Consumer-Manipulated Content


As I listen to Bootie’s latest mash-up (define) compilation CD, I realize the concept of the audio mash-up is really nothing new (and certainly not kosher with the Recording Industry Association of America). Yet I’m still entertained and impressed by the sheer creativity of it. Though the audio mash-up has been around for years, the last year or so has seen the dawn of a popular new variation: the video mash-up.

With professional video editing capabilities affordably put into the hands of consumers, we’re seeing the level of creativity the audiences we’ve been trying to reach are capable of.

With the likes of Machinima (video game footage meets scripted entertainment) and “Brokeback to the Future“, professionals and amateurs alike have are manipulating existing video content to their liking, creating uniquely entertaining variations, making something old (or just already seen) new again.

As I was watching the “trailer” for “Brokeback to the Future,” something dawned on me. Though advertisers have dabbled with Machinima (and some would say, perfected it, as with “God of War” on, we have yet to see an advertiser truly let its video content loose on consumers, letting go enough to give consumers a fair amount of creative control.

We’ve seen advertisers do it themselves, with varying degrees of success. Nordstrom’s SilverScreen mashes up old music videos with fashion. It’s a questionable execution of a potentially good concept. It just seems forced. The real magic happens when consumers take their own shot at manipulating content.

Robert Ryang’s “Shining” trailer is brilliant. It is a new take on something audiences are familiar with and makes it something completely unexpected. The “Brokeback to the Future” trailer is brilliant as well but stands out for another reason. The source film, “Brokeback Mountain,” is still in theaters and will benefit from any additional exposure. As “Brokeback to the Future” and similar “Brokeback” mash-ups and knockoffs blaze their way around the Web, they no doubt helps raise awareness of the film, further establishing the cultural Zeitgeist.

In reality, this phenomenon, as it relates to “Brokeback Mountain,” is a happy accident. But what if it could be wielded by a savvy marketer? What if this marketer were willing to give her content to consumers and let them run wild? A 2006 Budweiser commercial mashed up with one from 1976. An iPod commercial mashed up with the famous “1984” TV spot. But with consumers actually doing the work. They’ve got the tools (QuickTime, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker); they’ve got the place to show off their work (YouTube, MySpace). All they need are the right ingredients (and permission, without fear of prosecution) to let their creativity run wild — with your content.

This re-imagining of existing assets is a natural extension of word-of-mouth marketing. It’s “consumer-manipulated content.” My challenge to advertisers is one of risk/reward. If you’re willing to take the risk of opening up your brand to interpretation, you may be rewarded by consumers embracing the opportunity.

Meet Ian at Search Engine Strategies in New York City, February 27-March 2.


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