In 1997, David Bowie sang “I’m Afraid of Americans.”  Cruise the internet for twenty minutes and you realize, the frequently androgynous Space Oddity has a point.

Picture 6Take the infamous peopleofwalmart.com, which currently boasts 127 pages of photographic misfortune.  Whether your consider this site an exercise in cultural sociology or merely a repository for too many fat jokes, the array of unfortunate clothing choices and personal style options that some of our fellow countrymen willfully display while out in public is lunch-losingly appalling.   More than climate change, the warts and all reality of this demographic makes me worry for my children and the future they will inherit.

And yet the People of Walmart expose themselves unwittingly, surreptitiously captured on camera phones with dubious resolution.  Far worse are those who spend the time and effort to expose themselves…wittingly.

According to YouTube’s own blog, people upload over twenty hours of video to their service every minute.  For Hollywood to match that output, they would have to release nearly 115,000 new feature length movies every week.  That staggering fact helps to explain someone like Shane Lee.Picture 5

With no production values, no assistants, and no discernible talent, Shane regularly broadcasts to the world.  Using his laptop’s built-in camera, Shane sings (kinda), tells jokes (almost) and beatboxes (not even close), usually while standing in front of a fake paneled wall reminiscent of Calvin Klein’s creepy kiddie porn advertising from the mid 90’s.  Sample some Shane magic here, here and here (by the way, what’s with that gift on the couch Shane?).

As a result, he’s earned a type of acclaim peculiar to our times; Shane is quickly becoming internet famous.  And I have to admit, part of me finds great joy in that.  He seems affable enough; he’s good natured and holds a fervent belief in what he does–he’s kind of hard not to like.

This is the great consumer generated content that many people contend will change the marketing world.  And some clients go crazy for it because it’s free.

But I learned a lesson about free back in college.  I bought a vintage sport coat, and the Salvation Army threw in a pair of pants…for free.  I showed them off to my then girlfriend (now wife), who deadpanned “Trust me, they’re costing you.”

Hmm.  Sometimes, I’m afraid of Americans too Dave.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79