UGC Debuts at Cannes

By MaryLee Sachs
US Chair and Worldwide Director of Marketing Communications
Hill & Knowlton

What began as a twinkle in the eye of Robert Redford when the Marketing 50 (M50) met at the Sundance Film Festival a couple of years ago, has blossomed into a major collaboration between 12 iconic brands who are coming together this year on the marketing industry’s centre stage – the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Festival organizers have welcomed “MOFILM” with open arms demonstrating the increasing impact and prevalence of user-generated content on the marketing world.



MOFILM  was originally created to encourage the production of short film content that could ultimately be showcased via mobile channels.  Initially it was a collaboration between the GSMA, M50 and Accenture, which showcased at several success short-film festivals, including the Global Mobile Congress at Barcelona in January which was hosted by Kevin Spacey and featured of the Black-Eyed Peas.


User-generated content

While MOFILM has been picking up momentum, an increasing number of companies have been experimenting with consumer-generated content.  Frito-Lay used America’s biggest sports stage – the Super Bowl, known for inspiring the best television ads in the USA  – as a launch pad for its consumer-created advertising competition in 2007 and 2008.  Both ads reached number 4 in USA Today’s prestigious ad meter, which ranks Super Bowl ads from most to least favourite.  This year Doritos elevated the stakes, putting up $1 million for the fan whose homemade Doritos Super Bowl ad could trump Madison Avenue and become the first user-generated commercial to take top spot in USA Today’s ad meter. Doritos sales soared and a huge PR success was scored for the brand.


Brand cooperation

With Frito-Lay’s user-generated ad displacing ten-time winner Anheuser-Busch as the Super Bowl’s best, several other M50 members have come together to tap into the power of UGC and launch a competition which will be chaired by acclaimed director and producer Spike Lee, and culminate at Cannes where the winning entry will be announced.  Participating brands include AT&T, Best Buy, Doritos, HP, Kodak, Nokia, Unilever’s Omo, Philips, Marriott’s Renaissance, Telstra, Visa and Vodafone.


The 12 brands have created the “You to the Power of 12 – U12” competition to give creatives worldwide  the chance to develop branded video communication to be showcased at the “Oscars of the Advertising World.”  The competition gives everyday individuals an opportunity to gain exposure to 10 million video, internet and mobile viewers worldwide and win more than $120,000 in prizes and a chance to be on set of Spike Lee’s next production.


The New Wave

So, what does this mean for the advertising community?  Well, four out of the top 15 US ads in the past four years haven’t come from large advertising agencies but from everyday people via user generated models.  Will this increase as brands look to increase engagement with their fan bases?


No doubt this will be a hot topic in Cannes in two weeks. Eager to harness this new wave of social participation, the Lions Festival will feature workshops on leveraging and managing UGC, hold a private screening of the best of Cannes, host a reception and dinner with Spike Lee, and the contest itself.

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