consumers’ ability to activate skeptical thoughts is limited, attributing the ad to a consumer did not significantly affect liking for the ad or the brand.
IMPLICATIONS & CONCLUSIONS
Overall, the research shows that marketers should continue to engage consumers and benefit from their creativity, but they must be careful about how they publicize this content. When consumers were distracted during viewing, their reaction to the fact that an ad was consumer-generated was positive, but when they were able to devote greater attention to the ad, their reaction was negative. This finding creates a dilemma as marketers’ motivation for using consumer-generated ads is to increase consumer engagement (which requires greater attention).
To prevent this issue and reap the greater benefits from consumer-generated ads, it is important to develop a narrative about the ad creators that connects with the target audiences. Marketers can prevent heightened skepticism about the abilities of ordinary consumers by increasing identification between creators and viewers. For example, when selecting winners for dissemination in a consumer generated ad contest, the creator’s biography is likely to be just as important as the content of their product. Consumer generated advertising thus lends itself to engaging existing loyal customers and potential consumers that identify with these loyal customers.