November 3, 2020

Using organic UGC in advertising

Using organic UGC in advertising: Before, during and beyond the Pandemic

2020 has turned out to be a lemon in almost every aspect – but savvy marketers have managed to make lemonade and harness the power of organic User Generated Content to really connect with their audiences during this unprecedented time.

Mariya Lyanguzova
Mariya Lyanguzova

Senior Content Licensing Manager

The concept of using audiences’ own content to create authentic, meaningful and impactful campaigns is not new though – UGC has steadily been turning into a staple in marketers’ toolkits over the past decade. In fact, looking back as far as 2012, comScore discovered that brand engagement rose by 28% when audiences were exposed to a mixture of professional marketing content and User Generated Content.

This trend has only amplified in recent years. Nielsen Consumer Trust Index revealed that 92% of consumers would trust organic UGC more than they would trust traditional advertising. This should come as no surprise, when, according to a study by the University of Southern California, video ads that feature UGC are 11% more likely to be perceived as ‘authentic’ by audiences. Indeed, UGC has proven capable of fostering authentic intimacy in branded communications that no other creative format seems able to match.

Case in point: with viewers engaging in creating their own content more than ever during the global lockdowns, content from our user generated video library, Viral Vault, has featured in multiple COVID-related campaigns this year, enabling brands to cultivate a sense of togetherness and real human connection during these tough times. From playful and uplifting ads like Virgin Media’s ‘Stay home, stay safe, stay connected’ campaign, featuring all the fun and inventive things people got up to during lockdown, to Facebook’s intimate and reassuring ‘Born In Quarantine” campaign aimed at supporting new parents, to the California Governor’s Office ‘The New Normal’ ad, focused on promoting COVID safety habits while showcasing entertaining and quirky activities – the organic video content of everyday people helped to create powerful ads that resonated with audiences during the pandemic madness. These kinds of genuine we-are-in-this-together video ads proved especially important at a time when so many people were feeling isolated and in need of human connection.

Guess what? The timing of these campaigns couldn’t have been any better! Ernst and Young Futures Consumer Index recently revealed that consumers have become willing to pay 25% more for a trusted brand’s products as a result of the pandemic. This goes to show that it is as important as ever for advertisers to strike an emotional chord and to create relatable and genuine ads. UGC has undoubtedly proven to be one of the best tools to achieve this, with UGC ads prompting 73% more positive comments on social networks versus traditional ads (IAB, 2019).

While the pandemic has brought organic UGC to the fore, the question remains: what does the future hold for this type of content beyond the pandemic, once everything ‘returns to normal’? Would, or better yet, should UGC take centre stage in marketers’ efforts when they are able to rely on glossy professionally-produced campaigns once more? The answer ought to be a resounding ‘yes’ – and here is why.

UGC quickly adapts to current events and cultural phenomenons

In their ‘Marketer’s Guide to User Generated Content” Crowdtap discovered that UGC is 35% more memorable compared to any other media. Arguably, this can be attributed to the fact that UGC is able to swiftly capture and respond to real-time events, moods and cultural happenings in a way that traditionally-produced marketing campaigns are not able to. From lighthearted cultural phenomena like TikTok dance challenges, to deeply meaningful and loaded discussions around #BlackLivesMatter, UGC provides a unique up-to-date reflection of society’s current and evolving moods. This allows marketers to remain flexible, plug immediately into matters that are important to their customers and create gripping, relevant campaigns at the drop of a hat.

UGC facilitates diversity and representation in branded content

Representation, diversity and inclusion are steadily becoming more important to customers. A 2019 research report by Adobe showed that 61% of consumers consider diversity in advertising important, and 38% are more likely to trust and purchase from brands that have diverse and inclusive ads. Unfortunately, representing multiple groups at scale has proven challenging for traditionally-produced campaigns. Enter UGC. User Generated Content enables brands to cost-effectively identify, include and represent all consumer voices in their campaigns – with organic UGC, viewers can quite literally see themselves, their friends or their neighbours become part of a brand’s narrative.

UGC safeguards production against roadblocks in the current uncertain climate

Like most other sectors, the immediate future for branded content production looks like it will remain defined by a lot of remote work and limited in-person interaction. This would pose huge problems for the production of traditional ads, as for the foreseeable future such projects will most certainly become more expensive than usual and will take much longer to complete. However, by integrating UGC in their ads, brands can become much more resilient against sudden additional COVID-related shutdowns. Even beyond the pandemic, UGC will allow brands to become more agile and continue to safely and affordably create genuine and compelling content, regardless of what challenges come their way. After all, with 70% increase in smartphone usage since the start of the pandemic and the surge in popularity of platforms such as TikTok, it is unlikely that there will ever be a shortage of original, ready-produced User Generated Content for brands to rely on.

You, me and UGC.

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