Pondering Zooppa and User-Generated Content

I think I’m one of the few people that actually looks at the ads on Facebook.  I guess it’s just the curiosity in me that wants to know who is targeting my demo and advertising on Facebook.

One of these ads caught my eye yesterday: Zooppa.com.

I clicked on it and found a website that is basically trying broker creative talent from the masses.  They post a creative brief and ask people to submit videos, print ads and banners(?).  The creative is voted on by the visitors/users and the winners get Zooppa dollars.  Once you a participate accumulates 1000 Zooppa dollars they get $1000 in American dollars.

Zooppa Screenshot

I have to admit: I was kind of excited when I saw this.  I thought it would be pretty cool for brands to harness all of the excitement and energy that consumers have for their favorite brands.

Of course this concept of “user-generated content” isn’t completely new.  Brands have been creating contests for consumers to create their creative for years.  This year’s best Super Bowl ad (viewer’s choiceDoritos) was created by “amateurs.”  And my friends, Owen Mack and Jesse Buckley at Cobrandit (formerly Obtainium TV) have been documenting original consumer brand experiences for years.

But here’s my problem with Zooppa: whether advertising is created by Madison Avenue creatives or by normal Joes in their garage, it’s still CREATED and it’s not making a true connection with the consumer.  Yes, it might be funny, entertaining, emotional or thought provoking.  But if it’s not authentic, it’s not going to work.

Yes, the content submitted to Zooppa could be authentic and it could connect.  But my money is on 99% of the submission coming from video and creative “hacks” that are just trying to game the system to come up with a cheap, gimmicky and/or raunchy joke that the masses think is funny.  In other words, the same old shit will be voted to the top for EVERY brand.  End result: off-brand, inauthentic and ineffective.

What’s your take?

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5 thoughts on “Pondering Zooppa and User-Generated Content

  1. cool idea, but it’s spec work. and spec work is for suckers. these multinational brands should be hiring agencies and individuals to learn the brand and develop award winning advertising.

  2. Neal-

    I think you raise some interesting points regarding authentic advertising and connecting with consumers. We have seen some great successes with user generated advertising and some dismal failures. Take YouTube for example. It has produced mostly ‘bad’ videos of cats falling off tables and babies laughing. Not exactly inspired work and more suitable for Americas Funniest Home videos…

    On the other hand, out of the YouTube masses we have seen ideas rise to the surface that offered a completely new take on typical subject matter. I have seen brilliant work by amateurs that rival and surpass many of the professional advertisements I’ve seen on TV. The Superbowl ‘Dorito’s Ad’ is the manifestation of this sea-change in media production. Although I don’t believe amateur content will ever completely replace professional content, it does have a place in the ad mix for many companies looking to invigorate their brand.

    Zooppa provides a space and a challenge to creative people to bypass the traditional route to advertising work (years of school, slowly climbing the ladder at ad agencies, dealing with office politics, big egos, etc.) and work on real brands for real money.

    In full disclosure, I work at Zooppa in addition to doing my own consulting work in social media. My background is in photography and I came to Zooppa as a skeptical media creator who has faced the problems of spec work personally.

    I’m not sure how to define a creative ‘hack.’ Is it someone who merely creates for money? If that is so, then many advertising professionals could be hacks. If ‘hack’ means circumventing the traditional routes to message creation, then I would say that great amateur work that gets noticed like the Doritos Ad is created by ‘hacks.’

    Ultimately if the content created by the community at Zooppa is neither authentic nor connects with an audience, then the Zooppa business model will not succeed. On the other hand if Zooppa’s community creates great work for participating brands, then I would say that an audience is connecting to Zooppa’s amateur content.

    So far, in my experience, the Zooppa community attracts passionate amateurs who are learning from each other and creating work that is often amazing. This work has landed some of them more work in the advertising world, as well as cash and experience working on a real brand.

    Time will tell but I will leave you with these examples of cool work that has come across my desk:

    A wonderful ad for Mini-Cooper, from a Zooppa member in Italy:
    http://zooppa.com/mini/videos/1377

    An ad for the newly released Jones Soda GABA drink, a drink that is opposite of most energy drinks:
    http://zooppa.com/jones-gaba/videos/3085

    Thanks,
    Kirk Mastin

    ps. if you have any questions about Zooppa please email me and I would be happy to give you more info!

  3. Kirk-

    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I totally respect the fact that Zooppa:
    1. is dialed in with what’s being said about your brand
    2. posted a comment with your POV and backed it up with some solid examples.

    To expand on one point: a creative hack is someone who just creates gimmicks. Their goal is to create a video that may be entertaining, but does nothing for the brand. And most of the time, the recycle these gimmicks or cheap jokes.

    But as a brand marketer, I’m still left with this:
    -Yes, some “good” creative could come out of opening it up to the masses, but I would be afraid to activate a program with Zooppa because of the “off-brand” creative that would be released to the market and could have a negative impact on the brand.

