Boaty McBoatface: A Cautionary Tale about UGC

Have you been following the Boaty McBoatface saga?

30 days into a public survey to name the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) new £200 million polar research ship, ex-BBC presenter James Hand put forward the name of “ Boaty McBoatface ” – and everything went crazy. The name went viral and attracted over 124,000 votes on the NERC website. Unsurprisingly, the NERC were not particularly happy with the result… So they decided to ignore the public vote and name the vessel after Britain’s most well-loved presenter, Sir David Attenborough, instead (though, frankly, I think “RRS Its Bloody Cold Here” – with 10,639 votes – should have been more in the running).

boaty mcboatface

So what does Boaty McBoatface tell us about UGC and brand control?

Ok, ok – I know this is technically a crowdsourced campaign and not really UGC. But you can see definite parallels between this campaign and a failed user generated content campaign: companies give up control of their brands to their fans, and end up with egg on their Boaty McBoatface. While Mark Ritson from Marketing Week makes a good argument for why consumers are “a bunch of brand-haters” – I would more generously suggest that the average consumer is just not brand conscious. And that’s a problem not just for polar research vessels, but for all companies who want to run UGC marketing campaigns.

Choosing to launch a UGC campaign on traditional social platforms is taking a massive gamble. Sometimes these campaigns work extraordinarily well and redefine consumers’ relationships with a brand, and other times they can cause more harm than good

But what if there was a way to take away that risk altogether? To retain the freedom consumers need to create engaging UGC, while also introducing a means of controlling and curating that same content?

Take control of your UGC

Public and private channels on eva do just that. Run a traditional UGC campaign on a public channel and broadcast the videos to all of your followers, or create content on a private channel instead and curate what content can be seen by your fans. And the best bit? At the end of the day, you OWN all of this video content.

Interested? Of course you are. If you have a free moment, drop me an email at and we can have a chat about how you can finally take control of your UGC. I’ve also been thinking about renaming my motorcycle, so if you have any suggestions give me a shout as well…

– Jens Wikholm, General Manager @ eva