Need Some 15 and 30 Second Spots? Hire Your User Base.

Our portfolio company Etsy has set aside $10,000 to produce some video spots promoting Etsy. That doesn't sound like very much money and it isn't. But they are not spending it with agencies and production companies. They've started the Etsy Handmade Moment contest and have established a first prize of $3250, a second prize of $1250, and six runner up prizes of $500.

If you love Etsy and know how to make videos, this contest may be for you. Submissions will be accepted through August 31, 2009. You can read the details of the contest here.

They've already gotten a bunch of submissions which can be watched here. This is my favorite so far:

This isn't a new idea. I'm reminded of the contest Firefox did a while back. But it's a good idea. For a lot less than you'd spend with an agency and a production company, you can get fun spots that come from your user base. And in this day and age of social recommendations, getting your user base involved in your marketing efforts is just makes good sense.

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Comments (Archived):

  1. mariew

    I’d love to post this on my Facebook page. Am I missing it somewhere on the site?

    1. fredwilson

      the video or my post?

  2. Dave Morgan

    Fred … great post. I think that we are just at the beginning of a lot of growth in “crowdsourcing” marketing messaging and creatives. Also, we will probably see a number of companies “productize” the process for outsourcing the activity, Like our friend Mark Walsh (of AOL and VerticalNet fame) has done with Genius Rocket,….

  3. aris_samad

    I continuously get amazed at how differently things can get done nowadays. There is now no excuse for a startup not to focus 100% on their core operations which is their differentiation factor, while finding creative ways to get all the other bits done. I’m reminded that a company should focus on its strategy and core operations, while supporting activities, as much as possible, should be given to those who can do a better job, and at much better value.I’m continuously discovering these new angles at my company. There is a common thread with those discoveries – “Duh, it’s so obvious!”, AFTER you or someone else has thought of it 🙂

  4. Matt

    Pretty cliche, and boring. You want something interesting other than some clipart on a cutting board, lemme know. My email is [email protected]. Not big into contests, so just let me know what you are looking for. Thanks for following me on twitter. Night mate.-Matt

    1. fredwilson

      instead of calling it lame, make something yourself that is not lame andsubmit itthat’s what this is all about

      1. kidmercury

        no worries boss he’s probably just jealous and insecure that he can’t win…..damn, i feel sorry for him

        1. ShanaC

          It is about the fun of trying!

    2. David Noël

      Not the best way to pitch your service here by bashing other people’s approach.

  5. David Noël

    Great! Love Etsy and love their approach with this. Maybe Etsy should promote this over at Poptent based in Philly where my friend Mark is a community manager. I’m sure they will find lots of talent there:

    1. Mark Schoneveld

      Thanks for the shout, David. Yeah, we would love to work with startups with smaller budgets. Crowdsourcing the creative on this kind of budget is how we roll. Fred, do let us know if I could introduce you (or Etsy, or and of your companies) to our capabilities.

      1. fredwilson

        I’ll let you know if we can use your help and I’ll check our your service too

  6. Mark Essel

    I can’t imagine a better group to advertise than passionate community members. They’re word of mouth alone is worth much more than 3k to a business. Etsy is joining Netflix, Xprize and others.Heya Fred developed the idea of Monetization into a notional framework this AM (escaped the puppies at home so I could think and fled to the office): http://www.victusspiritus.c…I made up the percentage cuts based on squidoo’s franchisee split (50/50). Obviously building all the pieces in house makes for a greater share. But I think greater value is generated by dividing up the pieces and using the best technology. I really want to see social media not only feed itself but provide incentive for others (like me) to host windows into their worlds.

