GoDaddy is Listening: Online-Video Contest Case Study

I’ve written many times about what separates a good online-video contest from the myriad of failures. I’d like to add an important attribute that has been demonstrated recently by GoDaddy: listening and adapting.

GoDaddy broke one of The Cardinal Rules of a good online-video contest by providing a meager first-place prize and even less for “runner’s up.” As I often remind marketers, my personal incentive to enter a contest is driven by the “runner’s up” prizes, since I’m a rare winner and serial runner’s up (Butterfingers, Oreos, Panasonic, etc).

Jared (the King of Online-Video Contests, rivaled by his queen, SlatersGarage and his court jester ZackScott) tells the story of how his note to GoDaddy helped prompt the Internet hosting leader to up its prize from a paltry $3K to $100,000.

Jared wrote GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons via the titan’s blog, and urged him to “up the ante.” The quick response from Parsons: “Dear Jared, I hear you. I’m on it. Bob”

Days later, Jared got a note from a GoDaddy employee:

the prizes were increased as follows:  First place = $100,000, Second place = $50,000, 3rd place =$25,000 — then some other great prizes (hardware, software, camcorders, etc.) for an additional 10 places.  Landing page changes at to reflect this update are forthcoming — which I expect later today.

So, Jared – thank you for your feedback!  I am anticipating your submission as along with your peers.  I am coordinating the contest — so please send additional comments my way.  If you are good with it, I’d like to brainstorm with you ways to announce the winners.

The change is non trivial ($175K in total prizes), but more impressive is a big company listening to a subject matter expert, and adapting quickly. This earns the company more equity (albeit unmeasurable) than any Superbowl commercial. Click image below to see that, indeed, the contest has raised the stakes as promised:

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.

Continue reading “How to Win a Contest (Case Study)”

Best Sources (Websites and Blogs) About Online Video Industry

Nalts on old fashioned televisionI’ve been adding to my list of blogs related to online-video. It’s up to almost 30 now, but I’m going to eventually rank the top 10. Surprisingly, few of these came from people who posted their blogs in the comments (yet I encourage that). I’ve found many of them by tracking inbound links or based on the coverage of my recent AdAge story.

Thanks to those of you who have provided blogs and websites. As I’ve said, they’re hard to find good sites covering this emerging industry because the words “online video” are used almost as frequently as “web 2.0.”

  1. Inside Online Video by Mike Abundo: Often the first to report on new trends and site features.
  2. OnlineVideoWatch (sorry I missed that site, which is now in my RSS).
  3. ReelPop by Steve Bryant, a columnist and editor living in New York, NY.
  4. Cinematech by Scott Kirsner, who wrote “The Future of Online Video.” CinemaTech focuses on how new technologies are changing cinema – the way movies get made, discovered, marketed, distributed, shown, and seen.
  5. Usertainment Blog, written by Lester Craft Jr., a veteran technology-business journalist.
  6. NewTeeVee– a few of you suggested adding that one.
  7. The Daily Reel has good coverage on the space and is developing a community.
  8. Fred Graver Blog, written by the guy that once helped ABC/Disney to explore “Telefusion.”
  9. Mashable, a site for social networking news.
  10. Web Video Doctor, for tips and tricks to help make better web videos.
  11. ViralBlog, collaborative team of bloggers haunt the globe for great virals.
  12. System Video Blog by Ken McCarthy
  13. StreamingMedia Blog is a bit “techie” for me, but has some nice info. Written by Dan Rayburn.
  14. Xlntads is a website that connects marketers, advertisers and amateurs, and has a nice relatively new blog written by Mark Schoneveld.
  15. WebVideoZone is a terrific resource by Joe Chapuis. Parts are “members only.”
  16. Less of a blog, but this “Online Video Industry Index” has a nice link of online video sites.
  17. WillVideoForFood (how can I not list myself? Note that I’m not here anymore.
  18. NewsVideographer for journalists looking to leverage online video.
  19. ReelSEO– how to optimize your videos for SEO.
  20. Gadget News: Lots of topics, including online video.
  21. Ronamok, by Ron the New Media Evangalist
  22. Hot Air, a new media conservative something or another that is really interesting. Founded by Michelle Malkin.
  23. Web Video Report: The bizzzness of online video
  24. MathewWingram: The intersection between web and media.
  25. Not just about online video, but mentions it a lot.
  26. PandemicLabs
  27. Camcorder Info: More than you’d expect from a blog attached to a camcorder site.
  28. Viral Video Wannabe: FallofAutumnDistro is one of YouTube’s more clever self marketers. I fear this name may soon be obsolete.
  29. Web Jungle: Advertising, digital marketing & web culture.

