Wednesday, November 22, 2006
I have a love/ hate relationship with the show The Family Guy… sometimes I love it, sometimes it makes me cringe…and it’s certainly no Simpsons, but I digress. It is a hugely popular and mostly witty show that holds a coveted spot in the Fox lineup on Sunday nights. A night known for poking fun at the doings of the parent company.
Which is why it was no surprise, but quite poignant and laugh worthy, when they tackled user-generated content, or content by committee in certain instances, in their episode on Sunday. I wrote about the potential pitfalls of over-doing UGC back in the euphoric Snakes on a Plane days, and the point still stands – some things really do take expertise to make them great, and art is one of them, as the Family Guy writers sarcastically reminded.
At two points during the episode the frame freezes and a voiceover comes on asking for viewers to vote on what the character should say next – “text 1 if Stewie should X”. In each case, after the 3 options were presented (2 being a logical extension of the plot and 1 being completely unrelated), the “audience” chose the nonsensical that detracted from the story, but was “cool”.
Before being accused of being elitist, there is a great value in input, integration, and participation across the board, as I’ve been harping on since I started the blog. But… there is a downside, and it is great as well. Diluting artistic vision, and in the case of a TV show, a collaborative partnership of creative folk, by force-fitting audience/ user participation can end with an inferior product that under-delivers. That can damage reputation, sales, loyalty, future endeavours, employee morale – the gamut. It’s a balancing act and demands as much strategic planning as any other portion of a campaign. Does asking for UGC add value for the consumer and the brand? Does it make sense? Will it stand the test of time? Does it need to? Etc.