The THREE types of online video contests.

When I started this blog my intention was to assist the freelance video creative in identifying the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of online video contests. I think I have done that so far by sharing some of my experiences and some from fellow freelancers in the industry.

Todays blog post will help identify between the contest types. It will provide an invaluable measuring stick by which to judge the contests you should/should not enter as a freelance creative. I will share information that stratifies the contests, so that from the very start before you even think about a story-board or a prop list, you can make better decisions for your freelance business.

There are currently three (3) basic types of online contests being executed world wide.

Yes, there is also an entire industry of content portals on the web who require you to upload your content to their specific site. They run programs and contests within their site with a myriad of bells and whistles and community perks which rarely translate into real cash. They are invariably always bottom dollar when it comes to remunerating the creative (for people that means ‘getting paid’). But we are not going to talk about these since none that I know of offer the kind of money/opportunities offered by the brand run contests.

CONTEST TYPE 1: The Social Networking Contest

In this type of contest the hopeful creative is thrown into the hellish abyss of the campaign black hole. A spinning, whirling, festering nightmare that ultimately vomits the bones and leather boots of all contestants except for the one with the most social contacts on the web. The creative (and I use the word lightly) who is best hooked up with Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, etc. is the type of Einstein who regularly prevails. These contests rarely yield the kind of content that the brand heretofore has used to market itself. It matters little though, since the content will not be used much (if at all) by the brand, and the 5,000,000 views/hits on the videos was well worth the $50K cost to administrate the contest. Past and current examples of this type of contest are: LG’s “Life Is Good When…”, HP’s “You on You”, Post It Note’s, “You Stuck It Where” etc. etc.

READ THE RULES people. When it states that the finalists and the winners will be chosen solely as a result of an internet vote, BELIEVE IT!!!!!, and RUN as fast as your video equipment will allow.

But please do not be fooled. If you win one of these contests, it is not necessarily a feather in the cap of your resume. Any future industry contact you represent yourself to, will know darn well the nature of that high profile contest. It could hurt you more than help you. I personally avoid these contests like the plague.

I am toying with one scenario however where I may engage this type of contest. It will be the subject of a future post.

CONTEST TYPE 2: The Social Network / Content driven contest.

In this contest type the brand itself chooses it’s the finalists before inevitably turning the final phase over to the voting public. This contest type is a morph of the Social Network (S.N.) contest and the Content Driven type. Along with it comes some liability, and legit opportunity for the serious freelance creative to showcase talent and find respect in the Ad World (and a good measure of animosity and disdain thereto). In this call for content, the brand does in fact care what is created. These branding contests tend to give increased direction relating to required elements, and  the brand usually lists an intent to broadcast the winning creative in some medium or other. They very often will post strict guidelines on logo, tagline, brand graphics, etc. In this scenario, the creative has a legit chance to have major players in the advertising world inspect his/her creative wares and to be judged against industry standards. If a creative emerges as a finalist in this type of contest, it is definitely a kudo to be included on the resume.

At this juncture however, we again have a problem. Once the finalists have been chosen and the brand is comfortable with any/all of the five spots, the brand then turns the 5 or so videos over to an internet voting phase. Once again, all bets are off and the video to prevail will be the result of the best marketing campaign, not  necessarily the best creative for the job. In an imperfect world, this is a type of contest where a self respecting creative can find some satisfaction and respect and even some money. Some brands like Doritos for example, regularly award all it’s ‘finalists’ generous money wether or not they go on to be the ultimate winner. Doritos has awarded 10K to 25K to all five finalists every year it has run it’s contest. Another contest is the recent Butterfinger model where all 4 finalists will be chosen by the brand itself before being sent off to S.N. Valhalla. So yes, in my opinion, there are good reasons to enter these types of contests, but also reasons to be cautious.

Here is a link to a Butterfinger sub I created, but discovered too late I had broken the rules by using minors as actors. So I will not be able to submit this vid. Boo hoo….I’m so professional.

