Video Contest News - Part 2 Video Contest News – Featuring News about Video Contests!

$350 Million “BrandTech” group acquires a majority stake in Mofilm

Mr. Jones of "You and Mr. Jones"

Mr. Jones of “You and Mr. Jones”

It sounds like our friends over at Mofilm have a new boss.  Last week it was announced that the world’s first “brandtech” group, You and Mr. Jones has acquired a majority ownership stake in Mofilm.  The group was created by David Jones, a “founding member of the Facebook client council and former global CEO of advertising group HAVAS.”  Jones wanted to launch an investment and development firm that would “bridge the gap between brands and technology.”  Apparently Jones isn’t the type of guy to do anything half-assed because he managed to raise $350,000,000 for his new venture.  According to TechCrunch, You and Mr. Jones will use that money to “acquire companies that create user- and machine-generated content” and that focus on brand and content strategy, social media marketing, programmatic media buying, multi-channel networks, and real-time measurement analytic. The group’s first two acquisitions were Mashable and Mofilm and it sounds like more high-profile purchases are already in the works.

So what does this mean for the filmmakers that use Mofilm?  It means the company’s financial future will be nice and secure for years to come.  And that’s good news for the entire Crowdsourced Video Community.  There’s been a lot of “Video Contest News” in the last 6 weeks but unfortunately it’s all been pretty grim.  Userfarm and Poptent pulled the plug on their new joint effort, Vizy, after a few disappointing weeks.  Vizy was Poptent’s last hope of survival so once the merger with Userfarm was dead, Poptent also had to shut down.  Poptent is so broke that the company stopped paying their staff and eventually someone just locked everyone out of the main office in Philadelphia.  These developments have caused a lot of panic because it looks like Poptent will probably wind up declaring bankruptcy.  And that means dozens of filmmakers will get screwed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money.

But thanks to this Jones guy, filmmakers can enter Mofilm contest and not worry about whether or not they’ll actually recive their prize money.  It’s really funny how these type of things work out.  The market has rewarded a good company (Mofilm) and eliminated the crappy company (Poptent.)  It’s survival of the fittest.  The folks at Mofilm actually care about their clients AND their filmmakers and the market took notice of that.  On the other hand, Poptent spent the last few years screwing their members.  All of the best filmmakers left the site which meant that their clients were unsatisfied with the ads they received.  Sales went down and eventually the investors got tired of  bailing out a sinking ship and pulled the plug.

So anyway, this You and Mr. Jones stuff is great news for all of us.  I have a feeling Mofilm will start running a lot more contests and I also suspect their prize packages are going to get bigger.  And that in turn will probably drive up prize amounts on all the other (remaining) video contest sites.

By the way, Mr. Jones, if you’re reading this I just wanted to let you know that for the right price I suppose I would consider selling VCN.  Ask any filmmaker and they’ll tell you this site is basically the Mashable of the video contest world so you’d be crazy not to make an offer!

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Video highlights from the 2015 Tongie awards

Whoa wait a second, has it really been three months since the 2015 Tongie awards?  It feels like the ceremony was just last weekend.  Let me tell you folks something, if you haven’t been to the Tongies before I recommend that you try and lock up an invite for 2016 by entering and winning as many Tongal contests as you can this year.  Ok maybe that’s easier said than done but hey, it won’t hurt to try.  If you need some motivation, check out this newly released video full of highlights from the 2015 extravaganza:

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Why did Poptent go broke?

Poptent new office space in Pjiladelphia

Poptent’s Philadelphia office

Poptent owes a lot of people a lot of money.  One former employee told me that the company has failed to pay filmmakers more than half a million dollars in prize money.  On top of that, Poptent also owes many of their employees some back pay and commissions.  So where did all the money go?  The employee I talked to said that Poptent’s management blew it on pointless and frivolous things.  He said that the company expanded way too fast, hired way too many people and then in 2014 they made an unnecessary move from the suburbs to downtown Philadelphia.  The company didn’t have enough money to actually pay for all this stuff so the bosses started spending the money they were getting from their clients.  But a lot of that cash was supposed to be earmarked for  filmmakers.  So the prize money from Contest A went to payroll and then the money from Contest B went to pay the winners of Contest A.  Then the money from Contest C went to pay the rent on their office space and the money from Contest D went to pay the winners of Contest B.  (Sounds a little like a Ponzi scheme, doesn’t it?)  The whole ugly system fell apart once the team at Poptent started planning their merger with Vizy.  The sales team stopped booking new commercial contests which means the flow of cash dried up.  From what I’ve heard, Poptent was supposed to get a big infusion from some investors but that deal fell through.  And that’s one reason why Userfarm decided to kill their merger with Poptent and dissolve Vizy.  Poptent wasn’t really able to bring anything to the table except their employees and their debt so I’m not really surprised that the Userfarm team ran from Poptent as fast as they could.

