Why Pay for Creative When Selfies Will Do?

Coke plants the flag

Long considered a staple in building consumer trust, social and mobile user-generated campaigns are now putting creative twists on offline marketing tactics that seek to win over fickle millennials.

One such marketer taking the user-generated experience to new levels is Coca-Cola, which this week will unveil its largest World Cup digital activation with a 3,015-square-meter nylon flag comprised of 219,000 photos collected via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram from 207 countries. The flag of a soccer ball is recreated from Brazilian street artist Speto’s painting and will be on display at the soda giant’s hospitality venues after the opening game. Post tournament, a link to a microsite showcasing the “Happiness Flag,” as it’s known, will be emailed to each participant as a digital memento.

Despite the big digital push, the campaign actually centers on a tangible product. “The physical flag represents a moment in history that would be very hard to capture digitally,” explained Neil Bedwell, global digital director, Coca-Cola.

MillerCoors’ Miller Lite, Jewish dating site JDate and HSN (formerly Home Shopping Network) are also among a growing list of marketers employing user-generated content to create offline initiatives.

Last week, HSN ran a campaign for Pet Appreciation Week asking Facebook users to upload pictures of their pets, and television hosts plugged the promotion during morning shows. To kick these programs up a notch in order to get the attention of millennials, the company’s next step will be to layer user-generated content over video product reviews. “Our customer reviews are the reason why people buy because they trust other customers,” said Jen Cotter, HSN’s evp of television and content. “If we could give them video testimonials, it would really bring our business to a new level.”

These content-heavy campaigns bode well for homing in on millennials, according to exclusive data from Forrester Research, which found that 58 percent of European mobile owners under 34 take photos from their devices, and 23 percent upload this content from a mobile device.

“To the degree that people appreciate content from peers or people that they identify with, obviously there’s going to be more material there for millennials to dig into than other generations,” said Ryan Skinner, senior analyst, Forrester. To compare, 40 percent of European consumers over 33 took pictures from their mobile devices, and only 8 percent uploaded the content.

Still, not everyone is convinced that user-generated content has a place in offline marketing. Jake Katz, Revolt TV’s vp of audience insights and strategy, argued that youth crave professional-grade creative with traditional media that user-gen simply doesn’t offer. “What they want is content that is highly polished, and they expect that from brands,” said Katz.