If advertising is dead, as some fret, then why do so many people seem to want to produce it?

The so-called Web 2.0 phenomenon, reflected in the popularity of social networking sites like MySpace.com and video-sharing services like YouTube.com, has created a new breed of amateur creators of advertising. And the ad industry, eagerly casting about for ideas to stave off its prophesied demise, is starting to embrace them.

Few ad campaigns are considered complete anymore without a prominent Internet presence, preferably with an interactive element to draw in consumers and get them to "engage" with the brand. Increasingly, this interactivity takes the form of customizing part of a marketing campaign; in some cases, advertisers are going even further and allowing consumers to make the ads themselves.

In a European campaign for its Bravia line of televisions, Sony plans to encourage people to create variations on a new television spot, which was shot last week in Glasgow, and post them on a special Web site.

The idea is to fuel a process that was happening anyway, in a haphazard way, with the previous ad in the Bravia campaign, which showed hundreds of thousands of colorful rubber balls bouncing down the streets of San Francisco. The ad inspired numerous imitations and spoofs, including one by a London ad agency, Clemmow Hornby Inge, featuring lemons, oranges, apples and watermelons instead of the balls, on the streets of Swansea, Wales.

So far, relatively few ads created by true amateurs have made it beyond the Internet, though some homemade spots have been made for Current TV, a cable television channel in America that is devoted to user-generated content. To many marketers, handing control to consumers still seems antithetical to the idea of advertising.
But that may be about to change, advertising executives say, as marketers wake up to the popularity of user-generated content and social networking and acknowledge that on the Internet, controlling the message is often no longer possible anyway.

"Without having complete chaos, is there a way to have controlled chaos?" said Rishad Tobaccowala, chief executive of Denuo, a unit of Publicis that specializes in new technology.

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