by: Stefan Kolle

GM's previous experiment with consumer generated advertising  for the Chevy Tahoe got rather mixed reviews. Personally I think the way they handled it was excellent and showed guts and respect for the consumer.   They followed up with a campaign where they involved 32 college students to devise a campaign.

Apparently they were quite happy with the results, as they are now taking a huge step forward in a very very cool way:

Through a nationwide contest Chevy will pick the concept for its next Super Bowl ad from student submissions:

"All US college students can participate in The Chevy Super Bowl College Ad Challenge. Teams of up to three students will create the concept for a commercial promoting Chevrolet’s new lineup of cars and crossovers, specifically the Aveo, Cobalt, HHR, and Equinox. The winning team will participate in the production process as their concept is developed and made into a 30-second television commercial. The students' commercial will then air during Super Bowl XLI on February 4, 2007.

The Chevy Super Bowl College Ad Challenge is a big contest. Chevrolet contacted advertising, marketing, and film programs at some 340 colleges and universities across the country. We’ve also reached out to hundreds of other schools, including community colleges, to give as many students as possible the chance to enter the challenge. This contest is open to all full-time U.S. college students, who will compete in teams of up to three people each."
-- press release (thanks to Nellie of the McGinn Group)

I think this is a great way of generating buzz (we already see quite a few hits coming in through Google searches on terms like 'chevy students' and 'chevy ad') and connecting with the consumer. Hundreds of thousands of students (and others) will discuss this campaign, and probably tens of thousands will engage in thinking about the product indepth. My guess - many new brand advocates.

Obviously the big question is how much influence the originators of the winning concept will still have once production goes underway and 'this is the way we do advertising around here' kicks in. But I'm fairly optimistic in this case, as Chevy had the guts to leave the anti-Tahoe adverts online in the CGM campaign. Also they will probably do a 'making of', in which it wouldnt look good to see that the original concept got destroyed in some way.

We will have to wait to see how it works out, but I'd say both the PR value and brand buzz generated through this campaign will exceed the cost (including the actual production and airing of the commercial) many times over.

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