Impact- Increased Audience Participation

Consumer-Generated Advertising and Fan Culture are Forms of Advertainment

Advertainment is not simply created by professional advertising agencies. It is not simply entertaining advertising that consumers watch. Advertainment can take on a different form as well: advertising produced by amateurs, people who advertisers define as consumers, who produce advertising for reasons including their own enjoyment and love of the brand. This direction of advertainment can be divided into two categories: consumer-generated advertising: “companies asking regular people to submit homemade ads for various products,” [8] and fan culture: fans of a product or work creating content based on the original work such as a story, a movie, or a video game mod [4]. Although at first glance it appears that the impact of new forms of advertising is a change to a more participatory culture, this is not the case. In this part of the argument, we are going to prove that consumers always had the drive to produce their own content, but technology provides the means and the platform. Furthermore, technology changes the market because it lowers the costs for amateurs to create. Thus, we argue, that these technological and market forces have consequences on society: consumers have more opportunity to create for extrinsically motivated reasons, and companies are becoming increasingly dependent on consumer-generated advertising and fan culture to ensure business success because these forms of content creation increases trust, provide free publicity, and maintains consumer loyalty.

Changes Due to Technology and Market Structure, not Societal Norms

Changes in technology and market structure facilitated people’s innate desires to create consumer-generated advertising and fan culture. With the high-speed digitally networked environment of today’s internet, people can easily circulate media content, which makes sharing much easier and more feasible than it was without the technology [4]. However, technology did not cause consumers to become active content creators; it only provided a means to do so. According to Jenkins: “None of this is new…The Web provides a powerful new distribution channel for amateur cultural production. Amateurs have been making home movies for decades" [4] (p. 132). Following advancements in technology, costs of creation have decreased so substantially that it is now feasible for amateurs to create quality products on a low budget. Furthermore, the companies themselves sometimes provide the technology to produce consumer-generated advertising or fan culture for free. For example, when Chevy sponsored the Tahoe Apprentice competition, a contest for amateurs to create a commercial for the Tahoe, Chevy provided video clips, music, and an interface to provide text—all free [7]. In addition, Atomfilms.com, “the official host for Star Wars fan films” hosts the films for free, provides sound effects, and has occasional contests [4] (p. 154).The technological infrastructure and decreased costs all contribute to an increase in amateur creation because amateurs find it cheaper and easier to produce

Technology Provides Opportunities for Consumers to Create Based on Extrinsic Motivations

The improvements in technology and changes in market structure impact consumers in many ways. One impact is that there is increasing opportunity for consumer-generated advertising and fan culture to be created with extrinsic motivations, not intrinsic motivations. Extrinsic motivations are: “imposed on individuals from the outside…threats of punishment or reward” [1] (p. 3). Some examples are obtaining money, fame, or recognition. Intrinsic motivations are: “reasons for action that come from within the person, such as pleasure or personal satisfaction” [1] (p. 3). Although people can and do create because they enjoy it, an intrinsic motivation, many companies offer monetary prizes from contests to create advertising for them, which is an extrinsic motivation. Furthermore, the infrastructure of the internet makes creations shareable, which provides opportunity for people to get recognized among a wider audience. Sometimes, a reward for winning consumer-generated advertising contests is that the spot will air on television, another extrinsically motivating factor.

Examples of Companies Tapping into Consumer's Extrinsic Motivations to Create

Although companies can, in theory, attempt to motivate people to create by providing intrinsically motivating factors, this is not the case. Companies are tapping into consumer’s extrinsic motivations to create, not their intrinsic ones. They do not emphasize the potential enjoyment from creating; rather, they emphasize extrinsic motivations such as money, recognition, and fame. Current, a website that hosts amateur-created content, taps directly into extrinsic motivations to receive submissions for consumer-generated advertisements. It sponsors companies such as Toyota, XM Radio, Wachovia, T-Mobile, and many others [2]. Its slogan, visible directly at the top of the website, reads: “viewer-created ads. make an ad. . get on tv. get paid" [2]. Tapping into extrinsic motivations to create is not limited to companies asking for consumer-generated advertising; companies hosting fan culture also exploit extrinsic motivations. For example, Atomfilms.com tells fans to submit their film to the Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge because: “On top of being announced by Lucasfilm at Comic Con this year, first-rate clips will also earn air time on Spike TV" [5]. In addition to the fame and recognition that comes from television, an announcement at Comic Con will increase recognition for the winner. Comic Con is a gigantic conference where fans from all over the world come together, dress up in costumes, and discuss their interests. Having the winner announced at Comic Con is will create immense recognition.

Technology and its Effects on Companies: More Dependence on Consumer-Generated Advertising

In addition to the impacts that technological and market forces have on consumers, producers are affected as well because they depend more on consumers to create content for them. Marketers are incredibly savvy, and they want to tap into the consumer’s drive to create to increase brand loyalty, cut costs of advertising, and increase promotion opportunities. One fact that companies are taking into consideration is that consumers are trusting professional advertisements less and word of mouth buzz more. In a study, consumers were found to be 50% more likely to be influenced by word of mouth recommendations from their peers than by radio/TV ads [6]. Thus, advertisers are exploring alternate routes. For example, consumer-generated advertising and fan culture costs less to the company because the company is not using its resources to create the content. Essentially, consumers are giving the company “free labor” [3] (p. 78). Furthermore, companies realize that consumer-generating advertising tactics are effective. For example, the website for the Tahoe Apprentice campaign received 629,000 viewers by the time Chevy picked a winner [7]. An average visitor spent over nine minutes on the site, almost two-thirds visited Chevy.com, and Tahoe sales increased [7].

Technology and its Effects on Companies: More Dependence on Fan Culture

Benefits to companies are not limited to consumer-generated advertising; fan culture also benefits companies and enhances business. For example, companies are liked more when they allow for fan culture rather than trying to destroy it: “they can indeed see how they can benefit from the free publicity they represent—and who doesn’t like being adored?” [4] (p. 153). Furthermore, these companies see fans as "important collaborators…helping to promote the franchise" [4] (p. 139). By using consumers as creators and promoters, companies are employing a viral marketing strategy that "encourages individuals to pass on a marketing message to others, creating the potential for exponential growth in the message's exposure and influence" [9]. Thus, one consequence of new advertising on society is companies’ increasing dependence on consumers to promote and advertise their product.

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Works Cited
1. Benkler, Y. (2006). Chapter 4. The Economics of Social Production. The wealth of networks how social production transforms markets and freedom (pp. 1-26). New Haven Conn: Yale University Press.
2. Current. (2008). Viewer-created ads. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from http://current.com/ads
3. Deuze, M. (2007). Creative Industries, Convergence Culture, and Media Work. Media Work. Polity.
4. Jenkins, H. (2006). Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars? Grassroots Creativity Meets the Media Industry. Convergence culture where old and new media collide (pp. 131-168). New York: New York University Press.
5. LucasFilm. (2008). The Official 2008 Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from http://www.atomfilms.com/2008/starwars/challenge/index.jsp
6. Nielsen. (2005, September 26). Consumer-Generated Media Exceeds Traditional. Advertising for Influencing Consumer Behavior, Finds Intelliseek Study. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from http://www.nielsenbuzzmetrics.com/content.jsp?articleId=184
7. Rose, F. (2006, December). Commercial Break. Wired. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.12/tahoe.html
8. Stevenson, S. (2007, March 5). The Girl in the Shower. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from http://www.slate.com/id/2161163/
9. Wilson, R. (2005, February 1). The Six Simple Principles of Viral Marketing. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from http://www.wilsonweb.com/wmt5/viral-principles-clean.htm
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