The marketing dilemma of the new millennium:

  • Problem No. 1: Consumers see thousands of commercial messages every day. They ignore almost all of them. How can brands possibly break through the clutter? How can they entice consumers to listen to their critical messages?
  • Problem No. 2: The need for more online and mobile advertising continues to escalate at a remarkable rate. Repurposing 30-second TV spots for online just doesn't work. Madison Avenue productions are not cheap. How can brands capitalize on the changing advertising landscape without breaking the bank?

The solution: Let consumers help create the messages.

Consumer-generated advertising (CGA) was created as a way to engage consumers, to tap into their insights, to reach new creative talent—and all at a fraction of the cost of conventional advertising.

Since its rise to prominence a few years ago, on the heels of heavily publicized campaigns for Doritos and Dove, CGA has come a long way.

Brands are still actively using CGA, but often in quieter ways than the earlier experimental campaigns. They are less often a pure PR effort (as seemed to be the case with Doritos and Dove) than a way to generate real, usable advertising.

Marketers have recognized the immense creative talent that resides outside Madison Avenue. They've recognized that, with CGA, properly executed, they can generate quality, consumer-relevant content at a fraction of the cost of conventional agency productions. And these commercials break through the clutter with their "real" feel and relevant messaging.

Of course, accomplishing a successful CGA program isn't a slam dunk. It requires a clear understanding of the right and wrong ways to proceed. As someone who's lived through, observed, and participated in much of this commercial development, I offer these lessons learned.

Lesson One

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Neil Perry is president and CMO of XLNTads (