Facebook-based video contests were all the rage back in 2012. Companies were running them left and right because it was an easy way to get a ton of likes and shares. Contestants would shoot entries and then they had to beg their friends to vote for them. But before their friend could vote, they first had to like the sponsor’s page.
The fad pretty much came to an end in 2013 for two reasons:
1. Sponsors realized that most of the likes they were getting were worthless. A lot of these contests were won by cheaters who would buy votes from “click farms” in third world countries. So a sponsor would run a contest with a $5,000 grand prize and they would gain maybe 10,000 new likes. But 9,000 of those likes were from fake profiles. So the real likes costs the sponsor about $5 each.
2. Facebook started selling “real” likes. If you run a facebook page for a business, you can pay facebook to promote your page. You set a budget and then facebook runs ads for your company until you reach a pre-determined number of new likes. These likes were supposed to be much more valuable than the fake likes you can buy from click-farmers in India because Facebook swears they don’t buy fake likes.
So sponsors don’t need to spend ten grand on a video contest anymore because they can just buy 10,000 “real” likes from facebook. But Facebook’s customers have realized that something’s rotten in Palo Alto. Many companies are seeing their engagement numbers DROP after they pay Facebook to promote their page. The mystery behind this phenomenon has been solved by Derek Muller of the science video blog, Veritasium. His explanation is simple and brilliant. This video is a must-watch for anyone who does any kind of business on Facebook.
Muller’s theory is that Click-Farmers are slowly taking over facebook. In an effort to hide their fake likes, they are basically just liking EVERYTHING. So if a click-farmer sees your ad, they’re going to like your page. But Facebook now limits the number of people who see your posts because they want you to pay to “boost your exposure.” So if only 200 people see your latest post in their news feeds, and if 180 of those people are really just fake profiles, your engagement numbers are going to go down.
This problem might sound small and technical but it sort of threatens Facebook’s entire business model. Why should anyone pay facebook for more exposure if their ads and content are only being “seen” by zombie profiles created by click-farmers in Pakistan, Egypt and Vietnam?
Beardy’s Note:For the first time ever, VCN is presenting a guest post that was written by an author who would prefer to remain anonymous. Here’s how this article came to be: A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from a filmmaker and long-time reader of VCN that was having problem’s with .tv’s “Watch Dot TV” video contest. The filmmaker had made the finals in the contest and he had a shot at winning the $10,000 grand prize. The winner of of the contest was supposed to be determined by facebook votes. But right away, the voting seemed pretty fishy. I’ll let our anonymous author tell the rest of the story but as you can probably guess, it doesn’t end well. Initially I planned to do an article about this debacle myself but I knew the filmmaker could tell his own story better than I ever could. This contest got pretty ugly and the filmmaker got screwed by the sponsors pretty badly so I suggested that we run this article without revealing the filmmaker’s name.
In the wild west of online video contests, Watch Dot TV, a part of the large Verisign corporation, has set a new low in taking advantage of its contestants. In October they solicited entries and their judges chose the top 10 videos who competed for public votes. First Prize was $10,000, Second Prize was a Canon 7Dand Third Prize was a Panasonic GH2.
The voting in this contest ended more than a month ago and Dot TV is now over a week late announcing the winners. They have not issued a single statement despite the plethora of agitated comments on their Facebook wall. Watch Dot Tv’s continued silence is the loudest admission of guilt they could make. They even went so far as to delete people’s comments on their wall demanding accountability.
So what happened?
During the voting, each Facebook user was allowed one vote per day and after 4 days the top two entries had around 500 votes. Within hours the top two increased their lead on the third place by almost double what it took them days to accumulate. After this anomaly I discovered how the top two entries had gotten a huge lead: They exploited an error in the voting system that allowed for more than one vote a day.
Simply opening the voting page in a new tab, or even refreshing the page would allow for multiple votes. I immediately emailed the contest administrator to make them aware of the voting system error and that it has already been taken advantage of by the top two entries.
They responded and said they could not recreate this simple error on their own.
This was the major red flag. I was not trying to explain the error to an Amish craftsman, this was an internet company that could not open their own Facebook page in a new tab and recreate the error.
The two entries had already gained an insurmountable lead and the contest administrator was turning a blind eye. My fear was that they would find and fix the error I made them aware of and then deny it ever existed, meanwhile the two entries would continue to win, and Watch Dot TV would have averted a PR headache.