A family that steals together, heals together.

CONTEST TYPE 3: The Content Driven Contest.

In a perfect world, this would be the only type of contest allowed on the internet, ha ha ha ha……..

Eh hem, Again, I fully understand the reason for the S.N. contest model and the perfect sense it makes for brands to run them, but the VIDEO CONTEST KING exists to educate freelancers and give them information relating to the best career opportunities possible. There, I said it once more for those who are still not ‘getting‘ what the VCK is all about.

As I was saying. The Content Driven Contest model is the best opportunity out there for the freelance producing creative. In this model, there is no ‘public’ voting for the finalists and winners. The brand itself chooses all of the finalists and all of the winners. recently ran one of these that offered 100k for first place, and 50K for second place. Career Builder will have it’s own production company reproduce the winning content to ready it for slick top notch SuperBowl play in Feb. 2010. Career Builder is looking for ‘ideas’ people. runs an annual contest with a 25K prize where they choose the content. Giordano Roast Beef ran a contest with only a 4K prize. Yes, I submitted to it. Was it huge money? NO. Was it the type of contest model I respect? You betcha.

These brands are conducting business effectively in the same fashion as ad agencies world wide…everyday of the week, from San Francisco, to Madison Avenue to Tokyo…….and they are including the freelance producer in thier decision making process. By now you should guess that I am excited with the prevalent trend in the industry.

Here is a link to one of the finalists to the Career Builder contest. He is a regular contributor of comments to this blog. His name is Giordany Orellana. I really hope he wins. It is an excellent spot that really brands the product.

Note: The views and hearts under the video is part of a Fan Favorites voting gimmick that affords the brand some S.N. but has nothing to do with finalist selection


So here’s the deal folks. READ THE RULES. If the rules say you have a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of winning the lottery, then spend your 2 weeks of production and 4 weeks of campaigning based on that information. But at least go into the contest in an informed manner.

If you don’t have at least 50,000 YouTube subscribers, don’t enter a contest with a YouTube based voting system with your measly 500 fans.

If you are a serious creative seeking respect from the advertising world, don’t enter the contests that don’t give a crap about your intellectual property.

But hey, if you are a YouTube video personality with 100,000 subscribers, all of whom love to hear how you wake up every morning and which part of your anatomy you clothe first, then shoot away and take your S.N. payday. The rest of us will have to find our contests elsewhere.

The VCK.


25 responses to “The THREE types of online video contests.

  1. Thanks for the plug! I’m going to also start entering those huge social networking contests. They’re definately not for the faint of heart. But I think the best way to build a following is to make a video series of some sort. A vlog, a show, or skits. I’m developing a show that will hopefully build a fanbase which then I’ll use to put my weight on those big social networking contests. This is because most of the big prizes belong to these types of contests. Therefore, it behooves me to learn how to build a subscription base to win these types of contest. I’ll keep you updated on the results.

    • Hey Giordany,
      Thing is, there are enough content driven contests to produce for, that you really should steer clear of the SN contests. If I were the head creative in an ad agency and in an interview, you told me you won the IFart contest (no lie on the name, it ran two months ago), it would leave me unimpressed, as did the actual winner thereto. On the other hand if you offer that you won a contest the spot of which ran as a national TV comercial for a few months, that would be a different story altogether.
      With the S.N. model you could regularly be winning contests with content that will never be used by the Brand, because it wasn’t part of the marketing plan to begin with. You know, the ad agencies that work with the marketing groups running these contests resist actually USING the content derived thereof, because after all, it creates a conflict from a creative standpoint.

      Bottom line Giordany, if you are to be taken seriously as a creative than you must enter and win Content Driven contests, like for example, Career Builder. Good luck.


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  3. Thank you, video contest king! Informative blog, dotted with humor, and should be required bathroom reading in film school.

