'Create our ads/product' promotions are just as popular as ever. While in the sense of getting customers involved in the marketing process, this is a good step, but also a small one. The company ultimately benefits far more from these type of initiatives than the community does. The company throws a few prizes at the winners, and in the end gets their ad/product created at a fraction of the price they would have paid, and usually have a far superior finished product.
Eventually, the community will begin to get bored with these types of promotions, and realize they are simply doing the hard work for the companies. That's why the smart companies NOW are the ones that are shifting the balance toward the community, and giving their customers something out of the deal. The 'create our ad for us' promotion doesn't empower the community, it empowers the company.
I recently blogged on BMA about a new promotion that The Barenaked Ladies have started. They are letting fans remix 6 of their songs completely by letting fans purchase the 'pro files' to each track, which lets them completely re-do the song. The band has set up a site where fans can submit their remixes, and the winner for each track will be packaged together as a special BNL EP that will be sold with the proceeds going to charities. That's a step in the right direction, but companies can still do more.
I've received 3 emails just this month from companies wanting advice on how to embrace and build their communities. My advice is always this: Build your campaign/movement around their passions, not yours.
Empower your community, and they'll happily return the favor.
Pic via Flickr user eugene