I used to be a big fan of Poptent so it’s been incredibly disappointing to watch the company fall apart over the last 5 years.  I agree 100% with the ex-employee I talked to; Poptent went broke because of bad management.  Since 2010 I have watched the bosses over there make one dumb decision after another.

Poptent's ex-CEO Nick Pahade

Poptent’s ex-CEO Nick Pahade

But things really started to go downhill in 2013 when the founder and CEO of Poptent, Rick Parhill retired and a so-called “digital guru” named Nick Pahade joined the company and became CEO.  Under Pahade’s reign, the Poptent staff spent money like they were a white hot tech firm.  But a website that runs two or three public commercial contests a month shouldn’t have a huge staff and offices around the country.  To me it seemed like Poptent could have been run out of somebody’s living room.  (I’m picturing Erlich’s Incubator house from Silicon Valley.)  The company also changed their business model and started focusing on private commercial contests rather than public ones.  This caused a massive brain drain because a lot of filmmakers quit the site in frustration once they realized there was no room for them in these new VIP-only contests.  But I guess Poptent’s biggest mistake off all was the merger with Userfarm.  And it sounds like that decision was Pahade’s too.  If Poptent had just scaled back their staff and their facilities and kept running the types of contests they had always run, they probably would have survived long enough to get a new round of funding from a new venture capital firm.  But instead the bosses went for a ridiculous hail mary merger and so now the company is essentially dead.

But don’t worry about Nick Pahade.  He’ll be just fine.  He was the Chairman and CEO of Vizy until the merger fell apart.  Once that happened Pahade was able to just walk away.  Sure, dozens of filmmakers are probably going to get screwed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars because of his actions as CEO but he’s not with Poptent or Vizy anymore so he’s not responsible for any of the company’s debts.

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The results of Downtown Indy’s anti-RFA video contest

FInal-Blog-600x250

Remember back in March when the whole country went nuts because Indiana passed a “religious freedom” law that gave businesses more power to discriminate against customers or employees because of their sexuality?  Well right in the middle of that shit-storm a non-profit, pro-business group named Downtown Indy decided they should do some damage control and let the country know that Indianapolis didn’t really support the state’s new Religious Freedom Act.  So just days after the governor signed the bill into law, the group launched the Indy Welcomes All video contest.  The press release that announced the contest asked Indianapolisites (?) to submit short videos that celebrated the “vibrancy, inclusiveness and energy of our welcoming Downtown”  and that told the story of the city’s “diversity and the welcoming atmosphere.”

Apparently the sponsors wanted to finish the contest while the RFA story was still hot so the submission period was only scheduled to last about 10 days.  But even though the grand prize was $5,000 they had to push the deadline an extra week.  Even with the extension, 2 or 3 weeks isn’t enough time for a video contest and most of the entries were sort of a mess.  And to make matters worse, the judges used youtube likes to determine the winner.  So of course a bunch of jerks made crappy videos and then (probably) bought tons of fake likes via Fiverr.com so that they could win the prize money.

Fortunately the the video that got the most likes was actually ok and not a total embarrassment.  Here it is:



I kind of wish that the video that came in 2nd had won becuause it’s a bit of a mind-fuck. I recommend you take the day off work, drop some acid and watch this video on repeat for 3 hours.