16th Letter Post: Another good source for online-video blog fav’s.

The Advertising Agency’s Five Stages of “Online Video” Grief

grief.jpgRemember how major advertising agencies handled the Internet? Let’s recap their 5 stages of grief:

  1. Denial: The web is not a big deal. It’s a fad. Let the little Internet agencies form. We’re not losing much in fees.
  2. Anger: Who’s coming to our monthly all agency day? The Internet agency? First the Public Relations agency, and now this? Well this much is true: they’re not sitting near the client at lunch.
  3. Bargaining: We have an Internet division too. It’s one guy, but he knows what RSS stands for.
  4. Depression: We need to reinvent ourselves. Fire someone. Anyone.
  5. Acceptance: Let’s buy an Internet agency.

But the Internet agencies did the same thing when it came to paid search. So it’s bad all over.

Now, dear Madison Avenue, I will predict your five stages of dealing with online video. Fortunately, you have some progressive chap that’s smart enough to read WillVideoForFood, so you might have the forethought to skip a stage or two.

  1. Denial: Online video is a fad. Big TV is still the key to awareness.
  2. Anger: What the heck happened to general awareness? Why is some of our work going to small online-video agencies and amateur producers? We must kill them.
  3. Bargaining: We have an online video guy. He has a MySpace and a YouTube account. We don’t let him out much.
  4. Depression: We need to change our model. Fire someone. Anyone.
  5. Acceptance: Let’s buy a small production house or partner with one.

I could see the look of disdain and fear in the eyes of the agency attendees when I spoke at AdTech last week about doing Mentos ads for $2-$5,000. Then I reminded them (partially to avoid getting booed off the stage) of some good news for agencies.

We consumers aren’t consuming less. We’re just breaking into content-consumption niches and online communities that shape our thinking and purchase decisions. That actually creates a need for more content, and that can make an agency fees actually grow.

popular youtubersI also cautioned that the model I used for Mentos isn’t scalable. As an amateur videographer I dealt directly with the product director. That’s not scalable. For a brand to develop creative content for a variety of different online audiences and channels, the product team needs to hire a variety of lower cost creators. Twelve amateurs instead of a giant “one size fits all” television ad with exotic models and expensive shoots in Hawaii? That creates more — not less — of a need for an agency.

So how can your big agency stay ahead of this and avoid the pain you felt when the Internet and paid search became important? It’s as simple as five different kinda steps:

  1. Pay attention to social media, industry changes and viral videos that help market. There’s a lot you can learn from positive and negative example. If you catch your agency staff watching online videos at work, don’t stop them (unless it’s porn). Find out what they’re watching and why.
  2. Hire someone who understands this medium. At first it might not feel like headcount you can justify, and you may want to find a subcontractor or consultant. But as a product director myself (yeah I’ve got a day job) I’m going to look elsewhere if I don’t believe your agency has a clue about the impact of online video. Nothing makes me giggle like an agency that boasts that they are pioneers because they made a brand page on MySpace or Friendster, or had a viral video that got viewed ten thousand times.
  3. Begin to experiment with lower cost and adaptive forms of video content. The next time you do that “big shoot,” get some footage you can use in other forms. It could be as simple as footage from a decent high definition camera, but be sure to arrange the rights with your models and the shoot’s director (who will probably grow quite irate at this prospect).
  4. Pitch your client on doing something experimental online — before they find someone else with a more robust and compelling story. Don’t stop with online-video ads — try creating entertaining content that subtly markets. There is no shortage of inventory for paid promotion, but that’s just one arrow in your online-video quiver.
  5. Partner with amateurs who have existing audiences and online “street cred,” and they’ll keep you from doing anything that will be repulsive to skeptical online viewers who have ADHD and love the power of stopping ads and lambasting blatant promotion. If you’re brave, approach some online-video “weblebrities,” (like top YouTubers or amateurs that have had success on other sites). This is a lot of work, so if you want a more turnkey approach hire a specialist to manage it (xlntads, for example, is brokering relationships between big brands and promising amateurs).

We’re approaching the tipping point for a fantastic time in the evolution of media consumption!

computer toiletConsumers are in control, but advertising is the currency because we consumers are too cheap to pay. Reality television and online video is exploding because we’re tired of perfection: scripted shows, polished ads, good looking models. We want to see people like us, and content that speaks to us individually. Advertisers can help pave the road, or wait until it’s built and buy billboards along the highway. What’s your agency going to do?

Promoting Your Brand With Viral Video

I debated heavily before posting this, because this blog is supposed to be a review of the fun world of viral video and marketing (not an advertisement for my services). That being said, I think some of you readers may be interested in how I work with sponsors.

As you know, I advocate that brands participate in consumer-generated media, but many have invested hundreds of thousands, and have seen little in return. Here’s a presentation I recently gave for some clients of Atlanta-based interactive agency, Spunlogic. It takes you through a number of ways your brand can enter this space cost efficiently — from contests to partnering with known creators.


Earlier this summer, I read The Secret. The big idea (while not being entirely new) is that you can attract things you want, if you ask for something and have an unwavering belief that it can happen. My day job as a Marketing Director pays well, but we live out of our means. So I decided to pursue an additional $4-$5,000 a month. And it’s been working. I’ve created several videos through XLNTAds and here’s a recent example for GPSManiac (it has nearly 40,000 views and was rated among the top videos of the day when it posted). I’m working on scheduling some promotional workshops because I believe most agencies and brands are still in the dark ages in this arena. October happens to be a slower month because a few of my promotional videos have been delayed to November and December.

So this month, I’m offering a “sale” for custom entertainment/promotional videos.

nalts-product-placement.jpgYou can promote your product or service for $2,000 flat fee (I’ve charged $1,500-$5,000). You’ll get a video you own for use on your own website, and a guarantee of no less than 20,000 views via my channels (I’m able to do that primarily thanks to YouTube). I perhaps should charge a higher premium because these are implied endorsements, and I don’t ever want to fatigue my kind, devoted viewers. But I enjoy making them and getting additional income. Two thousand dollars comes to no more than a dime a view, or $20 CPM (cost per thousand), which is the price YouTube charges for its new “InVideo” ads that appear briefly in the first 10 seconds of the video.

