HP and Amazon's latest ad campaigns may use crowdsourcing to generate advertisements, but the concept is far from new. Dorito's "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, launched in 2006, has been one of the more successful campaigns of this type. The first year, the winning ad took the No. 1 spot on YouTube for most viewed Super Bowl commercial and ranked fourth on USA Today's Super Bowl Ad Meter. In 2007, MasterCard's campaign invited consumers to help write ad copy, and JetBlue promoted its ad contest heavily on college campuses. A less successful Chevrolet held a contest in 2006 for its new Tahoe SUV, allowing consumers to put together images and text to create their own ads, but anti-SUV people saw it as a tool to make ads condemning the product.
As advertising budgets shrink with the economic downturn, the crowdsourcing trend is back. After a year off, 2009's Dorito's "Crash the Super Bowl" prize money was upped to $1 million, and according to a comScore survey, Doritos even improved its brand perception with the airing of the winning commercial. HP's "You on You" campaign for its Artist Edition laptops is especially fit for crowdsourcing because of the theme (you!) and format of the contest. HP invites users to upload videos of themselves directly on to the Web site, use the Web cam option, or try remixing their own commercial with Getty Images stock footage with the site's Adobe Premiere Express tool—entrants are just asked not to show their faces: "We know you're cute, but HP is all about telling your story in a more creative way." The sample video is clear but simple, with a torso shot with images from the subject's life floating around, much like the celebrity-endorsed "Personal Again" ads.
Amazon's crowdsourcing advertising competition is currently in its finalists voting stage—HP's contest ends Sunday, August 30—and also emphasizes the consumer by asking contestants to draw on their Amazon experiences, but it doesn't offer nearly as much guidance, mostly just requiring the videos be original. Though some of the finalists borrowed styles from existing popular ads, the quality is much higher than what typically comes to mind when you hear "user-generated."
However, HP seems to be doing a better job with getting contestants involved in various phases—there are finalists for every week—and enticing them with numerous prizes, so even if you're not the best, you could still walk away with one of its 200 Artist Edition notebooks that the company is giving away. Through the contest, HP has an opportunity to successfully promote its brand, especially since the user-submitted ads feature a similar atmosphere and tone as existing HP commercials—easily preserved by having contestants choose one of the pre-approved songs.
While it's still too early to measure the success of HP and Amazon's campaigns, it seems that crowdsourcing advertising may finally be growing out of a fad into an actual strategy—though one that should be employed with care and caution.