Episode 151: Neil Perry on "Pro-Crowd Sourcing" Your Next Viral Video

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Neil Perry, CEO of XLNT Ads is the first in the DishyMix "Mukety Muck Insights" series recorded on location at ad:tech San Francisco.

Neil opens a whole new world to me about how you can now use their site to connect brand marketers to thousands of semi-pro and independent filmmakers eager to showcase their commercial talent by creating spec ideas for your online video programs.

What used to cost $350,000 now costs $15-$35K. Maybe there's an online video program in YOUR future?

Transcript

Susan Bratton: Welcome to DishyMix. I’m your host, Susan Bratton, and you are listening to one of a multi-part series that I’m calling Muckity Muck Insights. I’m here at AdTech San Francisco interviewing some of the most interesting experienced people in the digital marketing industry, and you are about to get to meet Neil Perry. Neil is the CEO of XLNTads based out of Philadelphia, my hometown. So we might have to talk a little bit about cheese steaks. Welcome Neil. How are you?

Neil Perry: I’m fine Susan. Thanks for having me.

Susan Bratton: It’s great to see you here. I like your new glasses.

Neil Perry: Oh thanks, thanks. We ought to get you back out to Philly, we can get some mushrooms with those cheese steaks. 

Susan Bratton: Totally. I grew up with in the mushroom capital of the world.

Neil Perry: Kennett Square.

Susan Bratton: Yes, exactly. A lot of people notice how stinky it is there. I was actually glad to move away, but I do love the mushrooms.

Neil Perry: And it’s pretty compost.

Susan Bratton: It truly is. So Neil, you were telling me before we started recording about XLNTads, and I said “Oh my god, you have to get on DishyMix and talk about this”, ‘cause it’s very interesting crowd sourced video. So describe what you do.

Neil Perry: It is a fascinating business. What makes it unique is we are surrounded by an incredibly talented group of videographers from around the country. We’ve assembled 15,000 to date and all of them take part in different assignments that we run for major brands. The process is pretty simple. We actually post a creative brief that the brand give us – and these are brands like Anheuser Busch or Craft, you know, Lever, Nestle, a lot of the major players. We post that creative brief and this network of creatives, all of these 15,000 videographers, take a look at it and they decide whether or not they want to take a stab at doing a commercial for one of the Fortune 100 companies.

Susan Bratton: So when they do that they decide that they’re going to do it, they work on it for free and submit their video, and then if it’s chosen they get paid? Is that how it works or do you pay a certain number of the videographers to produce the commercials.

Neil Perry: Yup, that’s exactly how it works. We put it up there, they take a shot at it from spec standpoint. What they’re doing really is trying to hone their skills. These are people who are trying to break into the industry. They’d really like to be professional advertisers. But they’re having trouble breaking in. It’s difficult to get into a major corporation. It’s also difficult to have an agency take a look at your creative reel. By going through XLNTads they’re able to get their work showcased in front of some of the top people in the industry on both the agency and the brand side. So they put their work in, they keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best. Then if the brand likes it the brand will choose anywhere from two, three or four commercials that have been submitted through XLNTads. Then they get paid. Additionally, XLNTads takes some of its earnings, and we provide incentive money to our creators in the form of Editor’s Choice Awards. So we pick our own favorites even if the brand didn’t select them.

Susan Bratton: And what’s the typical price range for the ads and are the ads broadcast spots, web spots, a combination? Give us the idea of the kind of panoply of projects that the brands come to you for.

Neil Perry: I’d say about 90 percent of the work that we produce is for use online. So many of these major companies have lead agencies that are perfectly capable and are very happy to produce $350,000 dollar spots that you see on the Academy Awards or the Super Bowl or just on network TV. Our stuff is a little bit more below the line. So they come to us and try to get ads for their Facebook pages, for MySpace pages, also for their websites and microsites. Even, we had one campaign for FedEx and they’re going to use it as a link from an email campaign. So about 90 percent of our work really is for basically the interactive industry; although we do have a couple spots that are on the network right now, particularly one for Designated Driver campaign that’s being offered by Anheuser Busch. Now the cost of our work averages about $35,000 dollars for an individual 30 second commercial. So figure about 1/10th the cost of what it would typically go through a video production house or a major Madison Avenue agency.

Susan Bratton: And of course you showcase some of the great work on your websites, so we can go look at that.

Neil Perry: Yes, you can go to xlntads.com…

Susan Bratton: Okay.

Neil Perry: And that’s a great spot to take a look at some of the commercials that have been taken by our individuals. But we also have a sister website which is called poptent.net. That’s p-o-p-t-e-n-t. Poptent.net is where all of our videographers hang out. It’s a social network of videographers that they use for collaboration, for discussion and dialogue, and this is actually where the work gets produced, and then it gets submitted to XLNTads and then we bring it to the client. So both sites would give you a broad overview of what we do, how we do it and the kind of results that an advertiser or marketer could expect. 

Susan Bratton: Are there any particular types of talent that you are still looking to add into your offerings, certain skillsets that you need, maybe flash developers or other people who aren’t specifically shooting or producing the video, or anything? What are you looking for if you could call out for some extra talent?

