The fear of the unknown

by annabellajoske

In modern times, consumers are becoming wiser, no longer relying on advertising companies to sway their purchase decisions. Instead they are utilising the Internet and more specifically UGC, to find out what fellow consumers have to say. In October 2007, a Nielsen study found that consumer recommendations are the most trusted form of advertising around the world. This shift has endangered advertiser control of the market as consumers begin to take authority upon when they see, hear or interact with an ad (Donaton, S. 2006).

With the current move into User generated content, otherwise referred to as UGC, advertisers are becoming overwhelmed by the increasing amount of methods in which to achieve their objectives.  Whilst many are walking into the blindness of the unknown, unclear of how to go about it, there are those who are prevailing by leveraging the opportunities of this new environment.

UGC has essentially been around since the invention of the Internet and can quite simply be defined as “any material that is created or uploaded by a non-media professional” (iab, 2008), from a simple Facebook comment to a video uploaded on YouTube. Advertisers are witnessing a huge shift in the media ecosystem and have had to rapidly adapt in order to keep up. “In 2006, UGC sites attracted 69 million users in the United States alone, and in 2007 generated $1 billion in advertising revenue. By 2011, UGC sites are projected to attract 101 million users in the U.S. and earn $4.3 billion in ad revenue” (iab, 2008).

This new model encompasses an approach to content that is collaborative, collective and customized. This is shaping a world that now inhibited by consumers who act as alpha content creator and distributor of the media jungle (iab, 2008). The new environment requires an entirely new mindset, away from traditional advertising practices where advertisers must fit into the environment in order to become apart of it. This has encouraged them to communicate with their target audience on a more personal level Donaton, S. (2006)

This has led to much experimentation, influencing a range of new techniques, which are steady fast becoming common practice.

The introduction of blogging was the water to the seedling that was UGC, growing it to, a now predominate component of a consumers internet experience. The advertising industry is utilizing this force through strategic ad placements among blogs. Even major corporations such as the Huffington post have jumped upon the bandwagon and are reaping the financial benefits.

Another major player in the new and prosperous environment of UGC is social media. In modern times if you are not apart of a social networking site you are not on the Internet. This is especially relevant for advertisers  (iab, 2008). The introduction of Facebook in May of 2007, and the increasing popularity of sites such as, but not limited to: YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace and Bebo, has unlocked many door for advertisers. These sites have the ultimate potential for growth, as they have the ability to converge user commentary thorough different multimedia platforms such as photos, videos and music sharing. In addition these sites allow advertisers insight into audiences behaviors, demographics, geographic and psychographics.

Additional trends that have been used by the industry to leverage opportunities include:

  • Using overlay videos on YouTube which incorporate advertising that does not take away from users video experience
  • The employment of conversation targeting allowing advertisers to place their ads next to relevant topics/brands.
  • Creating custom communities where users can engage and interact with the brand through activities such as quizzes, competitions and games.
  •  Creating channels on sites such as YouTube, which are dedicated to the brand. Creating a profile for the brand on social networking sites such as Facebook and engaging with consumer as if they were too a person.
  •  Creating content that looks and appears to be UGC, but in actuality is created by the brand. For this to be successful the brand must ensure that they are not hiding the fact that it was self-produced. This can in turn stimulate conversation about the brand. An example of this one of Ray Bans recent ploys.


Donaton, S. (2006). How to thrive in new world of user-created content: Let go. Advertising Age, 77(18), 38. Retrieved from

Flew, T. New Media: An Introduction . Melbourne , Vic, Australia : Oxford .

 Interactive Advertising Bureau . (2008, 04). User-Generated Content, Social Media and Advertising . Retrieved 10 17, 2012, from Interactive Advertising Bureau :

user-generated content. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 15, 2013, from wikipedia :