Poptent is a crowdsourced video service that connects companies in need of affordable video to filmmakers and directors. It's a bit like an auction of sorts, with brands posting creative briefs and videographers completing the job and competing to win the official gig. And earlier this week, during the college football BCS National Championship game, tens of millions of viewers saw a commercial that couldn't have existed without Poptent.
Dell Runs Poptent Crowdsourced Ad During National Championship
Dell is one of the larger brands on the planet, and probably would be a good "get" for Poptent on their own. But the fact that they took the finished advertisement and ran it before such a sizable audience shows true faith in the crowdsourced video system Poptent embodies. We'll get to the details in a moment, but first take a look at the ad–if you watched the game you probably saw it, as it aired twice:
Most projects on Poptent are public and open to any filmmaker, but a new system was utilized for the Dell spot, with an invite-only stipulation on submissions. According to Poptent President, Neil Perry, the average Poptent project has more than 100 participants out of the 42,000 filmmakers they have as members. For the Dell spot, the invitations were limited to 18.
Think about that from the brand's perspective for a minute. You're getting 18 potential ads to choose from, which already sets you up with pretty good odds–they're all making the ad based on your creative brief, after tall. And you get to view them all and choose the best–all for less expense than the traditional television campaign.
The filmmakers benefit because they get to compete for great project work with major companies. Even those who don't win are able to use their video as part of their portfolio, and are able to learn through constructive feedback what they might do to stand a better chance of winning the next project they go after.
This is a pretty big deal. This is Dell, who has often worked with agencies (and still does), taking a peek at crowdsourced video… at a more unconventional way to develop video ads. The ended up with a spot that is every bit as good as what a good agency could deliver, but for a fraction of the cost. And because of the Poptent model, Dell was able to view several options, and choose the very best of the bunch, all of which had been developed based on a detailed outline.
Were they happy with the finished product? You tell me–they aired it during one of the most-watched sporting events of the year. I don't see Dell taking an ad they didn't believe in and giving it that kind of exposure, do you?
I think what's most impressive to me is how much this feels like a regular Dell ad. I'm not sure how much credit goes to the creator, and how much goes to the Poptent model, but it's incredible that Dell can turn to a crowdsourced video model, save money, and end up with an ad that feels right at home with most of the rest of the Dell branding we've seen the last few years. It speaks quite highly of the potential of this model moving forward.
An Interview With The Ad's Creator, Sam Akina
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to interview the ad's director, Sam Akina to get his take on Poptent, the Dell ad experience, and more:
Question: I actually saw the ad while watching the game, not even realizing it was the one I'd been emailing with (Poptent) about. Great job. What do you think it was about your video that Dell liked so much?
Answer: Thank you. The assignment was a lifestyle series, so it was a slight departure from what Poptent has done in the past. The spot that you saw was one spot of four that are all being televised. The concept we pitched to them was "More Than Technology" – seeing users from the perspective of their laptops and how their laptops are more than just pieces of machinery. The commercials then are composed of multiple snapshots of the users interacting with their computers in a variety of settings, ultimately telling the story of how their laptops shape who these people are as individuals. I think Dell really liked our casting and the way we explained our approach in the pitch video. Gabriel Bienczycki's amazing cinematography also gives the series an incredible amount of production value and separated us from our competitors early on. Overall, I think they liked how their brand was portrayed by these young, hip, attractive people who also expressed themselves with a sincerity that didn't seem forced.
Q. Is this the most exposure your work has received, airing during a huge TV event like the game?
A. Yes, the final championship game had over 27 million television viewers, so it's quite a bit of exposure. I'm really proud of how Dell got behind these commercials.
Q. What can you tell me about the gear you used: camera, audio, editing software?
A. Gabe used a Sony FS100 and an array of lenses for the slow motion and portraiture shots, and a Sony d7000 with a fisheye for the POV shots. The audio is a track we purchased from istock, and the commercials were edited on both Premier and FCP. We used Premier for the main edit and FCP for some FX touchups and audio cleanup.
Q. What would you tell another videographer about the Poptent community if you were trying to explain it to them?
A. It's basically a website where you can enter into video assignments, develop your craft, and have the opportunity to produce work for brands that you ordinarily wouldn't get an opportunity to work for. I've recommended it to a few people, and one of my friends actually won the first contest he submitted to – a spot that I produced for a Vizio contest which he wrote and directed.
Q. How much of your regular work do you think comes through Poptent?
A. Well the "More Than Technology" series led to another series of three commercials with Dell called "Ease of Shopping" which I am currently finishing up, so at the moment I would say about 40% of my work is Poptent related. That number will fluctuate, but another cool thing about Poptent is that I can always go to their site and check out which brands are looking for content – if a particular assignment catches my interest – my team and I can go to work on it and create some opportunities for ourselves. Regardless of whether we win or not, we enjoy the process of generating content – we get to challenge ourselves creatively and that has its own rewards too. As filmmakers, you are defined by the work you have created – the more you create, the more opportunities you make. Poptent provides another avenue to do that.
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