Your Viral Video Shouldn’t Be a Commercial (Celebrity Apprentice Lesson)

Perhaps you watched Celebrity Apprentice last night, where the b-listers teamed up to create a “viral” video for O-Cedar’s ProMist Spray Mop.

Note that I put “viral” in quotes since it’s not a viral video unless it goes viral. For that matter, let’s call it what it is: try-ral. It’s trying. It may go viral, but it’s not.

This isn’t the first time Celebrity Apprentice has tasked the (has-been but charming) celebrities to create a “viral” video. But here’s my favorite quote from on the coverage and the decision made in the boardroom after the competition:

The execs didn’t get the women’s “number” concept initially but liked the entertainment aspect of the video. They liked the men’s slogan… and thought the concept was clear and highlighted the mop’s selling points, although the video was a bit too much like a traditional commercial. The men win.

Did you notice anything there? The video was a bit too much like a traditional commercial, but… by the way… it won.

At the risk of stating the obvious, please don’t learn from this. They didn’t win despite the video being too commercial. They won because the women’s video was entertaining but not purposeful. That’s not good either. But if your “viral” video is a commercial, prepare to spend your media dollars to get it seen as prerolls. We almost never share commercials… we sometimes send entertaining videos that happen to pitch a brand.

Do not expect people to share your commercial. Please.

Online-Video Contests: Still Going Strong

I used to write quite often about online-video contests because for many brands, that was their online-video strategy. It’s similar today when brand’s create a Facebook page to check off that nagging “social media” objective.

A lot’s changed in the past years, and Jared “The Video Contest King” has reengaged, even musters up some praise for Poptent (the video contest site he’s criticized before). I found this quote especially interesting…

Yes, $7,500.00 for a contest victory for three weeks work is decent pay, but if you really worked for three months, because it is the true frequency rate of your ‘wins’, than you now are netting about $26,000 per year. I pay more than that in rent alone.

This is a good reminder that, with some certain exceptions among recurring Poptent winners, few are making a “living” with online-video contest winnings.

Key Point: I would urge those pursuing contests to do so as a) a creative outlet, b) a way to build a good reel, and c) an additional income source. This is true for YouTube as well… a handful of stanky rich creators making way more than your salary and mine combined. Lots of people making what we’d consider a fantastic second income. But if money is the primary motivator, it’s not a safe bet.

The Sour Patch Cannibals are nice proof that there's gold in 'dem quasi-pro amateur hills

In other contest news…

  • Amazing Justin and his new bride are still keeping the aggregator fresh, and even allows creators to profile and received customize information about contests.
  • Beardy’s “Video Contest News” has some nice coverage, and even offers occasional production tips (I liked this one since I’m always having audio problems with my DSLR camera as a primary video recorder). We like Beardy’s homeless theme, which reminds us of our WillVideoForFood name.
  • Poptent Neil Perry told me the company has received increased investment, hired a team of sales people, and are beginning to attract larger brands that align with the company’s original vision (where the content is used on television not just online-video).
  • Weeks ago (during PattyTube) we crashed the Poptent office and binged on loads of new contest entries. Years ago many looked like bad CableTV ads, but the ones we watched were damned-well close to agency work. Common- who else loved the “Sour Patch Cannibals“?
  • Collaborations by independent creators with specific talents — like writing, acting, production, editing, music — are on the rise according to Tim Breslin, the mad genius behind Poptent’s technology.
  • King Jared teamed with Joel Berry (aka Tavin Dillard on YouTube) to create a Poptent entry for Trident Gum (titled “Grease Monkey Business,” which is a far cry better than the “consumer-generated” entries of past.


Why Do Online-Video Contests Still Break the BIGGEST Rule

Picture 17

I’ve written so many times about online-video contests, and what makes them attractive or not. How many top-1o “how to not f’ up a contest” posts do I need to write to change the most abused rule ever?

DON’T put your money in the 1st and 2nd prize. That will attract a few semi-pros, but acts as a disincentive to the rest of us… who are always runner’s ups but don’t often win.

Amazon, of all companies, broke this rule recently. I’d love to enter your $20K contest but I fear I’d be wasting my time like I did with the Doritos/Superbowl submission.

