NEW YORK: Co-created ads are most effective when targeted at existing customers and can be made more so with a PR campaign that gives some background on the ad creator, a leading academic has argued.

Writing in Forbes, Prashant Malaviya, Associate Professor of Marketing at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, noted that the level of brand loyalty was a crucial factor when considering user-generated content in a campaign.

Consumers who exhibited a low degree of brand loyalty were more likely to question the competence of the ad creator and be critical of the message, Malaviya suggested. Meanwhile, those with a high level of brand loyalty were more likely to relate to the ad creator and so be more open to persuasion.

Malaviya advised those marketers planning to incorporate user-generated content in their advertising that, by sharing information on the ad creator through a PR campaign, they could "establish credibility and strengthen identification through similarities with viewers".

He also argued that the effectiveness of consumer-generated advertisements were influenced by the environment in which they were viewed and would be more persuasive "if the audience is distracted or has limited cognitive resources to scrutinize the message".

But he also warned that UGC ads were not necessarily trusted more by consumers than those created by professionals and that they were unlikely to be particularly effective in attracting new customers or those not already loyal.

The truth of Malaviya's ideas may be demonstrated by a campaign from burger chain Wendy's that has announced plans to turn fans' tweets about a new product – the pretzel bacon cheeseburger – into "power ballad jingles".

This idea, reported Digiday, came about after customers went onto social media to complain they couldn't order the new burger locally as it was being trialled in select markets and the chain moved to harness the buzz.

The best tweets and comments will be incorporated into four songs and videos performed by professional musicians.

Data sourced from Forbes, Digiday; additional content by Warc staff