User-generated content may be the hot topic in the industry today, but it has been around a lot longer than you think, having evolved over the years along with technological capabilities and consumer interest in the field.
Kevin Nalty, who posts videos as “Nalts,” has more than 350 short videos that have been viewed in excess of 10 million times, and featured on such sites as YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo!, Yahoo Video, Break, Metacafe and Revver.
Today, videographers are everywhere, and they are leading the user-generated advertising (UGA) trend. They have the creativity and equipment to produce high-quality, innovative contenders for UGA campaigns. For the most part, these amateur filmmakers are not in it for the money, not yet anyway, but rather for the recognition and the chance for their video creations to receive national exposure and gain the attention of the people who can jumpstart their careers.
One such filmmaker is Kevin Nalty. Nalty has more than 300 short videos that have been viewed in excess of seven million times on various video-sharing sites. He is a serial "runner-up" in online-video contests. He was a first prize winner in the Butterfinger "FollowTheFinger.com" Everyday Moments contest. He was a first round winner of the BarterBee "Be the Bee" contest for user-generated promotional videos and has been a finalist in contests for such brands as Mentos, the "Dave Chappelle Show," the feature film "KissKissBangBang" and Panasonic. He also has created viral videos for Mentos that have been used in advertisements on such sites as Google Video and Break.com.
To gain insight into the inspirations and motivations of one of today's most promising modern videographers, Perry conducted the following question and answer session with Nalty.
Neil Perry: Where do you find the inspiration for your videos?
Kevin Nalty: I like to credit the viral-video gnomes that visit me in my sleep, but the truth is that I find life inspiring. I'm typically racing around with dozens of ideas and limited time to shoot them. If I don't bring them to life right away, they fade from memory or I lose interest in them. I suppose I could write the ideas down, but I don't carry a pencil.
Perry: How has the internet changed the world of videography?
Nalty: When I grew up, my audience was any poor sucker that came to my house. Their eyes would glaze as I showed them my third or fourth video. Now there's nothing standing between me and a limitless global audience. Creators don't have to live in Hollywood or have connections to get their work seen. I can wake up with an idea, shoot it and get feedback from hundreds of viewers within hours. That instant gratification is rewarding, and so too is the fact that I can do it all from a small town in Pennsylvania.
Perry: How do you determine which user-generated advertising campaigns you will enter?
Nalty: Initially I wasn't very selective, but now I'm interested in contests that have lots of prizes (as opposed to one mega prize), and I am attracted to exciting brands. It's hard to make a good entry to a contest when you're not emotionally involved in the brand. This came easy for me for Mentos, but it's not as easy to make an entry for mayonnaise. Creators have different motives: some want to express their creativity; others want to get famous or make money. If contests fail to speak to those varying needs they can often become "ghost towns."
Perry: As an insider, how have you personally improved and how has the overall quality of UGA improved over the past year?
Nalty: User-generated ads initially appealed to audiences because of the amateur feel and low production value. It made them more accessible because it felt like they were coming from a peer instead of a company. Now we want to see ads that unlock creativity of average people, but have the same punch as a good Madison Avenue clip. The good consumer ads have an idea that pierces through the armed guard we all carry to prevent us from advertising overload. Each day I ignore thousands of advertisements, but when something funny or interesting comes along I welcome the promotion.
Perry: Where do you see the channel going?
Nalty: We're moving past the user-generated era versus advertising agencies. I see the smart agencies harnessing the creativity of consumers and brand evangelists. Initially, contests represent a great vehicle for this. In some cases, the amateur makes a commercial that is good enough for air. In other cases, the agency provides the polish on a great consumer idea. Marketers will soon recognize that there's a great energy among consumers that can be directed positively to secure valuable "mindshare" for a brand in ways even the greatest creative director couldn't have conceived.
Perry: Why do you think user-generated ads appeal so strongly to today's consumers?
Nalty: How many advertisements do you need to see before you trust a product the way you would if your friend told you he liked it? User-generated ads activate happy customers, and they emit an energy that you can't replicate with a set and actors. They feel like word-of-mouth marketing. The best viral video creators create entertainment that doesn't make audiences feel like they're being sold. Suddenly the advertising is absorbed like a delicious beverage instead of a chalky pill.
Perry: Which brands would you like to do ads for that you haven't yet?
Nalty: I have a personal relationship with so many brands, and I'd love to portray that to my online viewers. For example, I'm constantly plugging Starbucks even though the company hasn't paid or acknowledged me. I love Mac and would welcome getting a discount in exchange for cash or product. It's good for creators to associate themselves with popular brands because they get a halo effect. And marketers aren't yet recognizing that many online video creators provide them with a built audience and credibility in the wild new world of online video.
Perry: Are there any brands that you would NOT like to see get involved?
Nalty: There are certain brands or causes that I'd feel uncomfortable endorsing like cigarettes or hard liquor. Sure I'll consume them, but I've got kids and don't want to corrupt them or others.
Perry: Knowing that companies are accustomed to paying almost $400,000 for a 30-second national ad, do you think videographers will eventually begin to demand more for their services?
Nalty: Right now there's a tremendous gap between what I pay as a marketer and what I earn as a video creator. I've paid obscene amounts for work that I can now replicate for under $10,000. The going rate appears to be between $1,000 and $5,000 for a good UGA ad. That will increase, but marketers will still pay significantly less. I go to commercial shoots and I look around and see horrific waste, and that's what's going to vanish as this space matures.
Neil Perry is acting CEO, XLNT ads. .