Spec Work Is Not Consumer Generated Media (It’s Expert Generated Media)

Consumer generated media is a phrase tripping off alot of tounges in newsrooms and boardrooms today. But when is CGM not CGM? Let’s run some numbers.
Firefox, the open source browser with 50 million users worldwide asked its base to offer up a broadcast quality TV spot. 280 spots came in. I’m not much good at math, but that’s significantly less than one percent—a figure social media sites can count on to drive daily participation.
According to the New York Times Magazine:

The winner was titled “Daredevil,” in which a teenage girl, who says “I love things fast,” talks about surfing (the tag is “My other browser is a surfboard”). The second-place spot — in which representations of rival browsers acted flashy and stupid (Internet Explorer kept chanting, “Wheee!” like an idiot) while Firefox quietly did its job — came out on top in a sort of people’s-choice parallel contest, getting an average five-star rating from 29,000 voters. It received an additional 23,000 or so views on the Web site YouTube, where it also inspired at least one parody.
As it happens, Pete Macomber, the creator of the winning “Daredevil” spot, is — aside from being a Firefox user — an aspiring director. The maker of “Wheee!” Jeff Gill, is a Savannah College of Art and Design junior who is studying animation and calls himself “a huge contest guy.” So as much as their ads may be examples of “co-creation,” they also may be examples of “co-promotion.”

In other words, one man’s consumer generated media is another man’s expert generated media. It’s just that the experts (aspiring or otherwise) are not under contract.

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. Great post, David. This idea of co-creation is making the leap to mainstream coverage, and more and more large advertisers are trying to engage customers in this way – as this article points out. Your idea of Expert Generated Media rings true for many professional industry blogs, lenses on Squidoo, semi-professional podcasts and lots more. The term “consumer generated media” only scratches the surface of all the facets of this new generation of personal media …

  2. I think you’re missing the bigger picture here. Yes, 280 clips may only a small percentage of the overall usage, but so what? I seriously doubt the FF team had a goal of “having all our consumers submit content”. More likely their goal was to get users involved in their marketing efforts and to hopefully have some good ads be produced. If they’d paid for a commercial, they’d have far far fewer than 280 spots, no?
    And more important than how many were uploaded, how many times were those viewed? What did that translate to in terms of overall time spent with the FF brand?
    Look at any community and there’s a vast majority of the content added by an insignificant percentage of the users …whether forum posts, blog comments, or image uploads.