By Michael Stodola Special to Published Apr 26, 2007 at 8:58 AM

User-generated content has become the hottest thing in the ad world since Al Gore invented the Tri-W. However, it’s been around for decades.  Going out to select bars and events in our fair town, I’ve become aware of this fact all too well.  User-generated content has been right under my nose (pun intended) many times I’ve used public facilities.

For instance, I was (let’s call it “going tinkle”) in a local bar recently when I noticed some user-generated content informing me that the “Brewers Sucked.”  It had been carved into the paint of a stall.  Below that statement was a snarky counterpoint that read: “Cubs Suck, and You Suck Too.”

Good comeback, I thought.

The latter was written in ballpoint.  It made me think -- I never have a pen handy while I’m “doing my bizzness.”  I also wondered how long it took the Brewers opponent to carve out his opinion. 

There are two key principles to Out-of-home advertising: placement and economy of message.  I nearly missed the “headline” that read: “Craig G. is a homo” scribbled underneath a paper dispenser in permanent Sharpie.  A Sharpie?  Bully to the gent so thoughtful as to bring a permanent marker to the WC.  But an eye-level placement would have served his message much better. 

From time to time, you see long-form prose -- usually a satire or rhyme -- and it’s lost on me.  The audience has little time to spend on such literature, unless one is seated for a while.  At which point, the placement should be lower in the stall for ease of reading.  All of these factors need to be taken into consideration when bathroom blogging.

As with Wikipedia, some messages are edited by several users to form a complete and unbiased definition.  The statement I read referring to, “Karen M’s proficiency at sexual gratification,” was edited by four different visitors.  Opinions varied, but all seemed rather positive.  The last posting seemed not to know Karen personally, but just joined in the conversation for kicks.

It’s an interesting lesson in user-generated ads and opinion.  So, remember, the next time you contribute to our global voice via the bathroom, all of the standard rules of billboard apply.  Keep the message short (you’ve got about a 3-4 second read time).  Keep the aesthetics simple (use bold, sans serif fonts -- avoid Old English or that Gang-Tagging font).  Know your audience (whether seated or standing – is your message appropriate for those who frequent this particular stall?)  And finally, let’s take the high road, folks.  It’s easy to tear each other down.  Let’s celebrate our diversity and find redemption in each one of our fellow men.

And thank you for cleaning up after yourself.

Michael Stodola Special to
Michael Stodola is the Creative Director at Boelter + Lincoln – a Milwaukee advertising agency. He loves his job, but not as much as he loves scuba diving, crab cakes or playing with his kids. His favorite thing is sneaking off for dates with his hottie wife. Born and raised in Nebraska, he’s been calling Milwaukee home for well over 10 years. After Michael’s impending death, he’d like to return to this world as your next American Idol®.