Neil Perry: Well we’re always looking for more videographers…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Neil Perry: because a lot of them are working their way up and once they work their way up they leave our system and go full time for major producers. So we’re always looking for more videographers. But recently we’ve been out recruiting both talent – actresses, actors. We’re also looking for Hispanic speaking and French speaking talent. We’re also looking for those individuals who have great animations skills. We have about a thousand of our 15,000 creators who are very talented with animation, but there’s a big demand for it, because you could use animation and not have to ever worry about any talent or residual payments…

Susan Bratton: Of course.

Neil Perry: ‘cause it’s all cartoons.

Susan Bratton: That’s like all the new 3D movies that have not talent fees, right?

Neil Perry: Exactly. So that’s a big area where I think brands have recognized that if you’re going to keep something up…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Neil Perry: on a website for an extended period of time, that’s a very economical way to pull it off.

Susan Bratton: Well another thing too is that if you’re using cartoons or illustrations of people for example, I’ve heard that it’s a lot easier for a larger number of people to identify with a cartoon character than an actual person. And so using things like animation and illustration in video probably works a lot better.

Neil Perry: Absolutely. Another thing that we’ve noticed is that when you use talent that isn’t highly glamorized, the kind of stuff that the Madison Avenue agencies seem to recruit, we have a much better reaction to the ads.

Susan Bratton: The authentic…

Neil Perry: Right.

Susan Bratton: kind of…

Neil Perry: Yeah. We did some work for Callaway Golf and they actually did some research on our spots versus some of the ones they had already produced…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Neil Perry: And I think it was really driven by the fact that our actors were more like the guy down the street…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Neil Perry: and less stylized that we were able to actually outperform some of the other work we were compared to at a fraction of the cost. 

Susan Bratton: Nice! And how does a brand get involved and is there a process for the creative brief or are there lower costs than the $35,000 dollar fees? Lets just say you’re not a major brand, like a Unilever or one of your other, your Callaway or what have you. But you’re a smaller organization and you like to get some maybe YouTube videos created or something like that. What’s the low end of what you can do at XLNTads that still makes financial sense for you and for your clients and your videographers?

Neil Perry: There is a lower end that we make available and that’s typically for those smaller to mid-sized brands that…

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm.

Neil Perry: really want to have video because they recognize the power of site, sound and motion. What we do is we make our creative community available to them if they go through something we call XLNTads Direct. And it’s a self-serve model where they’re able to upload their own assets. We help them with writing their own creative brief with a set form that we put on our site. And they literally do all of the work that we traditionally do on behalf of brands themselves. And by doing so they’re able to cut the cost just about in half.

Susan Bratton: Oh, that’s great. Okay, good. Now the only other thing that I’m interested in, we’ve got about two minutes left. Could you give us some best practices – you mentioned one example, which was using models that are a little more authentic and a little less polished and glamorized and celebrity looking. What are some of the other things that seem to be working very well in the videos themselves? Certain ways of production value or anything that you can think of, kind of emerging best practices for web focused video marketing. 

Neil Perry: Sure. I think there are two that come to mind. The first one is what we call Clone Spots, which is a situation where you already are brand and you already have a spot on the air and it has a certain style and format to it and a certain routine. Maybe it starts out with animation and it moves to live action, then it closes on a product shot. If our creators can see that work as an example of what they are to model, 9 times out of 10 you’ll get an incredible variety of great spots, but they match the kind of flow and the look and feel that you’ve already gotten comfortable with and already established for your brand. So the Clone Spot I think is a great one. The other recommendation I would have is to keep the creative brief very open. When you try to get too narrow focus and direct the directors too specifically, you’re not going to be as satisfied with the broad range of work that you can get back if you leave your brief very open, very easy to address, and give the creative community a little more flexibility in what they serve up. 

Susan Bratton: Mm hmm. That’s great. I love these. Are there more of these and we just don’t have time for them? Have you captured any of these best practices anywhere that we could go to check out?

Neil Perry: You know, best practices, it’s an ongoing learning process for us…

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Neil Perry: So we continue to add them into our stable of knowledge.

Susan Bratton: Yeah.

Neil Perry: What I would recommend for any brand or any agency, if you’re interested we have a couple people on staff who are very talented and really know this inside and out. Let us come in and talk to you and give you some information, and actually we can even do it over the phone where we can give you enough tips, enough headlines, enough guidance that you’ll be producing some great work very easily through our network.

Susan Bratton: Awesome! And Neil, what’s the best way for someone listening to get in touch with you or your organization? How do you want the inbound lead to come in?

Neil Perry: You know, you can either go directly to xlntads.com and there’s a section there to ask for info.

Susan Bratton: Okay.

Neil Perry: But the other way is just get a hold of me. It’s [email protected], and we spell  XLNTads x-l-n-t-a-d-s, dot com. 

Susan Bratton: Awesome!

Neil Perry: Reach out to me. It’s N. Perry, love to hear from you.

Susan Bratton: That’s great Neil. Thank you so much. You’re so good at talking about what you do now. I really appreciate it. That was fascinating.

Neil Perry: Thanks. It’s a fun business. Appreciate you having me Susan.

Susan Bratton: It’s my pleasure. All right, you got to meet Neil Perry, the CEO of XLNTads. I hope you enjoyed that and it was an eye opening experience. Thanks so much and we’ll be back with more Muckity Muck Insights from AdTech.