August 20, 2017

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Spike Lee’s Nokia Movie: User-generated Advertising?

Spike Lee’s Nokia Movie: User-generated Advertising?

As was noted yesterday in a Media Bullseye news brief, Spike Lee has signed on to “direct” a film project consisting of footage taken from users cell phones. Lee is calling the project the “democratization of film”. In reality, the Nokia-produced film is an attempt at using user-generated content to create a long-form advertisement while fostering a community based on brand loyalty.
**So, is there anything wrong with that?**
From the company’s perspective, this is an absolutely brilliant move. Given the number of amateur filmmakers creating video posts on YouTube each day, it’s a no-brainer to play to their desire to be recognized as “professional-quality” filmmakers. If people are going to create content anyway, why not get them to create positive content about your brand? Using Spike Lee as the director is yet another stroke of genius. Recognition and acceptance from an Academy Award-nominated director known for his do-it-yourself, indie style is almost enough for me to ditch my BlackBerry for a Nokia and start filming my friends. Because when you break it all down, people that create web videos, blog posts, and all other forms of user generated content are really looking for two things: attention and acceptance. Believe me: I’m no exception. With that said, why wouldn’t a company want to exchange praise for free advertisement? It seems like an incredible bargain. Tell a group of amateurs that they’ll be included in a Spike Lee film in exchange for content they’d be creating already, and it’s a win/win.
**That Familiar Dirty Feeling Again**
Well, this is the part of the post where I’m feeling the urge to lash out at the evil corporation trying to exploit the work of the masses for material gain. But honestly, I don’t see it that way at all. I think that anyone that wants to be a willing participant in the project should absolutely go ahead and submit their work. The only objection I have is that Nokia and Spike are trying to pass this off as an actual “film.” It’s condescending. Producers of this kind of “advertainment” are basically saying that the public is dumb enough that they can’t distinguish between a product pitch and actual entertainment content. But thinking about that last sentence, maybe I’m being naïve. Maybe there really is no difference anymore. Product placement is so tightly integrated into our media content that separating the commercials from the entertainment might just be an exercise in futility. Are we now at a point where we’ve just accepted the fact that any TV show we watch is just another opportunity for someone to sell us something?
**User Generated Content: The Last Frontier**
Thinking about product placement and a constant stream of “buy this” noise, I come back full circle to user-generated content. Maybe that’s the appeal: the people that create the YouTube videos that make me chuckle aren’t trying to get me to buy something. There’s a kind of purity there that you don’t see in “professional” media. Perhaps to support this idea shouldn’t make me feel dirty at all, but rather a bit optimistic about the future of advertising. It stands to reason that users of any given product might know best the sorts of features and useful hints that consumers contemplating a purchase want to hear; the future of advertising is social. We are all more prone to listen to a user-review of a new gadget than take the company’s word for it, aren’t we? With that in mind, I am giving the idea of a Nokia movie a tentative “thumbs-up.”
*Nathan Burke is the Web Community Evangelist for Boston area tech startup [matchmine](http://matchmine.com). He also co-authors [Blogstring.com](http://blogstring.com).*

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