If you’re thinking about launching a user-generated ad campaign, you might want to read this cautionary tale via Pepsi Co’s Frito Lay brand. It’s true that this type of campaign can be a great way to for a brand to engage with its customer base, and many of the better examples of this type of advertising have gone viral.
But be careful what you wish for.
Frito Lay has been asking consumers to create their own ads for the Super Bowl for several years now, with varying degrees of success. It was an interesting and somewhat daring strategy in year one, and since it’s impossible to have just one, true to their original brand promise, they have kept at it. This year the annual Crash The Super Bowl contest challenged consumers to create ads for Pepsi Max and Doritos.
Presumably, offending many of the 53 million adult Catholics in the United States wasn’t part of the creative brief. Yet that’s what one submission has done. Called “Feed The Flock,” the concept revolves around a priest who needs to attract more parishioners to his church so he performs the Eucharist with Pepsi and Doritos rather than wine and wafers. In a world where a cartoon of the profit Mohammed gets its own calls for jihad, it’s pretty clear that there are plenty of people out there prepared to react quickly and with vigor when they perceive a slight to their religion.
Besides being, just, well, bad, the spot was a viral hit, generating over 100,000 views on YouTube in three days. Needless to say, Feed The Flock won’t be making it to the big show.
While the whole idea of user generated advertising has its merits, any company that engages in it has to be ready for some backlash. Or at least adopt the “any publicity is good publicity” credo.
One could also suggest that if a company wants to see how creative their customers can be, perhaps they should ask for something other than a TV ad. But that’s a topic for another blog.