    And this isn’t Zooppa’s job – but how is this creative being activated in the market? Or is the Zooppa “call for creative” a viral program in and of itself?

    Thoughts?

  4. Neal-

    You raise a very good question as well as make an astute observation.

    Message and brand control are two huge issues with companies entrenched in the pre-social media marketing world.

    My short answer: Companies that resist opening up the brand to the consumer (ie fan videos, UGC ads etc.) will fall behind because a ‘conversation’ about the brand is happening online anyway. No matter what, a brand will be interpreted, misunderstood and discussed by people all over the world.

    It is far better to jump in, join the conversation (after listening first of course) and facilitate the conversation through a call to action (ie. UGC advertising or opening a forum on a brand website.)

    Information must flow both ways so the consumer will feel like part of community by participating, thus increasing loyalty to a brand. There will be bad comments, criticisms and out and out slander against a brand, it’s natural. Ultimately though, transparency and handing a bit of control to the consumer will bring in many more benefits and loyal customers over time.

    As for your astute observation:

    You said: “…how is this creative being activated in the market? Or is the Zooppa “call for creative” a viral program in and of itself?

    You hit the nail on the head. The winning video itself may be used by the brand to invigorate the brand’s marketing efforts. But even more valuable is the contest process itself where the entrants participate and have a voice in the branding of a product. The contest itself sparks discussion and therefore viral brand awareness.

    It’s really a fascinating process seeing the social media ‘ripples’ form during each contest.

    Zooppa community members have created some amazing work. Some of our ‘Zooppers’ have used their work to land additional advertising opportunities outside of Zooppa and that is an encouraging thing to see during this recession period.

    I am also enjoying the interaction between Zooppa members, where they help each other and provide creative criticism.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing how Zooppa can take the lead in UGC advertising.

    Take care Neal,

    Kirk Mastin

  5. Hi, My name is Jon (owner of Pixel This Video Productions and alias “pixelthis” on Zooppa.com). I created that Jones GABA ad that Kirk was nice enough to use as an example of “cool” work.

    I have been a member of Zooppa since late 2008. Speaking from experience, there is some amazing work that comes from that site. Most of the participants are hobbyists, however there is certainly a professional draw to the site as well. Some ad’s are great, some are okay, and some are awful.

    Regardless, I wholeheartedly disagree with your end-result hypothesis of “off-brand, inauthentic and ineffective.”

    Zooppa, the members, and the contests themselves, aren’t aimed at recreating or emulating anything… WE MAKE THE BRAND. Most campaigns are aimed at empowering the consumers to re-brand and help shape a new image for the client.

    This is as authentic as it gets. Zooppa isn’t the first site to host UGC and spec-work – sites like PopTent and it’s older version XLNTads, have a solid platform for fostering unique creativity. Zooppa’s powerful stance however comes from the community. “People Powered Brand Energy” is no understatement. The community is actively involved in not only choosing the best ads, but also improving and giving feedback.

    Ineffective? Hardly. Spend more than 15 minutes on Zooppa and you’ll find some real gems. Ad’s that are absolutely astounding – 110% to brief and awe-inspiring.

    In regard to “Spec-work,” I agree and disagree. Spec work is a dangerous business practice. Creating something w/ the off-chance-hope of profiting marginally is not a way to the Fortune-500 list. That goes without saying. However, it’s perfect for people caught in a sort of catch-22. College grad’s with loads of talent, but no experience to get a job. Kirk is absolutely correct, this gives people a chance to create ads for big-name companies. Nike, Mini, Jones Soda, I Love Italian Shoes, Google… All clients of Zooppa. Another down-side of “spec-work” is the absence of a solid relationship between the creator and client. In Zooppa’s defense, they do a pretty darn good job filling that void. Creators are given a brief (sometimes a fairly extensive one) that details the clients needs and goals. All of the important questions are covered; target audience, image, message, tone, pacing, ad duration, topic, etc.etc.

    Zooppa and sites like it aren’t going away. They fulfill a need. They have niche. Some companies, like Jones Soda Co. for instance, rarely advertise conventionally – and they are proud of it! Other companies may not have hundreds of thousands budgeted for 1 great ad. So instead, they come to Zooppa – they get 50 “eh” ads, 40 Good ads, and 10 Great ads…

    I’m glad to see that you are interested in Zooppa. It’s definitely a lot of fun to be a member and contribute. For me, it’s a really neat hobby that allows me to go guerrilla with absolutely no budget and make something creative – and maybe earn some money while I’m at it.

    Check out some of these AMAZING ads.

    http://www.zooppa.com/ads/jones-redefined/videos/jones-and-light

    http://www.zooppa.com/ads/jones-redefined/videos/let-me-in

    http://www.zooppa.com/ads/jones-gaba/videos/gaba-world

    🙂 Thanks,
    – jon

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