Dec 3, 2009

Ben Stiller tells Lance Armstrong about Stillerstrong, his "original idea"



Today is the debut of a website Causecast has been involved with that I'm really excited about.

A few weeks ago, Ben Stiller wanted to create a campaign called "Stillerstrong" to raise money toward building a school in Ceverine, Haiti (from a visit he made with a Causecast featured organization Save The Children). He and his team went to Save The Children directly with all these ideas of donation and site building, and STC said "Causecast is a better fit for doing these sort of things," (which is exactly Ryan Scott's intention when he founded CC: NPO's should not be spending their resources on logistics that can be handled by technology or professionals).

So we built the site Stillerstrong.org as a home for finding information, selling merch, donating via credit and via Causecast Mobile, and in the early parts of negotiation, I lobbied that they ought to be using our YouTube account for its additional features not available to any non-nonprofit partner. That is, buttons that bounce *out* of YouTube.

Any user, partner or not, can create buttons on their video ("Annotations" as YT calls them), but they can only do things that keep you on YouTube: send a message, video comment upload, collaborative annotations, etc. Unfortunately few know this, and very few know how to do it well. I blogged earlier about one design firm that was very clever about their use of annotations, and my friend Michael Gallagher of Totally Sketch also used them very keenly to create a "Choose Your Own Adventure" video series (this is brilliant because it increases engagement, viewcounts, search engine optimization, storytelling possibilities, etc. etc.) But again, every one is limited by only having traffic on youtube, not outside.

So what did we do for the Stillerstrong campaign?
1) Created a banner that has the text-2-give info, so people can donate on the spot without having to click anything,
2) Link to the donate page (this is why YT offers the ability for NPO's to bounce out),
3) Link to the merchandise page,
4) Link to post the video to Facebook: posting the video itself to FB allows people to watch without having to go to any page, and the buttons are just as functional,
5) Link to tweet: click the button and it'll take you to Twitter with a pre-written tweet, which includes Ben's name, the celeb's Twitter name (if applicable [which becomes really important when celebrities with massive twitter followers get mentioned in future videos]), and link to the homepage.

Pretty awesome.

This is why I never wanted to bother working for television or film. For more than a decade, the argument has always focused on how Hollywood is dying because audiences are watching content on alternative sources; the "third screen" as it's often called. People prefer to tune in on their phones for convenience and thus have the attention-span of a goldfish. And I've been saying for more than a decade that that's bullshit: 2001: A Space Odyssey is supposed to be seen in a theatre on a large screen, Ben Stiller asking for donations is not. Ben Stiller is asking for money and awareness for a cause by using a tool he's fit for (onscreen presence), and only by using online video can that be accomplished. You can't tweet by television. You can't hand your credit card number to a television. The television can tell you to do so, but why watch on one device and take action on another when you can do both with one? This is why film and TV are dying mediums: their audience is actionless and thus dead. Online video is commentable, shareable, referencable, resizeable, copy+and+pasteable, skipable, speed-up-or-slow-downable, watch-at-any-timeable, watch-as-many-timeable, and watch-anywhereable.

This isn't just YouTube, but thankfully to the competition of online video, they've been keeping pace with offering tools to stay at the top of the market. And believe me that this is only the first step to what Causecast has in store (I really can't wait to launch what we've been cooking up recently). And of course this is also why I'm so excited for html5 despite not being a coder: functionality, action and consumption of video will be on steroids compared to what we can do now, and the definition of "online video" will be anything but a rectangular-contained box you sit and watch.