Gaining Online Cred Is the Real Contest

Brands want to play in the social media sandbox. That much has been established. But what games are they playing? That topic needs a bit more exploration.
Spike Jones of Brains of Fire suggests the “go to” game is a social media contest. He says it’s good in that contests promote interaction, participation and involvement. But they lack for equally important reasons.

In the vast majority of cases, it’s the brand saying, “We want YOU to do something for US. Talk about US. Make it about US. Tell US how much you love US.” Sure, there’s participation, but it’s a controlled participation. There are rules involved. Guidelines. Parameters.

That’s great insight. Brands still have a long way to go before they recognize the web as the consumers’ sandbox. It’s natural, of course, to see the web as just another medium for their commercial messages, but commercial messages on the web are mostly uninvited dorks at a clothing optional pool party.
According to b-side, Coca-Cola’s biggest consumer generated success was the series of Diet Coke experiments with Mentos.

It must be noted that Diet Coke had nothing to do with the making of these videos. They we’re truly consumer generated. No contest needed.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. May be brands have to release control to their employees so that they, as human being, really get involved and play in the social media sandbox. I think if that happens, mostly employees that feel passionate and creative about their brand/products will jump in. Who they are will come first before what they represent. It’s already happening anyway, some prominent bloggers work for some brands. We like them because they add value to the community and at the same time, we remember what brand they work for.