May 22, 2008
Case Study

How to Turn Video Contest Into a Viral Extravaganza & Get Millions of Views on YouTube

SUMMARY: Hot on the heels of our recent Special Report on how to launch an online video contest, here’s a Case Study to show you how a video contest can better position your brand and garner major media buzz on a modest investment.

Includes info on how they let YouTube house the videos instead of building a microsite and spreading the word with reporters and bloggers.
Samer Forzley, Marketing VP, eBillme, needed to create an advantage for the online-shopping brand over its two more established competitors. Previously, when they sought to add more online options for shoppers who prefer paying by cash through their banks, Forzley and his team targeted eretail sites.

For this campaign, they decided to target shoppers instead. They hoped to create a groundswell of recognition among online consumers and encourage eretail prospects to follow them to eBillme’s door. “We needed to do better in terms of bolstering awareness among consumers,” Forzley says. “And we really hadn’t done anything in the social media world up to that point.”

To make shoppers more familiar with the site, Forzley and his team sponsored an online video contest held between October and Christmas 2007. Besides creating as much buzz as possible, they were particularly interested in seeing what a presence on YouTube could do for the brand.

Here are the seven steps they took:

-> Step #1. Decide on theme

Forzley and his team first chose a theme for the contest: ‘Shopping Confessions.’ The concept urged participants to tell on video their ‘dirty little secrets’ about making an online purchase and then hiding it for whatever reason.

-> Step #2. Incentivize potential contestants

Video-making takes real commitment for contest players. So, they incentivized participation in a *meaningful* fashion.

Here are their five prizes:
o $1,000 winners announced on four Mondays -- Nov. 2, 9, 16, and 23 (Cyber Monday)
o $20,000 grand prize given on Dec. 18

-> Step #3. Set participation guidelines

Next, they created easy-to-use guidelines for video makers to follow. “It was important to give how-to instructions and suggest basic guidelines without laying down too many hard-set rules,” Forzley says. “We also wanted them to know what the judges would be looking for.”

Here are their two basic guidelines:
o Video clips run 30 to 60 seconds.
o Entries would not be considered for the grand prize after Cyber Monday.

Here is copy from the instructions page to encourage *the right kind* of submissions:

“Your video will show the world what you bought, who it was for, and why you hid it. Tell us how your secret was finally revealed [or maybe this is the first time it will be]. If you got caught in the act, we want to know what happened and how you tried to get out of it.”

-> Step #4. Establish YouTube group

They set up a YouTube group dedicated to the contest because they wanted an easy-to-develop and inexpensive online destination for the videos. Since this was their first go-round, they weren’t ready to commit to a microsite that housed video uploads.

“Those who would be submitting may already have an audience on YouTube,” Forzley says. “Therefore, it was a logical method of encouraging viral and improving brand awareness.”

Forzley created a URL -- -- as the home for the contest. But all of the videos sat on YouTube’s server.

-> Step #5. Select panel of judges

Racking up viewer votes was important, but they didn’t want to undercut the contest’s credibility by simply allowing mouse-happy visitors to decide the winner. So they picked a panel of judges.

“If someone simply has a large following, sure, they could have brought in an extra 100,000 views to help them ‘win,’” Forzley says. “But, it takes time to create a video. So, we wanted it to be more fair than that.”

The three-person panel eventually chose a winner that wasn’t the most popular. “We got a lot of feedback from other participants who said that the best video won.”

-> Step #6. Define competition criteria

In addition to popularity, criteria for the judges included:
o Creativity
o Production value
o Entertainment value

-> Step #7. Spread the word

They had their PR agency ping dozens of media outlets about ‘Shopping Confessions’ to produce an offline-online word-of-mouth effect.

Among those pitched:
o Reporters and producers for daily newspapers and local TV stations in big markets
o Websites and bloggers that cater to contests
o Subscribers through email to let them know about the contest opportunity

They also ran ads on’s homepage and People tapping the ads -- as well as folks clicking through the email to subscribers -- were directed to the YouTube group.
The campaign achieved all the buzz that Forzley says they set out to accomplish and then some. They received 46 video submissions that were strong enough, content-wise, to be considered for the prizes. The submissions were viewed millions of times on YouTube.

Their most-popular submission -- a 50-second clip about a young man’s candy addiction -- received the top spot among “Featured Videos” at YouTube’s homepage for two consecutive days. It alone was viewed 766,000 times.

“We were watching other online video contests going on at the same time by brands much more recognized than us, and they were not getting the same kind of participation or video views. So, we were very happy.”

YouTube was only the beginning in terms of their bang for the buck. They received mentions in 31 media outlets, which helped propel the views achieved at YouTube, Forzley says.

Perhaps, most important, the campaign helped close the ‘awareness gap’ between eBillme and their front-running competitors, while the ROI for the effort -- about $26,000 -- was a clear win, too. “How much would it cost to get the exposure you get on the front page of YouTube for one whole day, much less two?” Forzley asks. “On top of that, that particular video generated more than 2,000 [viewer comments].”

Response to the 2007 contest was so encouraging, in fact, that eBillme is continuing to sponsor “Shopping Confessions” video contests this year with $30,000 in cash and prizes.

Here are the five top PR highlights from the 2007 campaign:

o WGN-TV - They ran three news segments -- the first one being the Nov. 2 winner who was from the Chicago cable channel’s primary market. Then, they ran segments about the winners for both Nov. 9 and Nov. 16, while televising the winning videos.

o Chicago Tribune - They sent a photographer when eBillme showed up for the Dec. 18 grand-prize announcement at the home of the winners in Elmwood Park, Ill. The Tribune then published an article on the 1-minute, 10-second winning entry: “My Plasma TV Shopping Confession.”

o USA Today - The newspaper ran an article on the topic of confessions, mentioning the contest and its URL.

o A-Channel News - This Ottawa-based TV station’s morning news program televised an image of the contest site and the video from the Nov. 2 winner.

o ‘The Daytime Show’ - The TV morning show, which airs in nine mid-sized and major markets, featured the grand-prize-winning video.

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples for eBillme's Online Video Contest:

Sherpa report: “Online Video Contests - How to Start Them, Promote & Track ROI + Pitfalls to Avoid”:

Gregory | FCA Communications - orchestrated PR for the campaign:


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