And this is coming from a guy who runs an advertising agency.
So what's a brand to do? Well, you could hire a smart group of creatives (whether at an advertising agency, freelancers or internal team) to dream up the next awesome big idea... or you could turn to the general public and leverage social media to find an approach that will spark response.
The latter is exactly what Charlotte's Womadz has set out to do. Bringing together word of mouth marketing and advertising (WOM-adz. Get it?) this startup is working to disrupt the advertising business. Founded by college buddies Diek Minkhorst and Sam Reitman, Womadz's concept is this: create a platform that incentivizes customers, aspiring creatives and social media types to participate in online video competitions. These video submissions are then voted on by friends, family and social media users-at-large so that the most entertaining and compelling ads win.
In the end, the sponsoring brands get great video ads that resonate with their intended audience and a bunch of word of mouth buzz -- thanks to social media. The creators win cash and prizes and get to see their videos used by brands. And most importantly customers get to see ads that don't suck.
Well, that's the idea at least.
To be honest, this isn't an entirely new idea. Zooppa, Poptent and others have built similar platforms. Even traditional advertising agencies have attempted video competitions. Womadz secret sauce is as much about how easy their platform is to use as it is the social media community and word of mouth muscle they're building.
Now, I haven't used Womadz's platform (yet), but having seen a number of these online competitions run beginning to end there are three things that Womadz must do right in order to wow both brands and consumers.
#1 - Inspire Great Submissions
This is a lot easier said than done. Aspiring creatives will only submit a video if they are a) excited about the brand, b) see an opportunity to advance their career and c) think they can win a cash prize. In other words, no one is willing to work for free. Fostering a community that is first and foremost about the creators, and then connecting them with brands they love, will make or break Womadz.
#2 - Be Extraordinarily Transparent
You cannot build a community that will develop memorable video content without extreme transparency. As an example, years ago I was lucky enough to work with a large international brand and their public relations firm on a video competition not unlike the type that Womadz runs. The campaign was wonderfully promoted and generated a lot of interest from creatives... right until the community figured out that they immediately gave up all of the rights to their videos the moment they submitted them to the competition. The community was not amused by this and the submissions dried up until the rules were amended.
Moral of the story: restrictions and rights management are a natural part of video competitions. However hiding anything... at all... from the community (whether intentional or not) will come back to bite you in the ass. So just don't do it.
#3 - Do Social Media Right
The major differentiator between Womadz and every other Joe and Jane video competition is the social media community that will vote on and share the video submissions. Not only should the crowd elevate the most entertaining videos, but the additional buzz on social media channels should generate extra value to the participating brands. If that social media community doesn't coalesce, then Womadz is going to be in for a world of hurt.
So what should they do? Live and breathe social media. Become an active part of every niche and large social media community that exists and caters to creators. Put the community and creators first in everything they do. Add value, not extract it for the benefit of the brands. Ultimately brands - and their budgets - will follow what works. However the creator community will only follow what feels right. Hit the right tones with the community and the rest will fall into place.