Benefits of User Generation Are Focus of Avenue A/Razorfish Lunch

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CHICAGO -- Interactive agency Avenue A/Razorfish hosted a lunch Q&A session called "Disruptive Technology for Fun and Profit" and discussed how marketers can tactically embrace user-generated media.

The session was moderated by Avenue A/Razorfish president Dave Friedman and included a panel of Razorfish executives including Bruce Woolsey, vice president of advanced media solutions; and Mark Stevens, vice president and general manager of media; Michael Miller, group creative director. Denise Chudy, director of packaging for Google, was a panelist, too.

"Consumers have taken control," Mr. Friedman said. "We, as advertisers, should be looking for ways to see the benefits in this."

This thesis began with each panel member citing success stories for firms that embraced user-generated content to increase its brand.

Mr. Stevens chose Apple's iPod and Ms. Chudy cited General Motors' user-generated commercial campaign for taking risks despite backlash from environmentalists. Mr. Miller liked the Norelco "Shave everywhere" campaign and Mr. Woolsey liked the use of blog metrics applied by Umbria.

Mr. Friedman opened the panel up to questions from the audience. The first question was about MySpace. Advertisers are terrified of MySpace, a questioner said. Is there an example of campaigns that have worked on the networking site?

Mr. Miller cited BuddyTV, an interactive media tool where users can chat onscreen while watching TV. The firm had a small budget, so it created a MySpace page and then contacted 120 users with enormous friend banks. BuddyTV offered these popular MySpace account holders free promotional items in exchange for adding BuddyTV to their friend pages.

This tactic landed BuddyTV 120,000 friends of its own.

"Doing your own page is the best way to use a network like MySpace," Mr. Stevens said. "It worked for the TV show, "Family Guy," wh[ich] has 900,000 friends."

A question about corporate users' sites was asked. All the panel members agreed that this had to be done delicately. A key to this is by understanding the target audience and measuring if this would be valuable to the customer.

This question was followed up by another one on fragmentation.

"I think fragmentation is great," said Mr. Woolsey. "Users are in control and we have to get over being afraid of this and start asking how we as advertisers can benefit from this."

Ms. Chudy mentioned how movie studios are able to use fragmentation to their benefit by targeting specific products to specific audiences based on user profiles. Even as large companies, film studios are still able to succeed in attracting fragmented audiences.

When asked about using user content to market in a business-to-business capacity, the panel fell silent for a few moments. Mr. Stevens finally brought up the smaller, yet very targeted campaigns that have worked for BTB businesses targeting IT people.

The discussion was summed up with questions on mobile marketing, which all of the panelists saw as a hopeful space in the future, especially as challenges like battery life, bandwidth and taxes are addressed.

"I see the phone as the most interesting and unique way to have a relationship with your customer if you can develop a good system," Mr. Woolsey said. "But there will be a very delicate place between advertisers embracing this technology and consumers who say they'll throw their phone away if it has advertisements."

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