Marketers are now experimenting to see whether film can be crowdsourced for viral success. The venture has an opportunity to be a breakthrough, but the corporate-sponsored gambit also faces challenges in a new media world that demands grassroots authenticity.
At this year’s South by Southwest Conferences & Festivals (SXSW), Taco Bell is letting music fans submit their own images and videos to create a “Rockumentary” of the bands Passion Pit and Wildcat! WildCat! from their live show on March 11. That begs the question: Will the industry embrace participatory content?
Fans at SXSW can tweet their footage of the bands' March 11 performance by using the hashtag #FeedtheBeat, which documentarian Sam Jones will incorporate into a Rockumentary to be released this summer.
The Texas capital has long held the slogan “Keep Austin Weird” and SXSW, which runs from March 8 to 18, describes itself as a “unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies”.
Crowdsourcing has traditionally been used to either lower costs or to find the right designer among the masses to build an optimal product or website. We live in a rapidly changing world of social marketing and indie artists trying to get millions of views on YouTube.
Since 2006, Taco Bell has operated a Feed The Beat program that has provided more than 500 singers and bands with $500 in gift cards and opportunities to be featured in advertisements and events across the country. It’s a sophisticated ground game that features characteristics of grassroots activism, reality TV, and guerilla marketing.
What’s in it for the artists? Publicity. Artists can leverage Taco Bell’s massive social media presence (its online community boasts over 10 million fans) and get free exposure that they otherwise would not have gotten.
What’s in it for the company? It allows marketers to reach out to social influencers at relatively lower cost than, say, paying millions to Rihanna or Justin Bieber to promote their brand and products.
(Come to think of it, the Bieb was discovered on YouTube.)
Taco Bell’s guerilla campaign may seem like a charitable nod aimed at starving artists trying to make it big. In reality, it’s an innovative partnership for standing out in a world of new media masses, smartphones, and participatory content.
For years, Internet marketers have reached out to social influencers as a means of going viral. These days, influence is shifting away from print publication and radio and moving online.
For corporate entities, a tweet from a popular celebrity is the equivalent of free advertising that otherwise would have cost thousands of dollars in traditional outlets such as television. Good luck spending $4 million for a 30-second spot at the Super Bowl. Especially in this economy.
New media is low cost, but the impact can be bigger. If content goes viral, the returns can be outrageously positive. For artists, it can be life-changing.
Documentarian Sam Jones wants to see if fans providing crowdsourced material will help a film go viral. Participatory content adds an element of authenticity. That’s why reality television, which is cheaper to produce, has partially displaced professional productions which are viewed as byproducts of artificial scripts.
Doubtless, lots of amateur footage will be discarded. But the advantage of crowdsourcing is that, due to the high number of participants, you get more than enough material to enable producers to select and choose.
With over 330 million mobile devices in the U.S., anyone can be a cameraman or photographer. Technology has seemingly placed the American Dream in everyone’s hands. YouTube symbolizes the hope of every artist wanting to validate their life’s work overnight.
A slogan for “Feed The Beat” reads:
We're not making an experimental fan-made Rockumentary at SXSW. You are.