Need to Move Some Simian Statuary? Get Your Video on eBay

It Won't Be Long Before the Auction Site Becomes a Stop for Entertaining UGC

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When you're trying to convey the true essence of a monkey statue or a giant Garfield alarm clock (the latter sounds slightly less alarming when you realize the clock is a giant cartoon cat, not an ad reviewer), sometimes written descriptions, or even photographs, are simply unequal to the task. Only when you see a video of the monkey statue -- sitting contemplatively on a bench by the riverside, cowering in a Port-a-Potty, or peeking from a hedgerow -- and hear his plaintive cries does the monkey statue become real.
It won't be long before eBay gets into the video-hosting business. The auction site's Hollywood agency CAA is working on a series of eBay-sodes -- three-minute films, each of which ends with an eBay transaction.
It won't be long before eBay gets into the video-hosting business. The auction site's Hollywood agency CAA is working on a series of eBay-sodes -- three-minute films, each of which ends with an eBay transaction.

Like everything else, the process of selling useful items -- and monkey statues -- is getting somewhat more entertaining as video comes to eBay. Actually, some users were already using video to sell their wares; an orchestrated initiative called "Let Them Post" represents what could be called a rationalization or formalization of eBay's video strategy. The site is "encouraging" its members to use video on their auction-listing pages -- and directing them to link to YouTube, Google, MySpace, Microsoft and AOL (i.e., sellers are "discouraged" from embedding video for now).

EBay worked with CAA on this and other entertainment-based projects that will roll out in the coming months. CAA's Jae Goodman joined the talent agency in the newly created role of creative director from ad agency Publicis & Hal Riney last summer. He calls the video initiative "strategic content." The assignment is to help eBay continue to spike in popular culture, he says, and, of course, to sell more stuff. "It's user-generated content, but here it has a reason," Goodman says. "It increases the likelihood that people will come to my option and increases the likelihood that the bid goes higher."

CAA tapped production company Smuggler to create 200-plus low-budget videos for products for sale on the site. Smuggler brought together a group of filmmakers that included "real" directors, first timers from the wider creative community and regular eBay folk. The first set of videos rolled out in late April; new ones will appear every 10 days. The videos have already spawned the desired increase in copycat video activity on the site, Goodman says.

The next phase, of course, is for eBay to officially host video. In the run-up to that momentous move, CAA is working on a series of eBay-sodes -- three-minute films by Smuggler directors, each of which ends with an eBay transaction.

But Let Them Post, for now, represents another compelling example of consumer as brand manager, agency and director. Some of the films set the bar high for fellow creatives -- in imagination, not production budget expended. In one clip, what looks like two VW Touaregs are shown parked next to each other, though when the driver exits one of them and walks toward the other, a trick of perspective reveals one of the SUVs to be a miniature model. Another excellent post has vintage Lego men enjoying an impromptu stop-motion dance party. Many are just dead-simple but charming product demos -- an espresso machine works its magic accompanied by a NASA countdown; bagels with eyes sing "Don't You Want Me?" for a bagel-making machine. In addition to sites such as YouTube, videos will reside longer term on some users' My eBay pages (eBay's auction window is seven days) and will be seeded to enthusiast sites.

But will video -- no matter how entertaining -- make people more likely to bid on a featured item? Well, there are more than 600 new and used monkey statues for sale on eBay. But only one really spoke to me.

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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and AdCritic.com. E-mail your big ideas to her at tiezzi@crain.com.
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