Are brands wasting money on UGC based microsites?

The latest Ofcom report shows that most people are not interested in uploading videos of themselves to the web, yet we still see campaign after campaign run by predominantly FMCG brands that encourage people to do exactly this in order to enter a competition.

Pantene’s ‘Make a Swisssh’ campaign fronted by Cat Deeley asks users to upload a picture or video onto the campaign microsite of themselves ‘swissshing’ their hair to enter a prize draw. This is a national campaign supported with TV advertising yet according to their site only 681 people have entered. Incidentally, unless you type ‘swisssh’ with three ‘s’ the campaign site doesn’t appear in the natural or paid for results and their Pantene Pro-V site that actually shows you how to make a swisssh doesn’t link through. Was this the best digital execution of this idea?

The second example that is again, supported by TV advertising and an outdoor campaign is the newly repositioned Milky Bar. No longer for kids (you have to be over 16 to get into their website), the campaign encourages users to impersonate the Milky Bar kid and audition for their new TV advert. This involves singing the Milky Bar jingle while hovering in front of your webcam attempting to match up the Milky Bar kids’ hat and glasses to your own features. The videos that have been uploaded suggest this hasn’t entirely gone to plan. I particularly liked the lady singing along with the camera angled up her nose and no sign of the hat or glasses. Again, do people really want to spend their spare time singing the Nestle Milky Bar song into their computer just to have a slim chance of being in the next advert?

Perhaps the PR value of these campaigns justifies the means. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter that hundreds rather than thousands of people ever upload their videos to these campaign sites and that many more people are talking about it and are prompted to buy the products simply by the coverage.

My point is that these are essentially good ideas that could be executed more effectively online and achieve more significant results if they were. I don’t think either of these examples were the output of specialist digital agencies. Brands don’t need to spend vast sums of money  on creating new microsites and UGC functionality for short-term campaigns. Existing platforms, particularly Facebook, can be cleverly utilised to provide higher rewards for the user with less commitment on their part and generate better results in brand and sales terms at a much lower cost – the recent Old Spice campaign is a great example. And if UGC based campaign microsites are still considered to be the best approach by these brands, supporting them properly with search engine marketing would maximise their investments.

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