I hope you can appreciate that I tend to be selective about the brands I promote. I typically avoid unknown startups, brands that don’t fit my personality, or anything to do with healthcare marketing (since that’s a conflict of interest). My favorite sponsor is Mentos (see Mentos example that they ran as an ad on Google Video and Break) because they are very hands off the creative and it’s a great brand. If you’re interested, please send a note to kevinnalts at with the subject header “PROMOTIONAL VIDEO.” That ensures it gets my attention among the myriad of spam I get.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You present your brand’s goal, and any ideas you have. GPSManiac actually provided a script for this video (What GPS Thinks), but typically I create the concept and script.
  2. I brainstorm some ideas (3-12), and you decide what makes sense. For this to work, the video has to be entertaining first. Promotion needs to be subtle. Otherwise it won’t get views or good ratings. Since I’ve made more than 500 short videos and work in marketing, I can usually find a good intersection between promotion and entertainment.
  3. Once we settle on an idea, we flesh it out via an outline. Only when that’s approved by the sponsor will I shoot footage.
  4. I edit a draft (usually 1-3 minutes with a promotional message at the end and links to your site). You can make up to 3 revisions of the video. Ultimately I won’t post the video until we both believe it’s funny and achieves your marketing goal.
  5. I’m always transparent when it’s a promotional video. People think I do “product placement,” but I’ve never been paid by a sponsor for subtly incorporating their brand. It’s always clear if it’s a promotion.
  6. I upload the video to YouTube, and several other sites. I track the views and ensure that you achieve at least 20,000 views (but often more). GPS Maniac is using the video referenced above on its own, and paid less than a nickel a view via my channels. Not a bad deal.
  7. Note that promotional videos have limitations. They’re good for brand building, but they need to be entertaining since viewers will skip them or give them poor ratings otherwise. They also don’t typically result in instant conversion, so they aren’t yet a good direct-marketing play. I’ve found that a small (under 5%) number of viewers will actually visit the site mentioned, but I’m working on ways to drive that up. I’ve created a microsite for a client called “Mr. Complicated,” that I think will result in more visits from a video I’m currently editing.

As I’ve always said, anyone can get into this space. It helps when you have a sizable audience (I’m fortunate to have large following via YouTube) because that increases the views to your videos. At the same time, I have to walk a careful balance, because I never want to violate the trust of my viewers or promote so frequently that they stop watching.

I know some of my fellow YouTubers have also begun to do promotional videos (see Charles Trippy’s recent video which has already been viewed more than 75K times), and some have charged more or less. A few are new at this, and are happy to promote a fun brand in exchange for free product.

I look forward to your feedback. Do you think this is a fair deal? Any advice about ensuring brands meet their goals without compromising viewers experience? I want to hear from you. We’re still working things out on the WillVideoForFood forum, but that will eventually be a place we can compare and debate approaches.

WillVideoForFood Forum

forum-image.jpgThanks to the most excellent Jan and TrippleHelix, we now have a WillVideoForFood forum. It’s completely dark right now, but I hope you’ll step in and make comments. I want to grant admin rights to any of you that are regulars and want to help.

The ideas we’ve discussed for the forum:

  • Great new sites
  • Hot viral video news
  • New ways to monetize videos
  • Tips (and links) to making better videos

What else makes sense as a forum topic?

Interactive Agency “Eats Its Own Dogfood”

spunlogic viral video marketing naltsA lot of interactive agencies are now pitching clients on the value of online video to promote products and services. But how many of them are brave enough to throw themself in the mix?

At a recent “lunch and learn” for Atlanta-based “Spunlogic,” I spoke about online-video marketing to some major media and marketing companies. I’ve posted the presentation, titled “Online Video Marketing” publicly.

After the presentation, the Spunglogic founder helped me pull this prank video (Drunk Interviews) on some of the employees. Here are the outtakes.

Marketers, Meet Online Amateur Video Creators.

nalts-xlntads.jpgThe folks behind (the contest site that connects brands and video creators) were good enough to let me hijack their studio for my fake election videos (“Embarassing TV Appearance” and “Embarassing TV Appearance part 2“). Famed YouTuber, Renetto, makes a cameo in these.

So the least I could do was talk about Xlntads for a series being featured on Check it out.

You can also hear from the Acting CEO of Xlntads, Neil Perry, who talks about how marketers can get quality video content cost efficiently by leveraging amateurs. The former McDonald’s executive also plays my campaign manager in the above-mentioned videos.

Disclaimer: I’m leading the creator advisory board for Xlntads and I’ve entered a number of their contests. I’m a big believer on new models that connect creators with marketers, because I think it’s a great match. Unless you happen to be a creator working for The YouTube Underground. Then you’re likely to eat the marketer. And marketers don’t like to be eaten.