On parental pride and viral marketing

This week’s blog post is by The Paternity Test co-host Matt Boresi, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with his wife (“Professor Foster”) and their 3-year-old daughter Viva, who has no interest in generating user content for her showboating father.

Parents are the worst, amiright? They think their little angels can do no wrong, and that their offspring are just as adorable to those who are not legally obliged to invest in them as those who are. I know I fit that bill. I brought my 3-year-old to an audition last week. I also took a picture of her drawing a Pac-Man ghost and plastered it all over the Facebooks. I even write about her every week on a huge parenting website. (Perhaps you’ve heard of it.) Why? Because I do think she can do no wrong. Because I think everything she does is the first and best way any kid has ever done it. Because I love her like crazy, and because I assume you will feel the same way. I am the worst.

Lately, my rabid pride in my daughter has played right into the hands of some brands who know how to exploit a father’s doting for exposure on social media. You see, there’s this thing called “UGC” – that stands for “User Generated Content” – that’s when marketers trick you into doing their work for them. Here’s how it works:

You’re me. You’re at EDGEFest in Edgewater with your family. You just came out of Cookies and Carnitas, which is a BYOB, so you’re maybe not thinking at 100 percent sharpness. You come across the Red Baron pizza truck, and they are giving away free horrible grocery store pizza. It’s horrible, it’s frozen pizza, but, it’s free and it’s pizza (How bad does it get, really? Even that warmed over limp garbage in New York can still physically be eaten.). You get some free pizza, then you notice that the Red Baron himself (because this company names its pizza after the Kaiser’s ace pilot, which is weird) wants you to “take a slice selfie” and share your horrible frozen pizza eating experience with Twitter. And you think to yourself (You’re still me, remember?), “Hey, I have a particularly handsome and marketable family – that pizza hero of the Central Powers is going to LOVE us!” And you take the pic and add the hashtag, and, like magic, two days later when the 23-year-old social media person from the pizza company gets to their cube, they retweet your picture. Victory!

So, what happened there? Did we get any money from Red Baron? No! Did anyone really care or notice that we took a picture eating free horrible frozen pizza in the middle of Broadway? No! Did Red Baron get some content to make it seem like people eat their pizza on purpose and not because it was handed to them for free on the street? Or, most commonly, because it’s three in the morning and on sale and some people drink too much before going to the store? Yes!

Why did I fall for it? Why did I let Red Baron use my kid’s cuteness to THEIR advantage? And why did I do it all year with the #shareacoke campaign every time I saw a Coke with my name on it?  (And, come on, my name is MATT – every third guy born between 1970 and 1990 has my name.)

And why did I fall for it AGAIN last night at Target where they set up a little photo booth thing in the kid’s department with a fiberglass pit bull?  (See pic.)

Because parental pride and internet narcissism outweighs savvy and self-respect nearly every time, that’s why. It was my 40-year-old version of “doing it for the Vine,” where the Millennials vibrate their buttocks or drive their skateboards into garbage trucks for internet celebrity.

Zillions of companies are doing it now. Belkin wants you to build a Lego sculpture on their phone. Starbucks wants you to draw on their cups. Warby Parker wants you to take pictures of you trying on the glasses they mail to your house (in their weird business model where mailing things back and forth is supposed to be convenient, and where expensive glasses are supposed to be cheap because you don’t know what glasses cost, I guess.) They all want you to stick on a hashtag and send it out to the world, so the world will know you love Lego phones and bitter coffee, and weird mail-order hipster glasses. The Gap (or is it just “Gap” now?) even has their “Casting Call” campaign, where you sent out pics of your kid wearing their clothes in the hopes of making it into an ad. Suckaz.

Let’s do an experiment, shall we? Let’s stick it to the man by starting an ironic UGC campaign right here. It’ll allow you to show off your kid while supporting something near and dear to both our hearts – this blog. If you’re the type who allows pics of their kids on Social Networking (as opposed to the type who sits at home in a tin foil hat and watches out the window for Satanist vans and black helicopters) bring on the pics of your kids (or you) being awesome – put them on Twitter, tag @thedadtest (we’re also on Instagram @thepaternitytest, so you can put it there if you prefer, or on our Facebook page) and add the hashtag … let’s go with #passingthetest.

Show us your kids being awesome, or you being an awesome parent – prove to the world in a pic that you are passing the test that is parenthood with flying colors! Sending the kids off to the first day of school with slick backpacks? Making some awesome Pinterest-y cookies? Playing at the park together? Take a pic and mark it #passingthetest. It’s even funnier if you’re clearly getting, like, a ‘D’ on the test in the pic.

That’s @thedadtest, hashtag #passingthetest. Or Facebook or Instagram. Best pics get some Paternity Test swag mailed in a timely fashion by our new swag mailing helper.

User Generated Content is everywhere, and companies want to prey on your vanity to get some more, so … Caveat Emptor. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make a video telling Chobani how much I love their mediocre yogurt products so they will give me a thumbs up.

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe (free!) to The Paternity Test Comedy Podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud, or visit www.paternitypodcast.com.

Follow the Dads on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and on Twitter at @thedadtest or email them at paternitypodcast@gmail.com.

Call The Paternity Test on their hotline: (657) BAD DADS and leave a message or a question they can play on the podcast!

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