My morning perusal of AdPulp has revealed a shocking Time magazine story called “Your Own Personal Paparazzi” about, funny enough, regular people who hire fake paparazzi to follow them around and take pictures of them for the low, low price of $1,500 a night.
As AdPulp says, it’s okay to be grossed out.
We have clearly reached a point in our culture where we have shifted from a people that prize self-control to a people that prize self-expression and, to paraphrase the story from Time, if your self-expression isn’t documented, if you don’t have people asking who you are, then you simply don’t exist.
This is the cult of the amateur.
It is part and parcel of the move to consumer-generated content that, while occasionally of a certain parity in quality to professional work, is mainly of a fascination because it is not professional. People like CGC not because it is good, but because it is novel. It is like a brand-subsidized talent show for amateurs. This American Idolization of advertising degenerates professional content at the expense of consumer feeling that “one of us” made this and that, as with American Idol, it’s just as bad as if we were to do it ourselves.
People will do anything for their fifteen minutes and, de-coupled as their fifteen minutes has become from actual talent or achievement, even pay to have a fake fifteen minutes that includes only confused bystanders thinking that those people might be of minor, unrecognizable “importance.”
It is a sad indictment of our culture, but it also provides an opportunity to marketers.
The opportunity isn’t so much to do more consumer-generated content. CGC is, by its nature, limited in effectiveness because it isn’t professional. Rather, the opportunity is for brands to jump onto the “I wish I were important and am willing to pay for the veneer of looking like I am to the other poor saps who care about that sort of thing” bandwagon and position their products as the true differentiator of status.
And, since status these days is only that people care who you are, not that you have done anything to deserve that, brands are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this trend.