  7. ShanaC

    As someone who buys from Etsy and has finished sketchsbooks, who probably should be selling drawings (to raise cash for other things in life), and knows some of the basics of filming:I go “ZOMG” and sends this post to two close female friends out of state, while scheming how to get my hands on a tripod and a camera, so that I can animate wire flower, or pull a William Kentridge, or something.I assume this is why crowdsourcing is powerful. I really want to make a video. I like Etsy, Etsy’s message of anyone can make stuff and selll if it is a good quality product. (I believe in the stitch ‘n bitch world). And I want my friends involved in my video. Hopefully, despite a total current lack of equiptment it will still happen.*At the end of the day it is all about how I really like to draw and do wire sculptures and give them away-and I think etsy is a better model for some people. You just need to find enough people who are going to either a) agree with you, and help you along or b) are going to be your customers/users and also help you along.Identify your product lovers, your product users-and you too will have emails sent out on your behalf.Behold the power of crowd sourcing.*Just the power of me asking around to borrow equiptment and computer time is also word of mouth power. Think on that.

  8. Douglas

    We posted $2.6 million in video contests on last year, and are well on our way to beat that in 2009. We posted this one yesterday. Go Etsy!

    1. fredwilson

      Thanks for doing that

  9. joseph bellow

    Since this spot is for Etsy’s benefit, why shouldn’t Etsy pay standard ad agency rates, instead of making it into a contest? This idea that your consumers will do your marketing for you has been done countless times already. I can’t see this as anything but an attempt to be very cheap when it comes to a significant aspect of one’s business.In almost no other aspect of a firm’s operations does it do this, but executives still think it is okay to underpay talent, just for the benefit of publicity. I don’t see Etsy offering to manage the code of its site for a few grand, yet it expects others to produce its ads for a pittance.

    1. ShanaC

      Hi Joseph-As per a lot of criticism (and counter critique) from parts of the current forms of Feminism out on the Internet- Etsy has mostly female buyers and sellers, mostly college educated, mostly with part time jobs or not working at all. They are relatively young, in their young, in their 20s and 30s. I would hedge that in some ways, they flock to Etsy as a result of the early 90’s boom in books and ‘zines that outgrew the Stitch ‘n Bitch movement. That itself was born out of the editor of Bust! Magazine creating the first sets of easy DYI projects, primarily knitting, that were campy and cool rather than proper, in the magazine, because she was bored of what Vogue knitting/crafting types were offering. It is now perfectly legit to wear a knit bikini, or to craft handmade soaps with the Jolly Roger rather than ones that look like roses.Etsy broadened the base. There is only so much you can craft. In my own community, the most common craft is to crochet a yamulke (I can crochet, but not yamulkes), although other needlecrafts are popular. Without Etsy, crocheted yarmulkes will probably still always have the political (Zionistic of various types) and slight sexual (Your girl made you a yarmulke, even if you paid for it) overtones. Etsy tends to break down those barriers by creating a baazar-like marketplace. How many pairs of earrings, baby bonnets, handmade cotton dresses- can you either sell at craft fairs, or give away?Further- Etsy created a community that was international in scope. If I were making yarmulkes, I could have a conversation about yamulkes on Etsy with all the other yarmulke makers. We could source cheap thread, and obtain market power together by buying in a collective group. It also created a community of what else is out there about crafting and DYI. I could start out in yarmulkes, and end up learning how to use a saw to make earrings. For many people, this is extraordinarily empowering.I am not on Etsy’s board. I own no stock. I would hedge a huge guess though, that based on knowing intimately the target market-That empowerment is a huge part of Etsy’s mission and it’s Internal Ethos, regardless of gender, and regardless of its historical relationship to feminism.Any campaign has to respond to that Mission.How do I know?I’m a (semi)-typical example of Etsy’s demographic. I’m in my early 20’s, I’m female, white, from an Orthodox Jewish background (current affiliation, err, in complicated flux), I know how to sculpt in wire, I buy things on occasion from Etsy, and I am in the process of becoming over-educated. It is likely that I will marry as they say where I am from “well.” My close female friends also either discuss buying things from Etsy, or buy things from Etsy, or places like Etsy.Note that above I said that I wanted to make this spot, and that I emailed two friends about the spot, who are also within that same target demographic. What I didn’t mention was discussing with my mother about borrowing cameras from a family friend, and whether my aunt (who can’t use email…oy), about whether her custom needle pointed phylacteries and tallis bags should be sold on Etsy (per womanhour, would she get a good price?) My mother, my aunt and thier friends- are outside the target demographic. My mother also spent some time admiring the bags on the site…If I am the target market, and I am responding well, and sent my mom to the site! then the campaign is working.Feel free to ask questions about being within the target demographic. I really don’t mind. Could prove useful to someone out there.