  4. I agree with most of what you say Jared, however in my case when I won the “” contest (worth $15.000) I had only been on youtube for about two months with only 23 subs. I was up against youtube star Dave Days who had about 600.000 subs. I didn’t think I had a chance yet somehow I won. LINK:

    Ironically without meaning to, Giordany reveals the real problem with the Social Networking contests. He wrote ” I’m developing a show that will hopefully build a fanbase which then I’ll use to put my weight on those big social networking contests”. See, he never said “mine will be the best and deserve to win” but that he will have so many of his fans vote for him that he’ll win no matter what. NO DISRESPECT TO GIORDANY INTENDED, I know what he means.

    My point is, the best video should always win, not the one that has the biggest fan base.
    I really hate the public voting contests even though I still enter them.

    That’s my 2 cents;)

    • Hey Danny,
      Thanks for your post. I did a little research on the Credit contest. Please read the following.

      At the close of the Contest Period, the ten (10) eligible Video Submissions with the highest number of public votes for the Video Submission showing the Performers Having the Most Fun will be determined and presented to a panel of qualified Judges to apply the additional Judging Criteria listed below.

      At the end of the YouTube voting period, the top 10 viewed/voted videos, SHOWING THE PERFORMERS HAVING THE MOST FUN, will make it to the finals.

      I will bet that your video (which I have seen and is quite good), exemplified ‘fun’ to a greater extent than Dave Days. Besides that, once it got into the top ten, the BRAND chose the ultimate winner. It was NOT the video who got the most votes, it was the video that CreditReport.Com wanted most.

      Read the rules again my man. You are not giving yourself the credit you deserve.

      Always remember…the VCK knows contests.


  5. Haha,

    Yeah, I knew they did it that way VCK, I should have been more clear. My point was that at the time, I thought for sure that when the top 10 videos (mine included) got in front of the panel of judges that they would pick Dave Days because of his HUGE fan base, internet Stardom, and Subs, which by default would be good for their company. But to their credit (no pun intended) they actually debated all aspects of the contest set forth in their rules and picked me. I couldn’t believe they didn’t go with the Big Popular guy.

    I still didn’t believe it til I deposited the check. Hehehe.

    That was a little different because it was only a SN contest to pick the top 10 out of about 300 if I recall. Mustering up votes to reach the top 10 was a daily chore though and not so fun.

    It does make me wonder though, if Dave Days would have won, would he have felt his video was the best? Or would he have felt like he only won because of his huge amount of subs? Would he care? Hmmmm….

    I felt good because I knew the judges picked it, not because I had a million subs;)

    Sorry so long.

    • Danny,
      I’m gonna repeat this because I don’t think you understand the weight of that all important rules excerpt. The one sentence “the videos SHOWING THE PERFORMERS HAVING THE MOST FUN”. Don’t you get it? That is the disclaimer that allowed them to put ANY videos into the final 10, even the LOWEST vote receiving video.

      In this contest, they have their cake and eat it to. They are just ambiguous enough to make people think that the voting matters. In this way, they send everyone off campaigning. You all kill themselves voting (as you and Dave Days did), but in the end they chose the video they felt most comfortable with, representing their brand…I don’t know if I can explain this more plainly.

      Going back to the old model of advertising, some of these brands consider the message attached to their product, SACRISANCT, and will not give up that power to decide the message under any circumstances.

      Wording the rules in a clever way allowed them to keep that power and get the S.N. bang for their buck. Sorry, but this one was easy to read.

      the VCK

  6. Hehehe,

    You’re either clever as hell or more sinical than me Jared , but now that you mention it I think you’re correct.

    Wow, if that’s true then I spent a lot of time and effort seemingly for nothing. However it doesn’t seem like much work when you end up with 15 grand.

    The truth is Jared is that if you had entered the contest singing the same style as you did in your “Roxanne” video, you would have beat us all!

    The Police is my favorite band of all time, I saw them in Vegas at the MGM Grand last summer. Twas Awesome!

