For the past two years, it's been common practice for Web 2.0 mashups to enable users to mash personal content into customizable templates. Recently, however, there's been a noticeable evolution of this space: 1. integrated marketing campaigns are more and more frequently using online or mobile interaction tools; and 2. online content is reaching offline mainstream media.
Mashup Ubiquity, Phase 1: Driving offline audiences online in order to create content. While there have been many other interactive marketing campaigns, the ubiquity of the Simpsonsizer has been awe-inspiring. Users submit photos, then customize their 'Simponsized self' as shown here. Simpsonizers are encouraged to download, post, or email their Simpson-self, thereby effectively spreading word -of-mouth about the movie. As you can see here, the creative product of a few minutes' play is good. It doesn't look like something I did for fun while watching a commercial, it looks like a professionally drawn character. And since I think it's neat, I'll think about the Simpsons 100x more than I normally do.
The Simpsonizer became popular this summer as part of a heavy (and still-running) marketing campaign for the Simpsons Movie. The online tool for doing this is prominently branded by both Burger King (an early pioneer in applying UGC trends to mainstream marketing - see the Heavy project) and Fox/Simpsons. Based on the many Simponsized people I've seen on Facebook, this campaign must have beat all of its goals for building brand awareness. It's fun, it's viral, and it's persistent - now that I've blogged my Simpsonized photo, it'll live on forever. Flickr and Typepad willing.
Mashup Ubiquity, Phase 2: Major television networks using online UGC tools to create content for prime time broadcast. Creative producer JibJab entered the user-generated content market last year with the release of the JokeBox, a place for users to upload and share comedic content. This week, the brothers Spiridellis launched another comedy creation tool: Starring You. This tool seems like a normal, polished Web 2.0 feature - a means for users to create their own JibJab-style videos. Upload some head shots, trace an outline and mark out where to create a 'JibJab jaw,' and voila! Your own Jib Jab video. Here's a mildly embarassing sample.
What's different about this launch? Earlier this evening, content created by this tool was prominently featured during the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance. [No snickering! As a former dancer, I'm allowed to watch guilt-free.] For several shows, there had been teasers about how the leggy but non-dancing host would perform a dance with the lead judge and executive producer before the show's winner was revealed. When the big moment came, the network instead broadcast a standard mashup JibJab template with their personalities' happy head cutouts pasted in. While the content was comedic, its source was treated as normal, a non-event.
Core next-generation strategy is no longer just about growing online properties or extending the reach of broadcast and print - it's recognizing both that it's no longer appropriate to maintain a dichotomy, and that increasingly fragmented distribution channels also provide opportunity. At initial glance, Fox appears to be embracing Web 2.0 phenomona on all fronts, so perhaps they'll be the mainstream player to reset the bar.