      1. Dan

        I don’t follow how your comment relates to Josephs comment? It was obviously thought out, but came right out of left field.I think what Joseph was commenting on can be found on Companies expect whiz bang website design and graphics for little to no money, but only offer the addition of the work being added to a “students” portfolio. They are being exploited. Artists are going to remain poor if they continue to accept these terms. You don’t see medium sized companies looking for an accounting student to do their taxes.I think crowdsourcing this type of thing is great, but 10k split 7 ways…

        1. ShanaC

          A) What is the purpose, given Etsy’s history, to pay advertising rates if their typical market has a history of being underground? They need to jump to a broader market- but they ain’t my male lawyer friends watching Hulu. Their market are geek girls and trend girls- Getting a crafter’s goods in Gossip Girl, Vogue, or Lucky would do ten times as much than a lot of the ideas floating here because of how gender and advertising works. I was responding to that thought in the back of my head.If I gossip out to others outside of the demographic because of this campaign, the end result is that Etsy won customers. Etsy is not my friend. It is a service that provides an outlet for a need at a price. I’m fine with it, mostly because I know that it would be impossible to produce real money there for the vast majority. And I think the majority realize that fact as well. B) I know- Even though I want to do high art on a computer about the internet and society- I know that to build cash to do so- it is better to sell my 3d drawings on Vellum Paper first. Fungible items that are difficult to copy in a portfolio and are Unique to me, even if they are somewhat personal- can have a stable market value, despite art world funniness. Theoretical work that plays on internet funniness depends far more on the art market and on the tech market. And it doesn’t help that I am a student without real resources to the machine works that produces the graphics to create high art. You don’t start doing art, and expanding outward from there, unless you think too much. I know my goals relating to my work long and short term- one of them is to avoid exploitation if I can.

    2. David Noël

      $3250 could mean a lot of money to a talented semi-professional producer who loves the brand and can transport the emotion o a brand he loves.Why *overpay* ad agencies for ads that mostly suck?

      1. ShanaC

        I find that on a limited basis- just very basic post-product without rendering time, without adjusting sound, without adjusting lighting and filters, ect:Every five minutes you see = 24 work hours. That’s very basic post production. So it takes 4.5 hours to just cut and edit and insert transitions. Filming takes god knows how long. Really pro people will have totally separate people editing than filming.(Always film more than you need to).Rend time is whatever it takes when it comes to effects. And you might need to go back and fix it. Sound I am not an expert on, but because one records sound separately from the image- you can go in and edit that, as well as rerecord if you are able to.Mind you- $3250 will only buy you an apple with the proper video card to run Maya and Final Cut Pro, Bootcamped, without sales tax (The NVidia that comes standard can’t run Maya…and the better version of Maya should probably be run on Vista at 64 bit). No peripherals. No other graphic programs. No monitor. No cameras, mikes, ect. Not even the programs themselves.You are not even recouping labor costs. (The only reason I know is because I am desperate to invest in one already and I can’t afford it, and I am not sure how anyone does…Solutions anyone- since the jobmarket is sucky?)

        1. Morgan Warstler

          Shana, this is just my fairly worthless two bits, but be wary of marrying “well.” Pick a dude that really annoys your parents… at least one that keeps them up at nights. Have the same attitude about the sucky job market. Esty is about DIY… it’s brand promise is authentic and unique. Find that guy instead. He’ll wear the crocheted yarmulke too.

