Current TV Challenges Viewers to Create Online Ads

Look out, interactive advertising agencies. Current TV, the cable television network built on viewer collaboration, is asking its audience to create online advertisements.

Up until now, Current TV has tapped viewers to create :30 and :60 television ad spots known in Current’s world as Viewer-Created Ad Messages (VCAMs). These ads have been part of Current TV since it launched in 2005 with the help of Al Gore and Joel Hyatt.

Here’s how Current’s viewer-generated ad program works: The channel invites viewers to create and submit their own video advertisements for Current’s sponsors, including Sony, T-Mobile, L’Oreal, Pop Secret, Toyota, and others, based on sponsor briefs. The spots are shared online and voted on by viewers; the most popular ads get a shot at television broadcasts on Current TV.

So far, the network has run approximately 10 campaigns with 50 to 100 submissions per campaign, said Mark Goldman, chief operating officer of Current TV, and now, following a recent Web site redesign, Current is looking for more broadband-oriented content with shorter time formats or designed to be played in banners.

“We are starting to engage sponsors in the process of looking at online instead of just the TV advertisements,” said Goldman. “It’s about being able to more cost effectively create shorter advertisements, which I think everybody believes are more effective online than the traditional :30- :60 ads.”

The network is expanding its program for online ad content in large part due to the viewer approval ratings the user-generated video messages garner compared to other traditional agency created content, he said.

“We’ve done research that shows on our network these advertisements are preferred nine to one over the advertisements that the same sponsors are running, that are created by their agencies,” Goldman said.

Wireless carrier T-Mobile selected several consumer-generated video ads about its myFaves campaign, to run on Current TV. In one ad created by Azad Jafarian called B.F., a woman uses each of her five free phone numbers through the plan to call her boyfriend wherever he is. Another ad, created by Reid Scott and called Steven’s Choice, shows a young man selecting eager friends from a group akin to picking a kid’s sports team, with those left over kicking their feet in frustration. While the ads were used on Current TV, T-Mobile’s marketing team found other benefits of the program more important, said Brett Dennis, director media and relationship marketing T-Mobile USA.

“It’s more about the relationships, and learning a little bit more about the way our customer views our brand and much less about getting free creative. The real value is the additional insight about the way our customers view the brand,” Dennis said. “We are working on our next round of VCAMs, and depending on the content that we get back, we will explore other places we’ll put that content, on our own organic sites or other sites, or depending on the quality on the TV as well.”

User-generated content from Current TV has found homes elsewhere on the Internet in the past, including a deal with Yahoo to showcase favorite user videos, though it shuttered three months later.

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