  7. Hey Danny,
    Let me add this where Credit Report dot com is concerned. They deserve kudos for the execution of their contest.
    I hadn’t looked into the contest from a producer standpoint until you posted your comment today. A quick (10 minute) review of the rules revealed everything I needed to know as a producer to move forward with my decision making process. They didn’t hide the fact that the videos they considered to be the MOST FUN would be the ones advancing to the final 10. They actually were fairly honest.

    It doesn’t take any cynicism to take the rules at face value and react accordingly. It is why I always assert that all freelance producers should READ first and PRODUCE later.

    Bottom line here, is that you read the creative brief and nailed the assignment Danny. It is why your 29 subs vs Days 600K subs didn’t matter.

    Congrats again. You are a talented creative. I say this after now viewing 5 or 6 different projects you have worked on. Keep up the good work.

    Jared the VCK

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  9. Oh man, Jared! This same sort of thing happens in the music world only with slightly different twists. I could write a book! Truly those social networking contests are an absolute joke! Anywho, it was very informative to read about your experiences with the different contests & you were right…I did laugh several times! lol. Thanks for a great blog buddy!

  10. Pingback: Will Video for Food » Thanks for Helping Jack Up Votes on Video Contest

  11. Here is a perfect example of why it is a waste of time to enter a contest based on internet votes.

    This guy put together a video in 10 minutes and then told his 700,000 subscribers to vote for his video. Of course he is #1 now and just made an easy $10,000

  12. Hey Jason,
    Kind of pisses you off huh? I know how you feel. Fact is though, I don’t begrudge these guys for working the system. Heaven knows I would pay my rent the same way if I had that kind of subscriber-ship. What I want to insure for all of my fellow freelance creatives…the reason the videocontest king exists, is to identify these types of contests before entering so us less ‘popular’ creative freelancers don’t show up DOA at the start line.

    Jared aka VCK

  13. Doritos
    Human Bait
    will be the winner!

    • Hey Pedro,
      I like the cinematography, the acting and the premise. Editing was great too. Here however are a few items that hurt the vid.
      1. It is a :15 story stretched out to :30. Evidence of this is when the dude does the exact same act twice (looking around & to the sky to determine where the chip came from). In national commercial spots, story stalls like that are unacceptable. The audience pegs it as an intellectual insult. They ‘got it’ when he 1st did it.
      2. The Story lacked any kind of conclusion. Him descending was def. interesting, but there was no branding impact or punch line. The peak was somewhere in the middle and the ending seemed a formality.
      3. I would have preferred not to see his feet paddling (swimming) in agreeable fashion towards his fate. Sorry but the dude should have been fighting this like all fish do. He was just too happy to die and it is the major reason why this story didn’t work.

      the VCK.

  14. Hey Jared, thanks for the kind words regarding my Dorito’s entry entitled “Nice Van” (2416).

    I agree with some previous posts in relation to contests and social networking – I guess the one with the most “friends” wins and that is unfortunate. It should be about smart, well-executed creative not how may people the production team gets to vote for their entry. I would settle for a panel of creative directors any day!! Thanks again!


    • hey Marcos,
      No sweat. You deserve it. Everything about your spot screams “Bitchin”. Hey, make sure and go to the Doritos – The VCK’s Picks post to read all the give and take about the ‘best of’ list and other videos being debated.

      BTW, also loved the colorization/saturation you achieved on your spot.

      The VCK

  15. Hey Jared –

    Thank you so much for the kind words and plug regarding my Doritos entry “Nice Van” (2416). I agree with some other people that it is unfortunate that these contests rely on the “public vote” instead of a panel of judges, possibly made up of creative directors, agency personnel or even editors from Shoot, Creativity, SHOTS or other advertising publications. That would seem like a more accurate approach. So if the social networking sites are applicable, the one with the most friends (votes) win ? What does that have to do with the concept ?

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