          1. ShanaC

            I don’t date people my parents like as a general rule. I like em “bad” as they say. Plus, the gender line is noticeably stronger. I’m feminine- my reference points include things like baking and makeup, but I play a harder game of ball intellectually than most often acceptable. (This is probably healthy in the long term- in the short term it is very ehhh feeling). And I date across kippot and affiation lines within some limits- which also drives people up the wall when they ask to set me up. *shrug* More than one third of my high school class may be married or engaged- but at least I know I won’t be a secondary dependent partner in the game of life.I generally shy away from the orthodox or just orthodox label currently- per the age group parts of my identity are in flux- but sociologically I am very closely tied to where I grew up. Lots of education and low level seclusion from the rest of the world will do that (The neighborhood I grew up in is now primarily Orthodox of various stripes).That being said- it is one of the reasons I maintain a totally separate identity on the Jewish blogsphere land- which is quite active. Actually, I regularly see blogs there that post multiple times a day and end up with comment threads over a 100 comments long. The internet is really radicalizing to those in niche communities- it gets alternative messages out that would otherwise be suppressed, and suppresses those it doesn’t want to hear as well. As a result it is probably better to maintain semi-separated personas- real life can hurt when reputation on somewhat silly things is all that matters.

    3. Steven Rosenbaum

      Joseph, you’re asking an interesting question – but “standard ad agency rates” is a bit of a red herring here. Clearly no one is making these hand made contest entries as a professional enterprise. It’s more like a new form of digital word-of-mouth. And not all brands have the ability to engage in this way. You need to have passionate, creative, engaged users who want to make content for you.But what is worth noting is that there a whole collection of spaces that were previously “professional” that now embrace low cost, or no-cost consumer created content. CNN quotes Twitter, Huffington Post publishes unpaid contributors, Craigs list provides free classified ads for people who used to pay newspapers. Digital desktop tools break down barriers for creative expression and lower cost. Who’s to say what the “standard” fee for a :30 commercial should be? If Etsy finds the contributions useful, and it helps build the community around Etsy, the makers of these ads benefit as well (as more traffic to Etys brings more buyers to the Etsy marketplace).Overall, smart marketers are exploring all kinds of ways to engage social media. It’s way to early to say how consumer created content will play a role, but its clearly going to be part of them mix.

    4. fredwilson

      Etsy uses a lot of open source code in its service which it pays nothing for and which is built by a community of passionate programmers working together because they love to do thatEtsy’s community (both sellers and buyers) are doing the same thing with the marketing functionEtsy’s marketplace will approach $200mm in annual revenue this year but Etsy extracts very little of that revenue leaving most of it for the sellers. Items cost less under this low cost model which benefits the buyersAnd yet Etsy is a profitable business because it utilizes a new model where everyone chips in and helpsYou can call that cheap. I call it smart

  10. Steven Rosenbaum

    There’s lots going on here worth thinking about. Etys users are passionate ‘makers’ so they’ve got all these ideas and images inside them that they’re excited to share around the “handmade” movement. Etsy is providing them with a place to play – and share – and enjoy the spirit of building the Etsy story. Because Etsy’s growth helps all the Etsy makers – these ads help spread the Etsy story which is good for everyone that sells (or buys) on the site. The idea of crowdsourcing creative is nascent – lots more going to happen in this space. Creativity comes in part from joy, and the Etsy community has that in abundance. The provides the underlying video experience for a number of video communities and contests… and we’re always blown away by how much pent up creativity there is waiting to be set free.

  11. Mihai Badoiu

    Yes, it’s a good idea, but there are drawbacks. (1) It takes a while to gather all the submissions. (2) Entries will most likely not be professional level. (3) You may have to advertise your product before launching.Last year, we’ve done a version of this when I was working on YouTube Annotations. We did an internal contest (within the company): who makes the best video that shows the annotations uses. We had a few interesting submissions, worthy of launching with them as examples. In the end we still went with a professional video, which was better than the submissions. It was also much faster. (I think it took about a week to get the video)

    1. fredwilson

      Surely this is not the way to get the most professional and high quality work. And surely it is the way to get the most authentic and passionate work

  12. shazell

    I look forward to watching this contest develop, Fred. I started for unsolicited user-generated ads a couple years back now. You’d be surprised how many similar sites exist now – and how many companies like Etsy are partnering with them on these sorts of initiatives. Here’s the growing list.

