How to Win a Contest (Case Study)

ZackScott, one of my favorite fearless video creators, returns for a guest blog post about winning a recent Xlntads ProQuo contest (disclaimer: Zack and I both contribute to Xlntads as members of a “creative advisor board, and he wins contests while I think about them). Zack told me yesterday, “I’m hoping people think I’m such an asshole when they read it.” See article below, and then click “more” to read some of the techniques Zack deployed.

Zack Scott has a big headHey party people. It’s the Zack Scott again. If you keep up with XLNTads, you might know that I recently won one of the ten prizes for the ProQuo contest that recently ended. I can’t take all of the credit though. My friend Samuel Seide and I both worked hard on putting together a cool video titled “Sick Mailbox.” I’ve decided to write this guest post so that I can give you a behind-the-scenes look at making the video.

I don’t know the exact reasons why our video was a winner, but hopefully analyzing the creative process will provide some insight. Maybe you’ll even find some of this information helpful when it comes to making your own videos. The main requirement of the contest was for the video to be funny while pointing out that ProQuo can help stop physical junk mail.

So my main goal was simply to make a funny video and then worry about how to squeeze the message in later.

proquo mailbox parodySamuel and I initially conceived a talking mailbox that vents its personal frustrations about junk mail. It didn’t really sound like a winning formula on its own, but we figured we could make it really cheesy and go for the “it’s funny because it’s so lame” type of humor. We then decided the mailbox should be sick of junk mail. Literally. And then we’d give him medicine. This turned out to be a great idea because the medicine could be ProQuo! Then the compact florescent light bulbs in our heads lit up, and we decided to do a spoof of those corny pharmaceutical commercials. I think we got a little mercury poisoning. When you see the video, it’s obvious that it is a pharmaceutical commercial spoof. But it may be interesting to know that we didn’t start working and scripting with that in mind. In fact, if I were watching the video for the first time, I would think the talking mailbox was a result of the pharmaceutical concept, not the other way around. I ended up being really pleased with what we did because it all fell together quite nicely. The pharmaceutical concept gave us a great template for a lot of different types of humor. I’m not sure how original it is to portray a product as something else entirely, but it did give us some creative leeway. If you haven’t watched the video yet, watch it now to avoid the spoilers below! 

Note: To read Zack’s techniques, click “more” below.

  • Parody – The main humor throughout the video is based on the fact the video is a parody without being a parody of the product. That way both the audience and the company executives can enjoy it. But who knows, maybe directly trashing the product is a better approach? I’ll try it next time.
  • Bizarreness – Frankly, I think the talking mailbox is both creepy and bizarre (and maybe even cheesy), but it is essential for setting up ProQuo as something to treat various ailments. Although the first half of the video feels different from the second half, I think it worked out great. Samuel did a great job with computer effects and stop-motion.
  • Randomness – I think random humor can be really funny when there can be a true connection to the topic. The scenes of Samuel looking fucking cool, me being inept at sports, Samuel stumbling out of a portable toilet, and me pulling a huge weed out of the ground appear to be random. But if you look at any pharmaceutical commercial, there are always clips of people doing random activities from the mundane to the extreme. So why not just have us performing weird activities? It allows for some slapstick humor and a way to keep the video exciting while the voiceover discusses some important aspects of ProQuo.
  • Punchline – Since XLNTads and ProQuo wanted funny, I felt there had to be a “punchline” of sorts. I don’t want to spoil it, but it is funny due to the parody aspect and the much-needed self-depreciating humor. Plus, it is true. I guess the main lesson here is that once you have an idea or a full concept, figure out how you can utilize it to its full potential.

Extract as many themes as you can to deliver humor and the message. Also, have someone work with you. Bouncing ideas back and forth with Samuel really helped mature the depth of the project, and filming together was a blast. He gives great massages. I was also happy to hear that the ProQuo people had a party where everyone voted for their favorite videos to determine the winner. I’m glad all of the participants in the contest could help deliver them a fun experience. Anyway, I hope this helps. If you want to try your hand at producing user-generated ads for companies big and small, be sure to check out And if you want a free service to help you minimize junk mail, be sure to check out I’m not whoring myself out am I [Editor’s note: Yes, but you make me look better by comparison]? Also, be sure to check out the other winners’ videos. I know SlatersGarage has one in there!

29 Replies to “How to Win a Contest (Case Study)”

  1. So apparently the threat to cut nalts worked. I’ll have to keep that one in mind for future reference.

  2. Um…the formatting is wrong. You better fix it Nalts. You better! Also blog about Weezer’s new Pork and Beans video if you have any decency in you!

  3. OK, I just read everything here, and although I think it is funny (and I do get the joke), I don’t want some people getting the wrong impression of me.

    As you all know, in the previous posts I have chided Sukatra for cursing. So I guess Nalts thought it was funny to do two things:

    1. In the intro, Nalts wrote: “Zack told me yesterday, ‘I’m hoping people think I’m such an a****** when they read it.'” I didn’t actually say that.
    2. This was pure luck that I caught this, and I wouldn’t have if I didn’t reread the post, but under the Randomness bullet-point, Nalts seems to have inserted the F word. My original article did not have that.

  4. Zack, did you roll the mouse over the picture of your face? Give it a try. Looks like you F’d around with the wrong person! Dammit! More cursing! See what you did? :o)

  5. I did a short survey and the women said you rollerskating and playing the guitar was f*** ing hot! a few of them wanted to know exactly where you picked up the herpes

  6. Jesus, am I the whole person who curses on this damn blog? What the fuck is wrong with you people? What a bunch of pansies! I bet your put those lame seat covers down on the toilet before you take a shit. Grow a pair! All of you!!

  7. Woman, at lunch time, I go to the restroom with the most traffic at work…lift the toilet seat up and proceed to eat my sandwich and chips on the exposed rim of the toilet bowl! Occasionally licking the rim making sure to get every last crumb of chip residue and finishing it off with a BIG gulp of fresh toilet bowl water!!! Now who are you calling a pansy?! Fuck you, fuck this story and fuck Nalts!!!

    Suddenly my underpants seem a little tighter these days!

    Zack, does ProQuo help with dementia? Let me know, thanks.

    Ok, I just threw up a little in the back of my throat! LOL!

  8. OK that was really inspired Jason. Thanks for making me not the crudest person on this blog.

  9. I spent the day moving my son out of his dorm room. Also helped his girlfriend move. I am tired, sore and drinking a beer as we speak, on my way to bed. Tomorrow I get to drive back home. Yeah!!! I am sorry that I have been too busy too post today. I guess I do have a life of sorts.

  10. I hate to keep asking, but XLNTads just posted a snippet from this article, and I had to get them to remove the F word because Nalts has not yet removed it from this post. It is making me look bad. This joke that was played on me simply because I chided Sakutra for using curse words (which I admit, I don’t actually have a HUGE problem with) is now causing me some minor troubles. Nalts, can you please remove it?

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