Entrepreneurship is all about taking initiative. After deciding my last startup’s wasn’t something I was truly passionate about, I wanted to start working on something new right away.
Completely by chance, one day I visited GoDaddy.com to check if a domain name was available and I noticed a small banner at the bottom of their website talking about a video contest. Apparently, GoDaddy crowdsourced TV commercials earlier in the spring by running a contest with huge cash prizes.
GoDaddy’s latest contest had 3x as much cash ($600K total) and a small twist. You had to make a 25 second TV commercial that would compel a viewer to visit their website to watch another minute or so of the video. It’s a great marketing strategy that has been deployed by other major companies.
GoDaddy announced the contest at the end of July and set the deadline as September 30th. Unfortunately, I was a little late to the game and only found out about it mid-August, and got serious about it near the end of August.
Two months to brainstorm, arrange, shoot, edit, and perfect, is barely enough time- and I had to do it in less than one.
A great way to start off the semester
I got serious with the contest when I had an idea for a parody on the recently successful Old Spice commercials. I thought my spin would work perfectly for GoDaddy. However, when I emailed them about it they clarified that no parodies on existing commercials could be submitted.
Determined to produce something, I brainstormed like crazy. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to visualize the concept of domain names & websites in a TV commercial. As time ticked away, I realized if I don’t pick an idea in the next few days I won’t have enough time to complete the project.
Then I got lucky. TWICE.
With barely enough time remaining in the contest to actually produce the commercial, I came up with a very simple and straightforward concept that I knew had a good chance of winning and could be filmed at my college.
The second time I got lucky was finding the perfect model. It required a sexy and dominant female who could take control of things. I must have looked through hundreds of models before I found someone perfect.
Overall, I went from selecting my final concept (classroom setting) to finishing EVERYTHING in two weeks. Considering all of the factors, I am very happy with the final product:
Note: The video above is the most extreme version. I submitted six versions, which replaced ‘over the edge’ parts with something more appropriate. GoDaddy only approved the most conservative version.
Why I didn’t even place
GoDaddy didn’t follow what they asked for, which was brand fit and comedy (giggles as they said). Ask anyone to describe GoDaddy’s brand and they will talk about attractive women 9 times out of 10- because that’s how the Founder & CEO built the company into a nationally recognized brand.
Secondly, but most importantly, GoDaddy didn’t commit to the purpose of their marketing format. If the ENTIRE point of the TV commercial is to get people to the website, then I don’t understand why they picked the ones they did. Most of the commercials they picked had very little reason for a viewer to watch more.
In retrospect my commercial was probably too sexy for GoDaddy (but they could have worked with my different versions). However, I believe what actually happened was that GoDaddy secretly planned to initialize their move away from their sex’d up brand image (based on their latest contest winners). If this was the goal however, they should have made it clear in the contest description and contest promotion video, a screenshot of which I showed at the start of this (the video is no longer available on their website).
What I learned
Good is Good enough – I figured that since I won’t have enough time to respond to GoDaddy’s request for changes (per the content terms), I had to record as many variations of my video as possible. This led me to plan 4x as much stuff to film as was necessary. After we started to shoot I quickly adapted and cut out all the variations except for one. In one way I did follow the ‘good is good enough’ rule by not hiring a professional camera man and doing it myself. The final product did have some camera mistakes, especially the lighting, but overall the quality was decent and something better would not have made it win.
80:20 Rule – Focus on what offers the most value – I spent way too much time on perfecting the web-only video when I should have realized the TV spot was MUCH more important. This became apparent when the videos starting going online and the voting started; GoDaddy did not release the web-only content for each submission.
If you need more time, plan accordingly – I initially scheduled the first shoot ASAP, because I figured we’d need time to reshoot if necessary. I completely underestimated how long everything would take and wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. I had to reshoot most of the commercial. Although it went faster the second time around, I could have saved a lot of frustration and costs if I just gave myself a few more days preparation for the first shoot.
- My Dell desktop w/ stock video card crashed over 100 times while trying to edit the 1080p HD footage. I learned to save after every 2-3 changes and live without sleep. Stupid me thought selling my custom built desktop GTX 260 because I thought no video games would make me more ‘productive’ in college.
- We got kicked out of building we filmed in by the campus police because we ran past midnight on one of the shoots. The officer hit on the model as he kicked us out- I should have taken her aside to try smooth talking him into watching us finish the last couple shots but someone was on a power trip.
- We were originally going to use this hilarious Porno Sonic song for the soundtrack, but they didn’t want to license it… Never got an official reason.
Special Thanks – Gerry, Jon, Dave – thanks for all your help & support! Also thanks to Jason and all of the other extras.
How GoDaddy Could Have Done Better
The contest needed to be a few weeks longer – Sure a time crunch is necessary to encourage competition, but it was more a negative than a positive in GoDaddy’s case. Besides a handful of submissions, EVERYONE submitted theirs on the last day of the contest. Now, this wasn’t because of some strategy to increase the chances of winning, because no matter what happened ratings wise, the CEO made the final decisions.
Better communication – GoDaddy offered a video that explained the contest, a pretty simple legal document that outlined the rules and expectations, and an email address where you could submit questions. GoDaddy should have realized they needed a phone number people could call in to discuss the contest. I think the main reason why they got poor submissions in both contests (spring and summer) was because they didn’t work with the filmmakers. They simply put out a call to action and hoped for the best. I did my best to get in contact with someone in the know (thanks LinkedIn), but even those running the contest seemed to not know anything.
Better Upload System – The form by which to upload your submission didn’t even state your upload progress, and there was no confirmation number to verify it was received correctly. When you’re uploading hundreds of megabytes this is kind of important. Additionally, no one really knew how to submit variations of their video. On this point, GoDaddy should have changed the rules to allow variations upon request after the deadline so people didn’t have to rush to record every possible variation before the deadline.
In conclusion – I’m bummed they didn’t select my video, but I had a blast producing it and would totally do it all over again. The contest reminded me about the pros and cons of video production., so I don’t think I’ll ever get into it full-time. Music video editing remains my true passion.