The Pros of Amateur Content

As media companies try to fill the seemingly insatiable demand for online content, many have begun exploring the potential of attracting advertising to user-generated content (UGC), including amateur productions from countless aspiring digital filmmakers, musicians, and animators.

The growing pool of digital video offerings can be monetized in much the same way that text-based blogs are. Best of all, much of the content is low-cost or absolutely free, and much of it is even high-quality. Indeed, though ugc content is “amateur,” some of the amateurs know what they’re doing.

A popular ugc niche is the movie trailer mashup or re-edit, in which movie trailers are spliced and diced to give the original movie a different, and often hilarious, spin. One of the best examples around is a re-edit of “The Shining” posted by a journeyman movie trailer editor that makes the film seem like a father/son bonding flick. With its cheesy music, sappy narration, and total distortion of the film’s original feel, the short clip skewers movie trailers to maximum comedic effect.

The trailer mashup also reminds the viewer of the original movie, as do other re-edits that, for example, make “Sleepless in Seattle” look like a slasher flick or turn “Titanic” into a horror movie. Indeed, while enjoying the satire, viewers might also be inspired to watch the film again.

Is there an opportunity for marketers here? Like brand name-dropping rap music, ugc takes the form of artistic statements that simply happen to reference the products and brands that populate their creators’ personal media landscapes. But they might be considered “inverse” product placements — entire shows centered around a media product, in which the media product’s commercial value is nonetheless incidental. Perhaps that’s not so bad, given that one of the weaknesses of paid product placement is that it often looks forced and viewers come to feel manipulated.

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