The Family Guy disses UGC

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.

When done right (ala the Bengals or Nike) it’s a beautiful thing. When done wrong it’s, well, stupid.

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Comments (2) to “The Family Guy disses UGC”

  1. Hi Tamera – The Family Guy drives me crazy sometimes but I do like the irreverence. I saw that episode on Sunday and thought the first frame freeze was OK. It surprised, poked fun, and I enjoyed the humour. I think it would have had a lot more impact had they left it at that. The second time they did it I must admit to a little eye-rolling.

    I also wonder if they could have done it a little differently and worked in a way to send viewers to a website to see actual votes and perhaps how the story would have continued with the user input. Something like “we actually don’t care about your vote and we’ll continue the story as intended. But if you are interested visit http://www.etc... Might have poked fun and engaged users.

  2. Hey Kathryn – good idea about how they could have actually done more to engage us viewers vs. just being sarcastic about it. I appreciate their point, but you’re bang on about being proactive and positive. It would have been a great hoot if there was a site!

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