Turning the Tables on YouTuber Product Videos

There are no new ideas, just the same old ones refashioned for the interactive age, says Jim Forni, executive director of Critical Mass.

I caught up with Jim after a demonstration he gave at the Interactive Advertising Bureau digital video show today in New York. In the morning, with the help of hired actors, Forni put on a live show of silly stuff ala YouTube, then cut the digital video over lunch and presented the results for his afternoon panel. The entertainment included a heavy guy in a bowling shirt dancing, a send-up of Loneygirl15 talking to a mirror, and a bubbling Mentos in Coke fountain.

This amusing stuff put together on the fly demonstrates that “anybody can produce videos on a very limited budget and put it up for all to see,” he says. “This is can be a good thing, and a bad one as well.”

By that he means brands can benefit from the free buzz of user-generated media. At the same time, anybody can hijack a brand for whatever purposes that suit them.

He showed the audience several short Krispy Kreme “ads.” One spot featured a randy man in a donut suit making rude suggestions to ladies and getting slapped as well as kicked below the donut hole. These neatly produced videos weren’t made with the permission of Krispy Kreme –- in fact, Jim says the company wouldn’t even comment to him about the videos.

His point: “Your brands are in the hands of the people. You’d better get in the game or someone else will be speaking about your brands for you.”

Of course his company is in the game of providing videos and other material to companies of all sizes and cholesterol counts. His team will whip up an interactive campaign of eight or nine videos for the cost of one TV spot, like this online-only contest Critical Mass produced for Hyatt. For the promotion, the hotel chain asked kids (with their parents) to send in 90-second videos of an adventure to win a chance at 50 free room nights.

This brings us back to old ideas, new again in the digital space. As a kid in the TV age, I entered loads of product contests, writing slogans for cereal, solving puzzles, stating in 50 words or less why I couldn’t live without brand X.

The big difference between then and now: Then, legions of Madison Avenue admen stood at the gate to carefully screen contest entries, only letting the right message out to the public. Now, there’s no one to vet an amorous cruller or other off-color brand message produced by anyone with a camera from being viewed by millions of people on the Web.

A few intrepid advertisers are turning the tables on the YouTube generation, Jim Forni notes gleefully. He showed that famous video of the kid who jumped and tumbled from building to building, only this time a marketer had superimposed brand logos on convenient walls.

Maybe there’s a few new ideas, after all.

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