Fukuoka residents Ale and Micaela recently won Lotte Fit’s YouTube dance contest – but where did they get their moves?
With the recent surge in popularity of blogs and social networking sites like Facebook, viral marketing has become a very effective way for companies to advertise their wares on the internet for free. All you need is a reasonably interesting video and the right channels to get it out into the public domain. As an exercise in viral marketing, then, Lotte’s recent YouTube dance contest was nothing short of genius.
The premise was simple: entrants made a short video of themselves performing the Lotte Fit’s dance (as seen in TV ads), put it up on YouTube and the clip with the most views won a cool one million yen (not to mention a year’s supply of gum). Now in its second year, the contest attracted thousands of entries.
Of these, there could be only one winner and in the end, the prize went to Alejandro Cremades, a software engineer from Spain, and Micaela Braithwaite a student from Canada – two friends who both currently live in Fukuoka. We caught up with the pair and asked them about shooting the video, how they got their 90,000+ views and what they’re going to do with their new-found wealth.
FN: Tell me a little bit about the competition.
Ale: It is the second time Lotte has held it. You just have to post a video dancing like in the commercial and the most watched one wins. It’s cool because the dance is fun and you don’t have to encourage people to buy the product directly. I’ve seen a lot of similar contests and it’s more fun when it’s indirect like this one. Only counting YouTube views feels a bit raw, but that’s OK if we win!
FN: Having entered unsuccessfully last year, why did you decide to give the contest another shot this year?
Micaela: Last year, we put everything into it. We practised for three days, we went all over Fukuoka, trying to think of places people around Japan would recognise. We tried to think of things that would make us stand out without having to use the gaijin card (which I think we ended up doing anyway).
In that contest, we were in third place for the entire duration of the thing and then the very last day we lost to someone else and ended up in fourth. So last time, we were so close to winning about a thousand dollars and we ended up with nothing. This time, when the competition came around, we thought “alright we can do it this time, we’ve improved, we’ve learned a little bit about making viral videos, we’ve learned about promotion and now we know there are people with high-trafficking websites and blogs that are willing to help us.
FN: How did you win?
Ale: We won as a result of our video’s uniqueness and because of our contacts. There were few videos by foreigners in the competition and ours was outdoors and all. Most videos were in some girl’s room and many of the entrants were dancing alone. I also think many people remembered us from when we entered last year. I appreciate a lot all the Japanese people liking our video even though they didn’t know us. But our blog watchers, YouTube subscribers and Twitter followers were the key. We owe the most to them!
Micaela: Both Alejandro and myself have respective YouTube channels where we have a fair amount of subscribers. We thought that together with the connections we have and the people that are willing to support us, we had a chance.
We didn’t expect to win first place but there was also a prize for each prefecture so we thought “we’re pretty popular, we’ll get that no problem.” (ironic laugh)
FN: What was the concept behind the video?
Ale: We just wanted something like the last one: outside, the two of us, and at a busier place if possible. And, well, it’s not the Shibuya crossing, but it’s quite an iconic, busy place in Tenjin.
Micaela: We thought about where we could do it where people around us would watch us. So we chose a spot right in front of Iwataya in Tenjin because it’s so crowded. We went down on Friday at 5 pm and there were people everywhere. We thought that if we danced there – practised all day and shot the video – that some people might actually remember it or some people might see it online and go “I saw those people downtown!”
Also, it’s kind of one of the busiest spots in Tenjin and I think people from outside Fukuoka City could watch and go “Oh my God, I can’t believe they’re dancing in this busy spot at night.”
FN: Were there any problems with shooting in public?
Ale: Nothing at all. People walking by didn’t look annoyed and some of them even cheered us. It was great that no one walked too near the camera, so we had no “portrait rights” problems with Lotte.
Micaela: When we were practising, we would get together in Tenjin and go to the Taito arcade because it has a giant window in a spot where there aren’t a lot of people. One day, there was a drunk guy who came and started to dance with us. He didn’t leave for a bout 45 minutes! I have it all on film because we were recording it at the time. After a while he noticed that there was a camera and then he left.
FN: Did he have the dance down?
Micaela: He was kind of just going like this (illustrates with a weak pelvic thrust).
FN: How much rehearsal did you do beforehand?
Micaela: Last year, we did three days. This year, we already kind of knew the video, so I think we did it in two. You definitely feel it the next day because if there was a part we weren’t really good at, we’d do it over and over again.
FN: Do you consider yourself a good dancer?
Ale: No. I can move in silly ways but it’s hard for me to dance like you’re supposed to dance.
Micaela: No, absolutely not.
FN: Do you chew gum?
Ale: Not at all. It makes me fart
Micaela: I do… sometimes. I haven’t bought any recently because I keep telling myself I don’t have to.
FN: What are you going to do with the year’s supply of it?
Micaela: Once I receive it, I’m going to have to send out quite a few packets…
FN: What are you going to do with the cash?
Ale: I don’t have any special plans but there were a lot of people that helped us over the internet, so I raffled a Nintendo DSi LL among my blog’s readers. I also raffled ten sets of ten gum packs – I appreciate their help so much!
Micaela: There were a lot of people who helped us with the project. Our friend Carlos, who is from Costa Rica and lives here in Fukuoka, offered to come down and help us to shoot the video. When we were practising our dance too, he told us if we were out of sync with each other.
Our friend Jeff in Saga told people that every time they watched the video and left a comment, they would be put in a draw for a prize, so we ended up getting hundreds of comments on our video from people who wanted to enter for the prize.
So, with the money we’re going to have a big thank you party for all the people who helped us. I’m hoping to save a lot of the money too. I really want to go to film school here in Fukuoka in the near future, but it’s so expensive. I also have to pay off my MacBook which I recently purchased.
FN: Any last words?
Micaela: For many people, the internet and reality are two completely separate things and for me it’s always been that way too. Winning the contest, though, I saw how you could use the internet to affect your reality. I always thought that people online don’t matter in a way because I’ll never meet them and they don’t affect my real life. But now I see that they can. Without all of those people, we wouldn’t have won and that money is something that’s very real.