If you want a diverse selection of good content, provide $500-$1,000 gift cards to the top 10 finalists, peeps! Common… you’re Amazon. We heart you, and expect more from you!

7 Commandments for Winning a Video Contest

Brett Slater (Slaters Garage) was doing radio production, song writing and voiceovers about a year ago. Now he’s integrated simple video into his mix, and is sweeping up contests one after another. How does he do it? Check out his seven commandments for winning a video contest.

I’ll tease you with three:

  1. Thou shalt be brief. 30-60 seconds.
  2. Honor thy target demo.
  3. Remember thy deadline, and keep it holy.

When you’ve learned the rules, enjoy the simplicity of this winner of a “Piece of Maine” contest (by Maine Realtors). It’s a low-production video with a great tune and soulful lyrics. Here’s a guy that celebrates a mindset that where you are — right now — is exactly where you want to be. He shows a map with Maine in red, and the rest of the U.S. as “insane.” All this makes it almost okay that he bought land once stolen from Indians (snap). The song made me smile because the definition of insanity is wanting to be be someone or somehere you’re not. And Slater is celebrating what he’s got and where he already is. 

I used to “free associate” Maine with the madness of Steven King (and maybe lobster on the shore, which I have, incidentally, checked off my bucket list). Now maybe when I consider stopping by Maine, I’ll envision fewer tentacles emerging from The Mist, and instead see Slater on a hammock singing this earworm.


How Much is that Viral Video in the Window?

(This is a guest column by Erik Bratt, director of marketing communications for ProQuo. ProQuo helps consumers eliminate junk mail, and recently hired

(a new-media promotion firm with whom I work occasionally) to solicit quality video entries that help ProQuo describe its value proposition in unique and entertaining ways.

Can you really buy a viral video?

by Erik Bratt, ProQuot
Conventional wisdom says no. By its very definition, a viral video is something that can’t be bought or made, forced or manipulated. A viral video – a viral anything – just ‘happens,’ striking some type of cultural nerve that prompts people to send it around.

Levi’s ad, levi ads doing model flips featuring male models doing back-flips (literally) into their jeans. The video, which racked nearly 4 million views on YouTube alone last time I checked, never mentions Levi by name, but it wasn’t hard to guess the driving force (Male models? Jeans?). I offer a more modest case in point: Our own video contest. Eager to spread the word about our service for stopping junk mail and managing catalogs (plug:, we decided to launch a viral video contest earlier this spring in hopes of creating momentum for our free offering.

To get this done, we partnered with, a Philadelphia-based company that facilitates a community of 5,000 eager and talented semi-professional videographers. This was our first good decision. knows how to run a contest, and their members are fired up about creating great content. We were also fortune to have great subject matter – who can’t work with junk mail as topic? The contest rules were simple: keep it clean, make it funny, and focus on junk mail, not ProQuo. Because we are not as big of a brand as Levi, we also asked that they at least include our URL somewhere in their video.

The carrot? $1,500 for each of the top 10 videos. The contest “assignment” was posted on April 1. One month later we had more than 160 entries. Deciding on the top 10 videos was not easy, requiring several viewing sessions and at least one company viewing party (with blind voting). We finally picked our 10 winners and created a special page for visitors to interact with them:

So, we had our funny videos, but what about the viral part? Instead of scrambling to post these videos ourselves, or buying space on different networks, we worked with to provide incentives to the winning creators to ‘viral-ize’ the videos on their own. We offered a tiered award structure for the creators who had the most number of views across multiple video platforms.

For the money, this was our second good decision.

We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of places our videos have popped up – on dozens of different video platforms, in blogs, and on web sites. At last count, we had more than 160K views on just those 10 videos (many of the runner-ups also got posted). We never could have achieved that many views on our own without paying for placements

So did we succeed in creating or buying a viral video? Not really.

We didn’t get on the front of YouTube (which requires at least 50K views) or any other video platform. We didn’t pop up in tens of thousands of emails within the span of few days saying, ‘dude, check this video out!”

What we did accomplish was to generate a large number of video views, as well as traffic and registrations to our site (made trackable from URLs placed high up in some of the video descriptions). We also provided entertaining content for our site visitors and registered users, whom we encouraged to help rate the videos

Another bonus was our engagement with the videographers themselves. We were touched by the effort that so many people and their friends put into the videos. In the end, that type of engagement and goodwill may be worth more than any viral video.