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A look inside Poptent’s abandoned office space

The story of Poptent’s demise is starting to gain some traction in the media. The Fox affiliate in Philadelphia paid a visit to Poptent’s offices to see if anyone was left.  There wasn’t…

That was pretty sad. I’m glad Poptent doesn’t owe me any money because if they did, the sight of that empty office space would make me go berserk. It feels like the jerks in charge just locked the doors and skipped town.  If Poptent DOES owe you money, the time has probably come for you to get a lawyer.  A few people over on the poptent forums have been discussing their legal options.  Head here if you’re interested in maybe joining some kind of class action suit or if you just want to add your name to the growing list of filmmakers that were stiffed by the company:  http://www.poptent.com/discussion/63274

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Userfarm “de-merges” with Poptent and shuts down Vizy, Poptent may be heading for bankruptcy

RIP Vizy: 2015 - 2015

RIP Vizy: 2015 – 2015

In January 2015, Poptent and Userfarm announced that they were merging to form the largest crowdsourced Video company in the world.  The new site, Vizy.com was launched just a few weeks ago but it seems that the company and the merger may already be dead.  As of today, Vizy.com is offline, Poptent’s Chairman and CEO Nick Pahade has “moved away” from Vizy, most or possibly all of Poptent’s staff members have either quit or been laid off and the locks have been changed on Poptent’s Headquarters in Philadelphia.  Over in the UK, the Userfarm team is working quickly to sever their ties to Poptent and Vizy.  This morning they slapped their name on Vizy’s slick new website and moved it to Userfarm.com.  The deal was sealed a few hours later when Userfarm sent this message to their members:

userfarm-message The message comes off as a bit disingenuous because Userfarm wasn’t “with” Vizy….they WERE Vizy.  That’s why Userfarm was able to just stick their old name on the new website.  It retrospect it seems like Userfarm was the driving force behind this so-called merger.  As far as I can tell, Poptent only brought four things to the table; a few hundred active member accounts, tens of thousands of inactive member accounts, a handful of staff members and a mountain of debt.

And that debt is probably why Vizy imploded right in front of our eyes.  All these recent developments have sent scores of Video Contest Filmmakers into a furious panic because Poptent still owes a lot of people a lot of money.  These folks either won prizes in Poptent contests in late 2014/early 2015 or they were hired directly by Poptent to create content for Brands.  Poptent always gets paid by their clients BEFORE they launch their video assignment.  This process ensured that clients couldn’t back out if they didn’t like any of the videos that were submitted.  But it also meant that Poptent was able to pay the winning filmmakers as soon as the clients made their picks.

But last fall Poptent reduced their payouts to a tiny trickle of cash.  The staff blamed the delays on the impending merger and they promised that once their investors came through the company would pay everyone in full.  But according to the grapevine, Poptent’s investors never delivered on their promises and that’s why Userfarm cut them loose.

I’ve tried to contact several staff members from Poptent, Vizy, and Userfarm but I haven’t gotten an official response or explanation about what’s going on.  But that doesn’t mean people aren’t talking.  A few ex-Poptent employees were happy to share the gruesome details of the doomed merger with some of the filmmakers that contacted them last week.  I’m going to list some of their most important assertions.  Please keep in mind that these “facts” have been told to me second hand.  However, at least a half dozen filmmakers have contacted me and explained that one or more high-level Poptent employees (that were involved in the merger) have told them the following:
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1.  Vizy has “de-merged” with Poptent.  The decision was made by Userfarm at their European HQ.

2.  Filmmakers and employees are owed more than $500,000 in prize money, back-pay and benefits.  It’s unclear if Poptent alone owes that $500K or if Userfarm, Poptent and Vizy combined owe that much.

3.  Poptent can not afford to pay off their debts.  The company may continue to send everyone small amounts to stave off legal action for as long as possible.

4.  Poptent is probably going to have to declare bankruptcy.

5.  If Poptent declares bankruptcy, there is almost no chance that any filmmakers will ever receive the money they are owed.

6.  At least one former Poptent/Vizy employee is telling filmmakers that it’s time for them to talk to a lawyer.

7.  The Poptent website is going to get shut down by the end of the month.
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I’ve also heard from several sources that Userfarm may be in financial trouble too.  Apparently they have also fallen way behind on their payments and they have filmmakers who are also worried that they’ll never get paid.

This whole story is incredibly sad and I’m deeply disappointed by the actions of everyone who was involved in this merger.  To me it looks like they “borrowed” money that was earmarked for filmmakers and gambled that cash on a risky and ill-conceived merger.  The bet didn’t pay off and now the folks in charge are just shrugging their shoulders and walking away.

I’ll have more on this story later this week.  If Poptent or Vizy or Userfarm owes you money, I’d like to hear from you.  E-mail me at VideoContestNews@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

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