Southwest Embraces User-Created Spots

CHICAGO Southwest Airlines is stepping into the risky world of soliciting the general public to create advertising. However, the low-cost carrier is using a safety net.

Starting today, Southwest stages a contest on and asks people to submit 20 seconds of an awkward or humiliating moment.

The winning entry will be used in the airline’s “Wanna Get Away” campaign, created by Omnicom Group’s GSD&M, Austin, Texas, which shows people in embarrassing situations that made them want to be someplace else. The theme has been used in Southwest TV campaigns since its inception in 1998.

Several marketers are experimenting with consumer-created ad campaigns. Doritos is currently running a contest with Yahoo that will air a user-submitted video during the Super Bowl. Chevrolet, Sony and Converse are also experimenting with the concept.

A Chevy Tahoe promotion that let consumers create their own executions pointed to the risks of the tactic. Environmentally minded users created several ads lambasting the SUV for its effect on the environment.

Southwest is taking steps to avoid embarrassment. Entrants must be registered on YouTube and join the Southwest group on that site. Any content that is deemed obscene, violent, sexually provocative or uncomfortable for Southwest’s image will not be accepted in the contest.

A panel of judges will select the grand-prize winner, who also wins a trip for four with two-night hotel accommodations to any Southwest Vacations destination. The public will vote through Feb. 20 for first-, second- and third-place winners who will be awarded free getaways and travel.

The carrier spends about $180 million annually on ads, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.