Nalty’s 10 Tips for Running a Successful Contest

May 16, 2007

Marketers who have been following the ongoing series on video contests here at User-Generated Nation should check out a recent post at Will Video for Food.

“Viral Video Genius” Kevin Nalty offers 10 great ideas for running a successful contest.

As Nalty cautions, “Video contests continue to roll out, often ignoring some of the basics for attracting good entries.”

I’ve heard the same from marketers, who have advised that acquiring entries can be surprisingly difficult. User-Generated Nation’s recent series on contests has offered some suggestions for remedying the problem.

Nalty brings the perspectives of both content creator and marketer to the issue. His post should be considered essential reading by anyone who plans to sponsor video contests.


What Contest Sponsors Can Learn from Hollywood

May 13, 2007

What made “American Idol,” “Survivor” and “Dancing With the Stars” so successful?

These hit contest franchises have three important things in common:

First, they create an emotional tug by portraying the contestants’ personalities and individual stories.

Second, they pull us in deeper with close-up studies of how the contestants react to pressure.

Third, they inject these elements into a competitive scenario that reveals clear winners and losers in a nail-biting crescendo.

It boils down to an intense human drama involving real people that viewers have grown to care about deeply.

And it’s all totally manufactured and orchestrated, for effect.

Video contest sponsors should consider the techniques Hollywood has perfected with these hit shows.

Blockbuster Contest Idea: A $1 Million Prize

May 8, 2007

If you’re looking to sponsor a video contest that gets lots of media exposure and a slew of great entries featuring your brand, here’s an idea: Offer a $1 million prize.

I would contend that apart from buying spots for the Super Bowl, a strategy that proved successful back in February, a $1 million prize is the best way to ensure that your contest stands out. (Then again, a $1 million prize and a Super Bowl spot could be the perfect contest combo.)

Of course, $1 million is just the starting point. A contest putting this much on the line also would need plenty of conventional advertising to back it up, as well as investment in online and broadcast venues to showcase the top contestants and their entries.

(By the way, I predicted that someone would offer a $1 million prize this year over at sister blog Usertainment Watch, which is written for producers. I’m still waiting — and so are all those producers out there!)

Are Video Contests Wagging the Dog?

May 5, 2007

One of the really strange things about video contests, if you think about it, is their inward-facing nature.

Consider: Marketers are trying to get amateur video producers to make advertisements in exchange for a prize. But in order to solicit entries, substantial sums are spent publicizing the contest. Ostensibly this creates “buzz,” but more realistically it’s simply a necessity, given the difficulty of acquiring quality entries.

If you don’t believe this, look at the ads promoting contests — typically, they’re targeted not at the mass market, but at the infintesimally small group of people who might possibly submit a decent video. The tail, in other words, begins to wag the dog.

Where, in this expensive messaging, is the consumer benefit? Does the consumer care about a contest in which she has zero stake?

Marketers need to consider these questions.

If You’re Looking for Contest Indicators, Here’s One

May 2, 2007

February’s Super Bowl provided the first real indicator for the effectiveness of video contests and usertising (user-generated advertising). The metrics, as reported at sister blog Usertainment Watch, were largely positive.

But there’s a problem: Those measurements apply only to the performance of video contests in a single venue, the Super Bowl. Given its frenzied audience and extended buildup, the big game may in fact be a terrible indicator of how a campaign or ad format might behave in more ordinary circumstances.

Various marketers have been running video contests since then, but one in particular stands out. I’d suggest keeping tabs on the current TopThisTV contest sponsored by Heinz. Why? Because Heinz is spending a lot of money, plastering ads on YouTube and even running a full-page spot in The New York Times this week.

We’re early in the knowledge curve when it comes to video contests and usertising. So when something like this comes along, it pays to keep a close eye on the outcome.

Marketers who are planning to launch video contests in upcoming months can learn a lot, and align their strategies and budgets accordingly, based on how the Heinz contest plays out.

Make Your Video Contest Stand Out

May 1, 2007

Video contests are popular, but they’re beginning to run together.

The reason is that marketers have fallen into a rut. Right now, the process is: Think of a theme, determine a venue, come up with a budget for prizes, and launch the contest by inviting amateur producers to enter. Yawn.

What is lacking is over-the-top creativity and ingenuity that will boost a given contest into viral mode or mainstream media.

Contest sponsors must be bolder in seeking to make their contests stand out. For example, since perceived danger is an evergreen hook, the next wave of contests likely will be more adventuresome and “extreme.”

Contest sponsors should push the edge in other ways as well, with catchy variations on themes like “biggest,” “most,” “wackiest” and so on — think the video equivalent of a hotdog-eating contest with both hands tied behind your back while tuxedoed waiters yodel in the background. In other words, something CNN might run.

Video Contest Sponsors: Beware of Drawbacks

April 28, 2007

The number of video contests being sponsored by marketers continues to rise. Brands as diverse as Heinz, AccuWeather and Mr. Clean have gotten in on the act. And in the background is a constant drum of contests at video site Metacafe, and various contest-only sites such as Bix.

Marketers preparing to jump in should beware of three major challenges facing this increasingly popular publicity format:

First is dilution. Contests that culminated by airing winning usertisements during the Super Bowl stood out, but smaller contests since then have competed with one another for attention without the benefit of a large built-in audience.

Second is audience development. Again, the comparison is to the Super Bowl, which is an event in itself, whereas most video contests aren’t.
Third is attracting entries. This may seem counterintuitive given the massive numbers of videos posted to YouTube with no thought to getting paid, but most content worth watching is posted by a small number of talented semi-professional usertainers who are very strategic about what they create, and where they post it. Luring them to produce quality, original content limited to a single contest venue can be a major challenge.