The little project that could. Concepted and produced in a two-week span, this has turned into a case study on how to do user-generated content wrong, and how to do it right.

Concept. Design. Direction




Where the magic happens

Some sample frames

Main interface - note the ease of use

This is an interesting project, and clearly drew the lines between the sources that GET social media, and those that don't. Media either denounces the project as an abject failure, or herald it as forward looking.

The truth of the project is that this was never about the videos, what people created didn't matter - only that they were experiencing the content. The brief's goals were to get people to learn about the new Tahoe, but to do so with almost no money, use only existing assets, tie in with the Apprentice TV show (The Tahoe was a project for the contestants - I had no part in that). Our solution was what I always refer to as the 'spoonful of sugar' method. Basically, if you make people think they're doing something else, the exposure to the product happens organically.

From that regards it's a success. It doesn't matter what people were putting in videos, because they were looking at all the clips to create the best story for their purposes: to either create the best commercial (to win the contest), to create the funniest one (so they'd need clips to support it), or to push their most damning message against automotive companies, Big Oil, or what-have-you. The site had the most organic traffic to - more than the major search sites combined, and something like 60% would go to the product pages of Tahoe for more information - they were actively seeking product information.

Wired magazine ran a cover article on this, as part of their 'End of Advertising' devoted magazine - calling it a success. Several Social experts use it as a case study for how to do User Generated Conent RIGHT, and most advertising and new media journals revised their damning opinion of it, when they realized that Chevy knew what was happening, and understood a small part WOULD happen.

Failure-wise old media weighed in: Nightline ran a whole segment devoted on this, CNN Money called it one of the dumbest advertising moves of the year - and I could go on.

The promotion was created for FAR less than I've ever seen it estimated to cost, had only one banner created that ran on Yahoo!'s Apprentice page for one week (until the next episode), and was tagged onto one Tahoe commercial that ran only once, immediately after the Tahoe Apprentice tv episode. That's it. There was no social seeding - people posting their videos to YouTube (and keep in mind, they recorded their pieces with screencapturing software), sharing links with their friends, and old media wielding pitchforks created ALL the buzz and traffic.

And yes: Chevy was aware of the ads, before old media freaked out. We looked at the omniture reports every day, and we had a log of all the movies sent to us every morning that we looked at for swearing, etc. We also sent around the funniest and best (and worst) ads all around both CE and Chevy.