HP's Bermel 'Scared To Death' Of User-Generated Content

Dean Harris, chief marketing officer of travel search engine Kayak.com, pointed out at an industry conference Monday the central paradox in trying to take control of consumer-created media. "I don't think you can take control of it--nor do I think you should," said Harris, the former CMO of the Web's largest online advertiser, Internet telephony provider Vonage. "I think when you do, it's going to backfire."

Harris, speaking at a panel discussion at an Interactive Advertising Bureau event Monday, was joined onstage by Mary Bermel, interactive director for Hewlett-Packard; John Trimble, SVP of branded sales for Fox Interactive; and moderator Stacey Lynn Koerner, president of consumer experience practice for Interpublic. Of the panelists, only Harris appeared comfortable with handing control over to consumers.

Bermel admitted she was "scared to death" of the prospect, while Trimble and Koerner were ambivalent.

User-generated content brings "huge additional pressure," Bermel said. "We want our brand in the marketplace presented in a certain way. Our advertising teams are used to push marketing--now we're asking them to create pull marketing, things that will attract people to our brand."

She also decried that "We say the new metric is engagement, but when people ask what that is, we can't really tell them."

Trimble said there was a "major paradigm shift" underway, and that while TV still drives a marketing campaign, and interactive is primarily an extension of that, it's also "the sizzle in the media mix." He said that trust, security and delivery on promise were the three biggest concerns that clients had when delving into user-generated content.

Harris was dismissive of almost all concerns cited by the rest of the panel and placed his faith in consumers.

"Consumers with more control will make things better--more efficient," Harris said. "Online is more transparent and more accountable. It will lead to better choices, and brands that work for the consumer will survive."

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