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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Are the Diet Coke and Mentos Guys Dead or Are We Just Moving Out of Spectacle?

I'm at Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas working on my presentation for tomorrow about Monetizing Online Video and I remembered that a couple of weeks ago I saw the EepyBird "Diet Coke and Mentos guys" had posted a new Experiment with Stick-Notes for ABC Family promoting Samurai Girl. When I searched YouTube I found that after 2 weeks of being posted on YouTube it only had 154,213 views as of this posting and it has been reposted (a viral video trick) two days ago as Office Covered in Sticky Notes (watch in high quality) with only 515 views as of this posting.

What's going on here? Have the EepyBird guys lost their touch? Are views not being counted? Is the ABC Family logo in the bottom right corner turning viewers away?

I think there is a lot going on here.

First let me say that I respect the EepyBird / "Diet Coke and Mentos guys" a lot. I think they are geniuses and left alone to create engaging video spectacles they are unstoppable but knowing what I know about ABC Family and the Disney Cable Network marketing machine I have a feeling this video was "killed by committee."

The video itself feels like something you could get on TV. It's not "Internet Special." It's also missing some key elements of viral video success.

Let's go back in time for a moment to the early days of filmmaking back to the Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (The Lumière Brothers, 1895) This short film was the "Diet Coke and Mentos" of it's day. People paid money to go into theaters to watch this film of a Train pulling into a station. It was a spectacle, it was emotionally engaging and it moved two or more human emotions. Patrons were mesmerized by these motion pictures and they were terrified as well.

Terrified? Of a Train pulling into a station?

Tim, are you nuts?

Yes. I am nuts and yes they were in fear. Watching this film they thought they were going to get hit by the train and ran screaming from the theater.

They didn't understand the technology of film.

According to screenwriting guru Robert McKee when ever there is an advance in entertainment technology "Spectacle" comes first then "Story." In the early days of filmmaking people paid money to sit in theaters and watch horses and buggies going down the street and trains pulling into stations but it wasn't until 1903 and Edwin Porter's The Great Train Robbery that someone actually told a story using film. The same is true of Sound, SFX, 3-D and Online Videos. Spectacle comes first and then story.

Once people had seen The Great Train Robbery and other story based films they had no need to go back to just watching a train pull into a station and horses and buggies going down the street.

Have we left "Spectacle" and moved to "Story" in online video?

No, not by a long shot but we are on our way.

So why isn't the new EepyBird video getting millions of views on YouTube?

I think there are multiple reasons why the Spectacular Sticky-Note Experiment doesn't have millions of views. It does have spectacle but it doesn't move two or more human emotions and here are a few other reasons:

1. The opening shot doesn't deliver what the video thumbnail promised. When I see that small photo with a bunch of colorful Sticky-Notes and the EepyBird guys I'm expecting to see a bunch of colorful Sticky-Notes and the EepyBird guys right away and I'm expecting to see a funny spectacle right away. Instead I see a guy's hand with a pen tapping on an office desk with an ABC Family logo superimposed on what looks like high quality film or HD. The first thing that runs through my mind is that this is something someone recorded off TV of ABC Family and uploaded to the Internet. It doesn't look like an Internet video or a EepyBird video.

2. The running time is too long - 3 minutes and 19 seconds. Now 3:19 is by no means too long for a video to go viral but it can be a deterrent if a video doesn't have a lot of views or deliver what the thumbnail promises.

3. I think this video was being advertised across the Google network as a 300 by 250 banner ad and I don't know if that made it a turn off to people or not.

4. The video has spectacle but it's not emotionally engaging except for when you first see the EepyBird guys.

I'm sure this played very well on TV (if it did play on TV) and I think it may have played well on ABCFamily.com if it did but it's not really an Internet video. It looks like a TV show clip, like a scene out of Ugly Betty placed on the Internet and most of all with the exception of the spectacle of the experiments themselves it doesn't look like an EepyBird production.

Internet video is a new medium just like Television was a new medium and in those early days of TV producers were taking radio programs and placing them on TV and they didn't work so well. New TV formats had to be developed just like new Internet video formats are being developed.

From a business model I was very excited about the Spectacular Sticky-Note Experiment. I'm really, really excited to see a Cable TV network and a brand name sponsor like Sticky Notes get involved with an online video production team. I want this to work.

I hope I'm wrong and that this video is getting millions of views somewhere like Vimeo that I don't know about because I believe in the EepyBird guys and I think they can create emotionally engaging videos full of spectacle that will continue to get millions of views and I want to see talented online video content creators make money.

Maybe if this video was somehow featured on CNN it could get some more views on YouTube?

What do you think?


ladflow said...

Great point Tim. Wonderful parallel to film.

jules said...

It's interesting how glossy quality seems less personal. With slighlier edgier rougher quality it makes it feel more intimate like you have stumbled on something unique and uncontrolled.

In the UK a few advertisers are now shooting primetime TV ads You Tube style with small handheld dv cameras and real people to try and replicate this.

Stephen said...

Hi Tim!

Stephen from Eepybird here (the tall, bald guy on the left in the Diet Coke and Mentos videos).

Really interesting and thoughtful post – thanks!

It turns out that a lot of our views are coming at sites other than YouTube, so, for example, we’re around 900,000 on Vimeo, 300,000 at Break, and so on. We’re also surprised that the publicly available YouTube totals are an order of magnitude less than the total listed on our YouTube account Insights page.  Still trying to understand why.

Altogether, it looks like we’re around 2 million views for the first 2 weeks, which we’re pretty darn happy with.  With the teasers and how-to-do-it-yourself videos added in, we’re looking at over 3 million views for the sticky note project so far.

We had a lot of discussion with the sponsors about how music, production style, brand logos, etc. could impact how the video is perceived on the Internet. It was an interesting balancing act, creating something for both TV and the Internet, and we're looking forward to taking comments like yours back to the sponsors & producers to keep that discussion going about the best ways to approach Internet video.

The rough and ready style of our first videos wasn't an accident, and we really like that approach. We think that the immediacy and authenticity that that style evokes is a really good fit for Internet video.

We learned a lot from working in this more highly produced style and will no doubt work in it again. We do believe that that style can work on the Internet too. The now classic Sony Bravia bouncing balls piece seems like a great example.

Thanks again for your great thoughts about all this. Even those of us who are consistently getting really good traffic know there's still a lot we have yet to figure out.

1 Tim Street said...

Thanks for sharing Stephen.

Over that last week I spoke with many people about this video and everyone agreed that we miss your fingerprints.

Brother Wolf said...

Very impressive video...
Shows a new level of sophistication for this crew... I am happy to say that I perdicted the results after reading your first post - in that youtubes rule is clearly ending - for reasons having to do with structure and ease of use.

Eric Wolf