Consumers as Creatives

Before digital and social, the work of a creative agency was a relatively straight-forward process. Work with the client to build and maintain consistent messaging, then build creative to distribute that messaging using traditional media outlets – television, print, radio, and, depending on the client, billboard.

Now that we have hundreds, perhaps thousands of digital and social platforms for brands to connect with their consumers, each demanding of frequent content distribution along with their specific ad units, creatives agencies are being pushed to their limits. 

This challenge for brands and creative agencies becomes exponential when they begin to consider a global audience of consumers, each of them with unique personas, perspectives, and demands. Consumers today want to be communicated to as individuals, they want to play a role in messaging, and they’re not afraid to let brands know their demands.

So how do creative agencies and the brands they support deliver great content given these demands?

Is it time for brands and agencies to consider leveraging consumers as their creatives?

Consumers are creating branded user-generated content at a pace that can’t be matched by agencies. Consumers are using iOS and Android smartphones with camera technology rivaling some of the best DSLR’s from just a few years ago. Their content also brings a level of authenticity required today, an authenticity that can’t be matched by a professional photo shoot.

Also, to be clear, I’m speaking specifically about real consumers who are not in the business of influencer marketing or content creation.

Considering the expense of a professional photo shoot, with pre-production, post-production, professional models and photographers – one shoot can easily exceed $100,000.

Buying a photo from a consumer can be as little as $50.

Byliner Credit: Fabricio Girnella

Imagine buying hundreds of photos from consumers, making them a part of the brand, and owning great user-generated content. Your consumers will love you, and you’ll have a stockpile of authentic content available at a moments notice.

My argument is not a for-or-against the creative agency in any way whatsoever. It’s merely an acceptance that leveraging consumers for earned user-generated content beyond a simple #hashtag campaign on Instagram should be considered as part of the content creation and creativity process.

Digital and creative agencies have historically been hired to do incredibly high quality, however, low quantity work. The average agency generally has a few dozens to a few hundred employees and contractors and can typically charge hundreds per hour. They’re made for large companies, not for medium or small companies. And they’re not in the business of or have the teams necessary to churn out dozens of pieces of creative content every single day.

However, billions of branded photos and videos are created and shared by consumers on the Internet.

Every. Single. Day.

And given proper direction with along with a simple yet detailed creative brief, consumers can create content on the fly, which is exactly what digital and social platforms demand.

Brands and agencies should consider looking to consumers as their new creatives. Not Influencers (macro and/or micro) but real, authentic consumers that love, trust, and want to be a part of a brand and its story.

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