When a new industry emerges, a new language must be developed. Often the language has an impact on the future of the industry. So before the topic's thesis is explored, let me first make sure we are all talking about the same thing.
First, what is often spoken of as "user-generated" video content is usually labeled incorrectly. Much of the content uploaded to You Tube and the other "me too" sites is not created by the user, but frequently includes content that violates copyright. It might be a user's favorite "Star Trek" episode or music clip set to family video clips.
To stop the confusion, why not just say that this type of content is "user-uploaded"? Then we can utilize the language of "user-generated" video content to be synonymous with video created by users. Personally, I prefer "user-created video content" because it has the advantage of clarity.
Now that the terminology is behind us, let's get to the subject at hand. When will major brands flock to user-generated content? With almost 100 percent metaphysical certainty, I believe that major brands will NEVER embrace the broad, generic industry of user-generated video. NEVER!
These are pretty bold words from a guy landlocked in the middle of the country (Illinois) in a town whose name (Mokena) means "mud turtle," but major brands will never embrace pre-roll advertising in front of all user-generated content and risk being linked to college kids applying a match to their breaking wind.
What major brands, with the help of their agencies, will do is pick and choose which clips to sponsor. Just as major brands pick and choose which shows to sponsor on network television, they will select the types of content to sponsor. They will never place run-of-network pre-roll advertising on a user-generated video sharing site.
The case is quite different with branded video sites. Right now, advertising is often sold across ESPN's Web site, across CNN's site, and across other "safe" content sites. But will RON pre-roll advertising happen with the sharing sites that mix "crap with chocolate"? We doubt this.
If you have a video sharing site with user-uploaded content, brands will continue to run away from illegally uploaded content because they are trying to avoid objectionable user-created content. This is not even a close call. It is not an issue of market maturing. The day Ivory Soap starts advertising in front of naked girls mud wrestling will never come.
But all is not lost for user-generated content. Media buying will become MOLECULAR. Media buying will face challenges. Buying pre-roll will get more and more complicated because of this molecular selection process.
Having to accommodate media buyers, who will be forced to drill down to individual clips, has substantial consequences for emerging video networks. If a brand finds its commercial migrating in front or post-rolling objectionable material, then this is the first step of that network losing its client. The brand will be the ultimate judge of what is objectionable. It will allow its agency to first choose the clips, but the moment the CEO of Toyota gets forwarded a clip of someone eating monkey brains with a Toyota commercial running in front of the clip, the advertiser will want to exert more control.
User-generated content will be sponsored "episodically" and not generically. In the New Testament, Matthew 22:14 says, "For many are called but few are chosen." The major brands will continue to say "For many clips are uploaded but few will be chosen."