Everyone has watched a television commercial and skeptically sneered at its use of talent, music, editing, or tagline. “I can’t believe they got her to pitch their product!” “This music makes no sense for their brand!” “What are they trying to say in this spot?” Before, you were just an isolated voice, howling and screaming at some video editor that has long left the cutting room and cashed his check. Now, a few smart online advertisers are handing you the reigns and creative control over their newest campaigns.
Video mashup editors have sprung up throughout the web over the past few months, and have proven to be a wildly successful way to involve consumers in the creative branding process. They supply you with the TV clips, music snippets, graphical transitions, and simple tools to cut them together into one dazzling package. What results is a complete submersion in the language of the marketing campaign and an eagerness to spread the brand’s message through the viral web.
The N: Video Mixer is Viacom’s effort to interactively engage the young audience of their teen network, The N. Skittles is the site’s featured sponsor, and has influenced a great deal of promotions within the tool. Kids are supplied with 62 short video segments from some of the network’s most popular shows, eight songs, and a bounty of transition animations and stills. Users can compete to become a “featured mash-up,” as well as email their commercial to friends.
The real genius of this video editor is its clever positioning of the sponsor, Skittles. Several of the animations incorporate images from Skittle’s “Taste the Rainbow” campaign, such as rainbows of colors and candies falling from the sky. In order to begin viewing yours or someone else’s completed video, you must first watch a short Skittles commercial. And if you want to unlock extra videos and music embedded in the site, you can buy a pack of Skittles and enter its barcode.
To promote its upcoming 2007 line of Tahoes, Chevy partnered with television show The Apprentice to create chevyapprentice.com, another do-it-yourself video editor. Here, users generate their own commercial for the SUV from 55 video clips and eight soundtracks, and have the nice option of adding their own text to each screen. Beyond sending your masterpiece to a friend, you can enter it into the site for a chance to win a getaway to Jackson Hole, WY, including several sporting and music events.
The site offers several “Director’s Tips,” such as “An entertained viewer is an engaged viewer, and an engaged viewer remembers the product.” Chevy must have had this precept in mind when they undertook this particular exercise in innovative branding. However, there is one aspect of the editor that completely confuses me. What does any of this have to with The Apprentice? Your guess is as good as mine.
Old Spice’s When She’s Hot, created by Proctor and Gamble, follows much along the same lines as other mashup editors, but prominently uses sex and nightlife to target a young male audience. The site displays the “Director’s Cut” of a new Old Spice ad featuring a sultry, sweaty female dancer in a club, and the humorous tagline of: “When she’s hot, it’s sexy. When you’re hot, YOU STINK.” The tool essentially supplies you with each cut of the original commercial and allows you to rearrange them to your liking. There are original hip-hop beats and scratches provided by the group X-Ecutioners. When you’re done, you can send the video to yourself or a friend, but oddly enough, you can’t enter it into the website.
The main failing of “When She’s Hot” is that it doesn’t allow users to enter their own text. In the “Director’s Cut,” the whole payoff of the commercial rests on the comedic text that pops up and completely changes the meaning of the sexy girl in the club. Asking users to recreate the spot without this element is a gross oversight.
These companies and the many other online advertisers beginning to use the video editing model to promote their brands are no doubt creating a lasting impression on anyone that sits down and fiddles with them long enough. When consumers are given the opportunity to create an advertisement themselves, they are at once transformed into creative directors, product spokespersons, and public feedback centers. They learn about the product, tell others about it, and give the advertiser valuable information about how their customers think. As more advertisers jump on this trend, however, there will be greater incentive to add original sparks and new tools to mashup video editing.