Contest Seeks to Capture User-Created Ads

As the proliferation of video production and editing technology spawns ever-increasing numbers of user-generated advertisements, brand stewards are growing more comfortable with the concept. A few big brands, such as Cingular and MasterCard, have even asked consumers to send their own ad concepts for possible inclusion in future campaigns.

Now, a joint production of the Bay Area Interactive Group (BIG) and the Academy of Art University takes the trend a step further, issuing an open call for Webizens and design students to send ads of their own invention for any of a group of 15 pre-selected brands. Ads should be in any video or animation format and can be of any length. No banner ads need apply.

Entries will be accepted at through March 21 and exemplary submissions will be shown during a “User-Generated Ad Show” on March 29.

A number of San Francisco-area agencies will supply both participating brands and judges for the show. Firms on the panel include; AKQA; Carat Fusion; Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; Grey; McCann; Organic; Real Branding and Tribal DDB. Some of the better-known brands involved include Microsoft, Adobe, Haagen Dazs and Kodak.

“We started thinking, with all these hilarious and incredibly entertaining viral videos on the Web, what if we could harness that creativity for a brand?” said Brian Monahan, a McCann Erickson employee who teaches at the Academy of Art and sits on BIG’s board. “Would it be cool or lame? This is a grand experiment to see what happens when you kind of open it to the public and don’t put any parameters on it.”

What the Ad Show will produce is anyone’s guess. Some of the brands on the list, such as the Milk Board and eBay, are naturals for parody. Others, not so much. What’s to be done with Armor All, for instance, or K&N air filters?

Though it’s being billed as a showcase for viral videos about existing brands, the event more closely resembles a contest or recruiting fair. Only ads having to do with the specified 15 brands will be considered by the panel, meaning most already-famous ad parodies and send-ups will not qualify. Additionally, the official Web site makes no bones about the fact that the main reasons creative types should participate are the prestigious –- and definitely hiring -– panel judges.

A cynical observer might accuse the group, or for that matter any brand issuing a call for user-created ads, of trying to get its advertising made for free. The show materials do allow for that possibility, requiring contest entrants to surrender all commercial rights to their work.

Monahan insists the production is all in the spirit of fun, though he allows for the fact that the Ad Show could turn up a diamond in the rough that ends up deployed in a campaign. “The work is not authorized or endorsed by the brands, nor is it going to be shown publicly unless there’s some spark of interest,” he said.

A $500 award goes to the creator of the winning ad.

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