New Source Of Ideas For Ads: You

Some companies think they may have found a rich new source of material for advertisements aimed at consumers: the consumers themselves.

As Tracy Smith reported on The Early Show Tuesday, "interactive advertising" gives Internet users a shot at getting their ideas used in commercials.

All that's needed is a computer, a video camera, and creativity.

Case in point: MasterCard, which is running a contest calling for entrants to fill in the blanks about what is "priceless," playing off the credit card giant's famous advertising tack. The answers could be used in a MasterCard commercial.

"This is a campaign people want to play with," says Amy Fuller, a MasterCard marketing executive. "They have ideas. They want to give you your ideas. So we thought, 'Let's harness that.' "

Major brands used to leave their creative needs in the hands of Madison Avenue ad agencies, Smith points out, but these days they're turning to Main Street, asking ordinary consumers to pitch in.

The concept isn't entirely new. Back in the '50s, suburban housewives created jingles for their favorite products.

Today, companies want you to spend more time "engaged" with their brand, and that means logging on to their Web sites, where consumers get the tools they need to make their own ads.

"People don't realize that (some of) the commercials they're seeing were made by fans or Average Joes at home," observes Adweek advertising critic Barbara Lippert. " … The reality, though, is that these people really aren't Average Joes. Most of them are art students or film students or animators or cinematographers looking for a break."

People such as aspiring filmmakers Billy Federighi and Brett Snider, whose creation for Converse was just one of the consumer-created commercials the sneaker company put on the air. It showed sneaker after sneaker coming out of a copy machine, instead of paper copies.

"It was an opportunity for us to actually showcase what we can do," says Federighi. "We won $10,000 from Converse and — how many pairs of shoes did we win?"