Tomorrow’s New York Times features an amusing article on how H.J. Heinz’s foray into user-generated advertising is backfiring. The company is holding a big YouTube contest to get people to create video advertisements for its ketchup. But the entries are almost universally crappy, the contest is generating ill-will among some in the target audience, and the company is actually spending more than it would have if it had just hired an ad agency to put together a campaign.
Turns out, that’s par for the course. The companies that have jumped onto the user-generated-ad bandwagon “have found that inviting consumers to create their advertising is often more stressful, costly and time-consuming than just rolling up their sleeves and doing the work themselves. Many entries are mediocre, if not downright bad, and sifting through them requires full-time attention. And even the most well-known brands often spend millions of dollars upfront to get the word out to consumers.”
To add insult to injury, the worst ads (from the advertiser’s perspective) tend to be the ones that become most popular on YouTube. One of the most-watched Heinz ads “ends with a close-up of a mouth with crooked, yellowed teeth.” The Times reporter quotes the reaction of a viewer: “Were his teeth the result of, maybe, too much Heinz?”