Kia Contest Is Casting Call For 'Lifecasters'

Kia's

Kia's "Who's Next" YouTube contest is the automaker's effort to hitch its Soul car to a rocket-powered skateboard. Yes, it's an unstable ride since it relies on the ephemeral "anything goes" weirdness of Internet-video self aggrandizement. But it will surely reach a lot of young cell-phone-in-a-blender types who are about as likely to attend to traditional TV ads as they are to read "Common Sense."

The effort features Internet stars ShayCarl, Lisa Nova and the SMOSH comedy duo as judges for a contest whereby people have to upload videos showing how they evince the Kia "New Way to Roll" mantra. The contest, dangling $10,000, is also kind of a nod to the ironic hip-hop hamsters featured in recent ads for Soul. The judges will rank the videos on things like how they reflect the Kia brand values, the music they use, and technical and aesthetic savoir-faire. Dave Schoonover, Kia's national manager of CRM and digital marketing, socializes with Marketing Daily about the effort.

Q: What was the genesis of the "Who's Next" contest?

A: We were noticing the evolution of "lifecasters" -- people who have started by gaining fame and notoriety within the YouTube channel, but have grown so much that traditional media are starting to take notice of them. So, for instance, if you look at SMOSH, a combination of two guys, Ian [Hecox] and Anthony [Padilla], who have Web sites, Wiki pages and a big underground following at places like Comic-Con, where the audiences know who they are. But because of the success they have generated for themselves online, they are also becoming mainstream.

Q: So these judges are also an opportunity for Kia because of their own popularity?

A: Yes, we asked "who is their audience?" Some of these YouTube celebrities obviously don't have the right fan base for us. But the three judges we are working with have a subscriber base that is also a great target for Kia Soul. So now, what type of mechanism can we create that has value for them? They like to watch, consume, and create videos, so why not give them an opportunity to have a personal engagement with their favorite people to express themselves and benefit from being in a contest with a major brand like Kia?

Q: Is Kia promoting the program mostly through the fan bases of the people you have chosen to act as judges?

A: Leveraging the judges' audience is critical, but we have also had YouTube placements, and home page takeovers on Yahoo. It is unrealistic that you can create great content and automatically expect it to go viral. That's a pipe dream. In order for something to go viral, you have to help create the critical mass, and if the content is good enough, it will go viral. We help create that with several actions, including leveraging the judges' subscriber bases, media placements, and leveraging Kia's own community -- the Soul Facebook page has 81,000 fans. You take those actions in combination and you hope for the best.

Q: What's the process by which the submissions are pared down?

A: There are three rounds. We got 750 video submissions on the first day of the contest; we had to go through to make sure there's no inappropriate content and that an entry meets with contest rules. Then once judges get videos that comply with contest rules, they look through them and reduce it to eight [semifinalists]. Then we notify that eight. Then they have to go create another video.

Q: Why do they have to create another video?

A: Being a YouTube star is not a "one and done" deal. What makes these judges special is they can consistently create interesting content over time. So finalists have to create new videos. Judging then gets turned over to fans.

Q: Are you considering doing this with other vehicles?

A: For right now it's a Soul program. You get a car like Soul that's such an emotional vehicle that people have a lot of passion for, gives you an opportunity to do more unique things that you couldn't do with vehicles that are more pragmatic or utilitarian in nature. It has a great price-to-feature ratio, but people are buying it from an emotional standpoint: they like how it looks.

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