A League of Their Own

For Chapter 4 -- "Spot On"

By Published on .

Let's then assume, at least for the moment, that XLNTads.com is well positioned to hold the hands of adventurous marketers as they take their first uncertain steps into the world of Listenomics.

I first spoke to acting CEO Neil Perry in early April 2007, three months before the official launch of the site for paying customers. Sixty days later -- five weeks from launch – he had yet to sign deals with many adventurers.

"You know," he reported, "we still have a very good idea and we still have very few clients. The challenge is, because our site isn't really a site yet, everybody is waiting to see who else is going to be there before jumping in. We're not getting objections to the price ($25,000 per month for a three-month minimum) , nobody's objecting to the format. But they're big companies and it's a chunk of money, and any time a corporation is spending a chunk of money, they can't make an expenditure for a totally unknown commodity without eyebrows being raised in the back of the house."

Ah, life in Start-Up World. At five weeks and counting, the one deal signed and sealed is with X-Box Live – although not for CGA. This would be for consumer-generated web content. "We're feeling very comfortable on our sales calls, it's just a question of lockin' and loading. I think the next one we'll get is General Motors." Although – and I'm just guessing here – probably not for the Chevy Tahoe. Or any other high-profile model, for that matter.

"Our sweet spot seem to be more of the small to mid-tier brands," Perry says. "We began by going after Coke and Diet Pepsi. It's starting to feel like Fanta Orange and Dasani water."

It's also starting to feel like a somewhat different business than first envisioned. While XLNTads.com would still offer a distinct venue for CGA with no risk of awkward adjacencies – like, say, pornography or violence – the C in CGA may not be exactly Joe Schmo of Anytown, USA. It's more likely to be, for example, Kevin Nalty of Doylestown, Pa. Nalty, a YouTube veteran with an online following for his funny short videos, is a new breed of semi-pro. He has enjoyed more than a million views, for instance, of his seminal viral "Farting in Public."

Yes, the "Farting in Public."

But he has done almost 400 others, many of them quite hilarious, actually, and he is on XLNTads.com's Creator Ad Board, a group of other online video auteurs who consider themselves the AAA of advertising's minor leagues. They're really more like single A, but they clearly are vastly more skilled than the rank amateurs doing most of the submitted to CGA contests around the world.

"The barriers of entry are so low, there's just tons of garbage," says Nalty, who is known online as Kevin Nalts. He uses the semi-pseudonym presumably to safeguard his employer, Merck, where he is a marketing executive.

"I market by day and do videos by night," he says, giving him a lot more bona fides than the average "armchair ad watchers who don't know how to deliver a marketing message." He and his fellow travelers have prevailed upon Neil Perry to alter his strategy: namely, to cultivate the semi-pros.

"You don't need a huge cadre of those to have success," Nalty says. "If you can find a few dozen that know marketing and know the rules of this game, then you get something of value."
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