Editorial note (back to Nalts): This is a good case study, and shows a few key points: 

  • ProQuo could have tried doing this itself, but it would have been far more expensive and out of its core competency.
  • The value to ProQuo is being assessed comprehensively- as opposed to the views and clicks.
  • By leveraging xlntads creators with built audiences, Proquo had a way to reach far more potential consumers than they could have ever reached on its own.
  • Finally- with time, someone searching Proquo will find these creative executions instead of a video blog by someone who wasn’t keen on the offering. So for search engines alone, it might be justified.

Thanks, Erik, for sharing your story!

Doritos Consumer Generated Ad

doritos tea bag kickStop motion triumphs in a Doritos CGA ad contest. It’s called “Doritos Tribe” and I can’t figure out how they got the Doritos to stand up. I kinda like this “Screen Test” entry better because the guy seems so likable and it surprised me. Of course the 2007 checkout girl still takes the crunch.

Hey- how come nobody asks me to judge these things? I’d be the best damn CGA advertisement judge EVAH. Marketing background and I know what separates viral from cheese… dip.

Doritos Video Contest

doritos davideoSo there’s a galary of amateur videos (consumer-generated advertising) posted on Doritos’ UK website, including this classic Davideo hit. He’s the UK creator of the exploding Diet Pepsi Mentos girl, and one of my favorites in the use of abstract video animation (so be sure to rate it if “five sizzling chips” if you like it too).

It’s another agency produced flash site, so no direct links to the videos are provided, but it’s called “Just Can’t Wait.” So you have to go to the site, skip the intro, click “Just Can’t Wait” and vote. At least you don’t have to friggin’ register to vote. 

Dear agencies: when are we going to learn that it’s cost prohibitive and unnecessary to create a custom site with subpar video players? To its credit, Doritos also set up a YouTube channel that features “Just Can’t Wait,” but I’m not sure votes count there.

Here’s another brave entrant featuring a guy whose tongue burns off. Kinda gross (as reflected by the votes) but has the most views.

davideo doritos

YouTube Sketchies (and Stupid Thumbnail Ad by Dove)

sketchies.pngYou have until March 3 to enter your comedy video into the first round of YouTube’s Sketchies II. Corolla, leveraged popular YouTuber LisaNova to promote the contest (she was second place last year with this “LisaNova does George Bush” video).

I spoke with LisaNova via phone for the first time on Saturday, when TheMightyThor1212 was good enough to put her on the line while at the YouTube San Francisco gathering.

Here’s a recap (wish I had videotaped it since it doesn’t quite translate as a manuscript):

  • dove.pngNalts: Hey, Lisa
  • Lisa: Hey
  • Nalts: Are you getting bombarded?
  • Lisa: What?
  • Nalts: I’m a big fan. I liked your recent video about the comedy contest.
  • Lisa: Which one?
  • Nalts: You know- the one on the beanbag. With your face on the homepage.
  • Lisa: Oh- the Sketchies.
  • Nalts: Yeah. Will you do the BubbleGumTreeShow? (a show featuring viral creators, like Mark Day, who will perhaps be juding the Sketchies?).
  • Lisa: Sure. Just send me the information.
  • Nalts: Kay. Have fun.
  • Lisa: Some kids is asking me to autograph their shirt.
  • Nalts: Go make their day. Nice speaking with you.
  • Lisa: Nice speaking with you too, Renetto.

Too bad I don’t have a screen grab of the YouTube homepage when it featured LisaNova’s video. It was framed so the ridiculously huge gray play button doesn’t obscure LisaNova’s face. Unlike the image here by Dove.

Honestly. Who lets an ad like this go live?

dove2.pngJust before I posted this, I hit refresh and found this version. Now instead of featuring the Dove host, they’ve got an image from the winning entry (by Celeste Wouden) of the Dove Cream Oil Body Wash advertisement contest.

Hmmm. Two-star rating with the last 4 being the lowest possible. Hmmm. Either the YouTube audience doesn’t care for this video or some of the losers are launching an attack on this video.

Too bad about the thumbnails. You know, Dove, this gal isn’t going to drive nearly as many clicks as a woman with a slender neck and face shaped like a play button.