Video From The User, For The User, By The User

Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, and deservedly so. Based on America's love affair with reality ("me") TV, one could argue it's become more a right than a privilege.

Think about all the quality reality programming on TV we can't get enough of. "American Idol" can make anyone, irrespective of talent, into a celebrity. We can add "Survivor," "Rock Star" and "Real World/Road Rules" to the list of reasons to not only come back for more, but to aspire to participate. I know I wanted to be on "Real World" back in the day, and certainly couldn't get enough of "Joe Millionaire" or "Pros vs Joes"! Fortunately, for those of us who missed the casting calls, we have the Internet as today's medium for self-expression. And what better way to express one's self than through video?

In short (no pun intended), video assets can be easily created, posted, watched and syndicated by users today. How easy is it? With a digital video camera, I can tape my dog, Oreo, doing tricks like catching a Frisbee, and edit it in on my iMac. On my blog, I can upload my awesome video of Oreo so that other dog owners/lovers can view it after a quick Technorati search. To take it to the masses, I can then upload Oreo onto my MySpace page and submit the video to iFilm and YouTube for added distribution. If someone really likes my video, they can send it to friends or post it to their own MySpace page. So now everyone has the opportunity to find the video and watch it in the environment they enjoy most. Since tens of millions have spaces, plus they visit & iFilm monthly, everyone will know my dog Oreo's the best dog ever. They've found Oreo and watched her on their terms, not on mine--and that's the key. How NBC handled the "Lazy Sunday" / YouTube situation was exactly the opposite of how things should be done.

You may have also noticed that I have not mentioned a sponsor, advertiser or other means of monetizing my doggie video. Right now, the most visible partnerships YouTube has is with E! for Cybersmack and Google text ads. But if video pre-rolls were available, would we even want to buy any of that inventory? Are you willing to put your ad in front of questionable content? I know for certain my clients would think twice, thrice or more before doing so. And, to me, that's probably not the best approach, though the easiest.

Though few and far between, some brands are out there trying to harness the consumer's voice. Contests for viewer-generated video are an ideal solution that engages consumers instead of talking at them by making video a singular, passive, TV-like venue. Intel's Magic Wand and Pepsi's Aquafina contest are great examples of how we can get fans and loyalists to express how passionate they are about your brands or use your products in new and innovative ways. The cost of doing these programs is less than a spot on most of the shows I listed earlier, providing nominal risk.

More importantly, if you value :15 of consumers' time based on a traditional media CPM, then imagine how much value is created when they spend hours making video content about your brand. By embracing and expressing their passion for our brands into content, we unlock that value for the world to see and engage with. In the end, maybe 15 minutes of fame isn't such a bad thing, after all.

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