Every day you see these “make your own ad!” contests for products of every size. It’s everywhere. It’s inescapable. And isn’t it just kind of a bigger version of all this anti-spec stuff we’ve all been privy to and a part of? You’re essentially creating something for the far-unbalanced benefit of someone else. Sure, it’s not much better being a designer, or a worker of any kind for that matter, as if you aren’t your own boss, you are expelling energy that’s worth more than you receive (we sound like we’re about to give you a pamphlet to read about communism). But with the customer-created creations and the spec work/contests, it’s the same system, you’re just being more of a chump. But, on the other hand, it’s a brilliant system because the brands aren’t just captivating an audience for a short while, but actually having them sit there with the identities, think about them, utilize them, and then also land all we who pop in to watch what they’ve made. Thus is the confusing, sometimes troubling, sometimes enlightening madness that is all of this, and what leads us to both ViTrue, an agency that does nothing but organize these types of contests, and to a fantastic essay over at trendwatching called “Customer-Made” all about this phenomenon (from the brand’s perspective). Read on, get upset, get ideas, and then choose to start organizing your next campaign or set fire to your computer. Maybe both.