Are Podcasters Madison Avenue’s Worst Nightmare?

Apr 9th, 2008 | By | Category: General

Will It Blend

The Salt Lake Tribune has an interesting article that takes a look at the guys behind the wildly successful video podcast, WillItBlend?

George Wright and Tom Dickson have managed to do two things on the Web that advertising execs worldwide have yet to achieve: launch a successful viral video campaign – and make money from it.

“We’re Madison Avenue’s biggest nightmare,” says Wright, marketing manager at Orem-based Blendtec Inc.

That’s because the Blendtec campaign contradicts the conventional wisdom of online viral marketing experts. For Blendtec, there was no long-term strategic plan, just a fun and happy accident, a measure of good humor, and lots of plain common sense.

The article also includes comments from marketers that promise to help companies make their own viral hit:

“The Wild West days of [early viral hits] Lonely Girl and ‘Ask a Ninja’ are over,” says Dan Ackerman Greenberg, co-founder of the West Coast-based video marketing company Comotion Group.

“You simply can’t expect to post great videos on YouTube and have them go viral on their own.”

There’s no shortage of new middle men. “” offers to “track the reach and response of your viral campaign with the accuracy of a Swiss watch.” claims companies can achieve significant market penetration “without spending a pretty penny,” something Christine Beardsell, a leading analyst of online video at Incisive Media, says “is just plain naive.”

Based on Blendtec’s experience, though, the idea that you have to spend a pretty penny to get people to watch your video may be “just plain naive’…..

In fact, people will go out of their way to watch video that’s actually interesting:

Blendtec’s Wright is fond of a phrase coined in 2007 by Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens: “Advertising is a tax you pay for being unremarkable.”

By the time Wright came on the scene two years ago, Blendtec was doing decent business but had no money for marketing.

“I remember I used to call the Food Network but they would say, ‘You know what, call our advertising department.’ ”

That’s when Wright blended up one of the internet’s most viral marketing campaigns of all time.

It was November of 2006. “I was walking past our demo room,” Wright explains, “and there’s sawdust coming out of it and I go in thinking it’s a construction project but no, it’s Tom [Dickson] testing blenders. I mean he’s got this two-by-four and he’s shoving it in the blender and it’s turning to sawdust.”

Wright had never seen anything like it. It cracked him up. And it was visual proof that Blendtec made an “awesome” product. “So I says, ‘Tom, the next time you do this, I want to watch, OK?”

Wright went out and spent $50 on “a white lab coat, a MacDonalds’ Value Meal, a supermarket rotisserie chicken, a rake, and a 12-pack of Coke.” Then with the help of a videographer named Kels Goodman, Wright filmed Dickson wearing safety glasses and blending the heck out of just about anything.

“Kels went off, edited the stuff, came back to me and we just laughed and laughed and laughed,” Wright says. “I figured if we thought the spots were funny, then probably other people would think they were funny, too.”

Wright and Goodman uploaded the first video to YouTube, and in one week the first “Will it Blend?” had over 6 million views, with many to follow.

Dixon blended golfballs. Barbies. An IPhone, which he pulverized into a black cloud of nothingness. Blendtec challenged YouTube viewers to challenge the company to blend anything and everything. In the course of a year, Dickson was a viral video hero and his company’s sales had increased by 500 percent.

“Soon,” says Wright, “instead of me paying money to get on the Food Network, they were literally calling us up. All of a sudden, Willitblend was a profit center,” says Wright, because other companies paid Blendtec to put Blendtec’s campy videos on their Web sites.

Companies wanting to duplicate Blendtec’s success should take a second look at Blendtec’s success.

If Blendtec can use video podcasts & YouTube to make blenders sexy, any company has the potential to do the same.

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6 Responses to “Are Podcasters Madison Avenue’s Worst Nightmare?”

  1. taniaelis says:

    Most companies aren’t creative enough to try something like this – or they’d be afraid of trying.

  2. julien says:

    though the potential is always there, it still takes an exceptional individual or company to come up with something as novel as “will it blend”. after something like that has been done once, unfortunately (or fortunately for us viewers), it can’t be done again successfully… leaving us with better entertainment along the way.

    i think there will always be agencies that will be capable of succeeding in the online space, and duplicating “will it blend” type stuff. maybe it’s just the PRICES of Madison Avenue that need to be put into question. $100 million projects, these are not.

  3. James Lewin says:

    julien – you’re right that it takes an exceptional company to do this. They’ve got to be creative and confident in what they do.

    This doesn’t have to be beyond the capabilities of a typical company, though, does it?

  4. […] it blend, was brought up because of an interesting article in the Salt Lake Tribune, and a post that landed in Jonathan’s RSS Reader. It’s a simple marketing campaign that is very […]

  5. […] it blend, was brought up because of an interesting article in the Salt Lake Tribune, and a post that landed in Jonathan’s RSS Reader. It’s a simple marketing campaign that is very […]

  6. […] article in Podcasting News on podcasting, Madison Avenue’s Worst Nightmare and the phenomenon Willitblend which increased its business 500% with its zany […]

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