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Current TV Consumer Created Ad Experiment

AdAge poses the question, what if ordinary TV viewers went from watching commercials to creating them? We�re about to find out.

Sony Electronics, Toyota Motor Sales USA and L�Oreal Paris have cut deals with Al Gore�s Current TV that will usher the beleaguered 30-second spot into the age of consumer-generated content and send shivers down the spines of agency creatives. The marketers will enlist the network�s viewers to produce commercials and will pay to air the best of those spots.

User-generated content is all the rage on the Internet -- as an example, YouTube.com attracted 4.9 million unique visitors in January and reports 20,000 video uploads a day -- and now Current is exporting the phenomenon to TV.

The youth-oriented network, launched last summer with the backing of former Vice President Gore, aims to �democratize� TV by letting viewers create programming. At launch, it aimed for 5 percent to 10 percent of its content to be created by viewers, but the actual amount is now closer to 30 percent.

That progress reflects the view of many proponents of user-created content, who believe brands will have to learn to give up control, that traditional ad agencies will see their role reduced, and that consumers will have as much of a say as marketers in defining a brand�s image in the marketplace.

Some advertising agency leaders are quick to discount this trend. However, agency ludites are still in denial, because the momentum is already apparent. Tyson Ibele, a 19-year-old self-taught animator in Minneapolis, created a fake Sony spot last November that he posted to his personal Web site. The clip was quickly passed around the Web and became a hit; at one point Tyson had to yank it from his site when the traffic overwhelmed his server.

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