Ten Tips for Holding a Better Online-Video Contest

dayo.jpgVideo contests continue to roll out, often ignoring some of the basics for attracting good entries. Some examples from the past few days…

As a video creator that has entered his fair share of contests, let me recap some of the things that make a contest appealing to online-video creators.

  1. Lose the giant grand prize, and focus on giving the best 10 winners a good incentive. How many people feel like they have a good shot at $25K to nail “Banana Boat”? What if it was $10,000 top prize and 15 $1,000 “runners up” prizes?
  2. Recognize that your target (video creators) aren’t strictly motivated by cash. Fame, non-monetary prizes (with high perceived value), public relations, meeting celebrities… the list goes on.
  3. Not every brand is right for a contest. Clearly the ones that do the best are those with great fan appeal… Mac, Mentos, Coke, Doritos and just about any beer brand.
  4. Choose your partners wisely and avoid a disposable website.  You don’t need your agency creating a big video-contest site which will effectively be a “throw away” when the contest is over. Hosting it on YouTube or another online-video site is smart because you can promote in the context of other promotions. The trade off, of course, is that you have less control of the functions on the contest. Also- your contest promotion beyond YouTube could be wasted — people visit your contest page, and then are drawn away more interesting content on YouTube. Before you build something, identify firms that have run contests and that aren’t in the business of deriving revenue from website development. They won’t pitch you a bloated flash site, and may help you partner with a firm that has customized tools so you’re not building a promotion website from ground up. You also want someone that understands the complexity of contest rules and state-by-state nuances.
  5. Promotion is where most contests fail. Brands either forget to allocate online-media dollars to promote interest, or assume a press release will do it. Dove blitzed YouTube and other online-video sites with banner ads to promote its contest, but that’s extremely expensive and unwise unless you’re getting some product branding out of it.
  6. Fish where the fish are. People who enter contests have defined paths. If you want sloppy, random videos then drop banners on every online-video site. If you want quality entries, then target a more advanced amateur video creator — someone who is interested in building their portfolio and doesn’t mind promoting products.
  7. Know that good creators evaluate a return on their time investment. They’re often busy with day jobs, and have a premium associated with their time creating videos. As a prominent creator recently observed to me, “it would cost me a couple thousand dollars worth my time to enter a contest, and if I don’t feel like I have a solid chance of making that back it’s not worth it.”
  8. Consider identifying some known video creators and asking them to “seed” entries and promote the contest. Some will charge and others won’t, but this gets you two things. First, you gain credibility if the creator is known and liked. Second, if they post their entry to their own fan base (via, for example, a YouTube channel) you’ll get tens of thousands of people learning about the contest. Their odds of entering the contest are exponentially higher than someone that blazes past a banner.
  9. Be mindful of the fact that people will scan the posted entries to make their determination about entering. If one of the videos is incredible, I’m going to probably pass unless there are decent “runner up” prizes. And if the entries are a joke it feels like an illegitimate promotion. Ideally I want to see decent videos that are just slightly worse than something I could create.
  10. Timing is everything. Video creators need time to learn about a contest and put something together and you don’t want to have to extend your deadline if the quantity of entries is embarrassing. But there’s something unappealing about a contest that won’t be judged for 4-6 months. Also remember that many of your entries will come in at the last minute (we creators are a procrastinating group). One contest saw 60 percent of its entries in the last 24 hours. So don’t panic until the deadline is up.

17 Replies to “Ten Tips for Holding a Better Online-Video Contest”

  1. Some great points. Another point that you kind of touched on with

    “You also want someone that understands the complexity of contest rules and state-by-state nuances.”

    A disappointing factor for me is so many contests don’t allow international contributors to enter. Which may be fair enough if you’re a local brand but if you’re a recognized international brand then your contest should be international too. (Get over the lawyer speak and make it happen – it is possible).

  2. off topic but did you see the Youtube Partners list and blog this morning? I can understand most of the selections but why the hell aren’t you on the list?

  3. Great points, Kev!

    Another key issue is that all these sponsors want the videos to be about their brands — but don’t offer anywhere near the kind of money they would have to pay an ad agency. And what’s an amateur video maker going to do with a clip about Mount Olive pickles if he doesn’t win? Put it in his faux advertising reel?

    A more effective contest would call for videos that people already have, or would be happy to make for themselves. Best cat video (calling Zack Scott), best shaved head video, best kids being chased by a giant chicken video…. Sure, these aren’t brand specific, but they’ll get more submissions, more exposure for the brand, and more goodwill from consumers.

  4. Your right about the top 10 getting something rather than just one massive 1st prize.

    In the UK these competitions are very rare but gradually they are starting to crop up , We just got 2 winning vids on Cadburys GooTube competition and we are waiting for the cheques.

    Have found a massive Uk video competition which is being judged by an independent panel of judges rather than a bunch of Metacafe blood hungry A**shole rater haters, but am not telling anyone where or what it is as i want to win and the entries so far are a total joke …and there is only one winner for this which equates to $20,000 cash.

    But you all will probably find it anyway and then i won;t win and cry.

  5. Hey martybird,in an earlier post,nalts mentioned that he hasnt received an invite from youtube for the revshare program,so i think hes a little ticked off.Anyways,i left a link to my new video,i cornered a huge brown recluse spider in the bathroom and added some cool music! im hoping to get it featured,so if anyone likes it,please mention it to youtube,thanks!

  6. Hi Nalts,
    After all you wrote above, I’m sure you don’t necessarily want to know about another video competition, but since I would love to see you, wifeofnalts and the kids do some hysterical crocodile hunter style video– I’m just letting you know there is a video competition with a prize of visiting Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin’s zoo) from anywhere in the world.

    Anyways, thanks for all the great videos, you got something special going, and I enjoy watching!

    All the best!

  7. On a unrelated topic, I am wondering why Nalts hasnt updated his blog with one of the biggest news items in Youtube history. The fact that they have “officially” publicized the new partners for revenue sharing and Nalts was not picked as a partner, or has he? humm, the sea is very quite at the moment, but I heat a storm coming…

  8. I really enjoyed your comments about video comps. I did wonder how some videos in the Australia Zoo comp could get 500 votes in 24 hours when you can only vote once an hour for yourself and presumably sleep sometimes.

    I guess if they are in networks that can swing into action it helps.

    Australia Zoo has a great competition running asking for two minute videos from people who would like a trip to Australia Zoo

    Danica has had a go and her video is at


    and the best one that we have seen is a good example for budding filmmakers


    One that the girls like – by another girl called Danica


    I would love to get some votes for my daughter – any tips how?

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