  13. mgnyc

    Crowdsourcing has proven successful for many and is closely aligned with Etsy’s brand and message, so definitely the rigth way to go. I would suggest however, throwing in a sweetener, such as the chance to have your advert appear on tv (even if it’s just cable tv). This would drive participation as most people prefer fame over fortune.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s for sure. I see that every day. It is the essential truth of the open source movement

  14. James Sherrett

    Great to see Etsy doing the Handmade Moment contest. Great fit for their community and their product offering.As a few of the other commenters have mentioned, other options exist for companies looking to source their ad creative directly from creative folks.Our startup, AdHack ( helps companies do just that — connect directly with ad creators. We call is a marketplace for ad creative.Any other companies out there looking to source ad creative in new ways?Check us out (and the others mentioned here) and let me know if I can help you decide if it’s right for you.

    1. fredwilson

      Yeah, there’s a lot going on in this space. Much of it has surfaced in the comment thread. I should have written a longer more complete post about this sector.

  15. Jim Rogers

    Very interested in crowdsourcing and user advocacy. Something that may be helpful to Etsy is uVizz (full disclosure: portfolio company). They’re an user-generated content platform that integrates campaigns with social network. The reason for my suggestion is because they enable campaigns to track the nature of their viral spread. Etsy may be interested in being their own judges regarding the videos submitted. However, if they want some insight into who finds each video interesting, and how that content gets distributed and viewed, uVizz could provide insight. They just went live (public beta) last week, and can be found at this comment isn’t seen as self-serving. Just thought it might be interesting.

    1. fredwilson

      Very interesting and relevant to earned media and passed links, two of my obsessions right nowThanks!

  16. kirklove

    The topic of “free creative” is not black and white, but rather a lovely shade of murky gray, kind of like PMS 438. ;)Sure Etsy is being a cheapskate by having users do promotion for them for next to nothing – but they are also genuinely engaging their rabid user base. Nothing wrong with either. It’s their choice. (And I think a smart one at that.)Though I can understand why professionals (and for the record I’ve been a Creative Director for the last 15 years) could get upset, (like the recent flack over Google not wanting to pay designers for themes – But, I don’t think that applies to Etsy in this case since they are a fledging company sans the Google coffers, with non-professionals contributing. Still to eliminate the notion of exploitation, Etsy should have given anyone who participated credit on Etsy. In turn it would drive folks to interact with other sellers, further community involvement and grow the service. Then everyone could put down their exacto knives and get along. 😉

    1. ShanaC

      The cross-over problems of “free creative” is what allows Etsy to do this in the first place.The Legalease basically allows unlimited editing of the winning products- not much different than a good deal of free-lancing terms out there, which is how a lot of people get their feet in the doors…

    2. fredwilson

      Great suggestion. Thanks

  17. Jan Schultink

    Video still creates a professional barrier, not everyone knows how to produce something decent.You could turn this into a presentation slideshow contest. The combination of PowerPoint/Keynote, high-quality stock images and a sharing platform such as SlideShare provides the infrastructure to make pretty good and engaging slide shows (no bullet points of course).Not as slick as video, but likely to get many more people to contribute.

  18. rich caccappolo

    Etsy received some great advertising last night – a mention on “Weeds”.

    1. fredwilson

      I heard about from my daughter who watches weeds religiously. She was impressed

  19. Alex Salkever

    Part and parcel of the new “lean company” realities. The differential between traditional ad spots and really creative digital video spots / UGC are shrinking constantly. Love it.

  20. lizstless

    Or, you know, he’s busy with work that pays a little better than the chance at a couple grand, like most talented advertising filmmakers

  21. BillSeitz

    Is this for online-use only, or might they actual buy TV ad-time to show? The focus on exact-duration spots makes me wonder…

    1. fredwilson

      Good questionBut many online video ad units are in the 15 and 30 second format

  22. teegee

    This is the concept that MOFILM ( used for their user-generated content competition at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival. Contestants asked to create an ad for one of 12 brands, best one chosen for each, an overall winner chosen by Spike Lee last week (a young Japanese guy won with his ad for Nokia). With advertising budgets being slashed worldwide, surely this trend can only continue… I’m sure some ad firms have got their heads round the idea, but I wouldn’t like to be in one of the ‘stodgy’ companies right now.