That’s when I decided to expose the error by voting repeatedly so it could not be ignored and brushed under the rug. As soon as I gained a lead on two winning entries, within minutes, they began exploiting the error to regain their lead. I called in reinforcements to gain such a lead that the two entries would give up, be exposed as exploiting the error, and Watch Dot TV would have to restart the competition. I did gain a 1,000 vote lead and the two entries did stop trying to keep up, so now it was just up to Watch Dot TV to fix the error and restart the competition.
Watch Dot TV’s solution was to reset the number of votes to a previous point in time that the two entries had already gained their lead by exploiting the error. When I commented on Watch Dot TV’s Facebook wall that they did not reset the votes to a point in time before the error occurred, they deleted my comment. Red flag number two.
I continued to email them the timestamped screenshots I had taken when I exposed the voting error and asked them to address their mistake. There was only a few days left of voting for Watch Dot TV to fix this.
Watch Dot TV didn’t enjoy being called to account. After my pleas in emails and on their Facebook wall to restart the voting, they disqualified me and another entry from the contest. (Beardy’s Note: For some mysterious reason, the sponsors did not disqualify the two original elleged cheaters. It seems they only disqualified people who tried to beat those two contestants at their own game.) The entry in first place remained in that position until the end of the voting period. He was even promising to donate 25% of the prize to the Invisible Children organization in an effort to gain more votes.
There were even people on his facebook wall claiming they were using multiple accounts to vote for his entry. His video also violated the contest’s Official Rules and should have never been chosen as a finalist. His entire video was created by using previously published work, a direct violation of the rules.
I have never seen such disrespectful behavior by a company towards people from which it solicited video entries.
To this day the winner has not been announced and Watch Dot Tv has not issued any statements. (Beardy’s Note: The entire contest and all the entries have actually been removed from Dot TV’s facebook page) My only hope is that if they did give the prize money to entry that remained in first, despite having exploited the voting error and violating the official rules, maybe 100% of his prize found its way to the Invisible Children organization.
Watch Dot TV should be ashamed of the unprofessional manner in which it operated the contest and its parent company Verisign should exercise it’s parental responsibilities and put its misbehaved child in permanent timeout.
— Written by: Anonymous. To learn more about the Invisible Children fund, head here —
Today at 12pm Eastern, Gain detergent unveiled the 25 finalists in their million dollar, “Smell Like a Million Bucks” video contest. But it’s not the “Top 25” that anyone following this contest could have expected. It now looks like Gain disqualified many of the entries that seemed like they were a safe bet to make the finals.
Gain was supposed to determine their finalists like this: each video would be given a creative score when it was submitted. The score was based on a 5-star system. Those stars were then converted to a percentage. So if you got 5 stars, your score was 100%. If you got 2 1/2 stars, your score was 50%. Next, Gain took the number of views your video got during the contest-long viewing period and multiplied that number by your creative score. So if you got 2,000 views and a creative score of 20%, your final score was 400. According to the rules, this was the only method Gain would use to select their Top 25 finalists.
So if a video could get 5,000 views, there was no way it would NOT make the finals, right? Even if a video had a creative score of 10%, 5,000 views would still give you a huge, final score. But real views were actually tremendously hard to get in this contest. For a view to be registered, a person had to log into facebook, accept the contest app, find the video they wanted to view and then watch it all the way to the end. But while it was hard to get genuine views, it was really, really easy to generate fake views. All a person had to do was create a few dozen or a few hundred fake facebook accounts and spend hours and hours watching their video every day for weeks. And it looks like that’s exactly what a lot of people did. But what those repeat-viewers didn’t realize is that it is really easy to detect that kind of cheating. The third-party company running the contest application is able to see where views come from. So if some idiot viewed their entry 50 times a day from the same computer, that would raise a big red flag even if they used 50 separate facebook accounts. But it seems like there were a whole lot of idiots in this contest because for some mysterious reason, most of the “most viewed” videos did not make the finals.
Last Monday, as soon as the viewing period ended, all of the view counts on all of the entries disappeared. I suspected that might happen so a few hours before the deadline, I took a screen shot of the 12 “most viewed” entries in the Gain contest. The Red X’s indicate which of these “popular” entries did not make the finals and the Green Checks indicate the videos that did make the finals.
Take a look at those view counts. Some of them are ridiculously high. The video in first place has 8,449 views! But out of the 480 videos that were submitted, only 22 had view counts higher than 1,000. So 8,449 views is unnaturally high. Now, many of these videos were actually pretty great. And really, all of them are at least kind of decent. But even if these videos all sucked and even if they recived a 10% creative score, 10% of 4,000 is 400. And gain actually picked several finalist videos that had FEWER than 400 views.
So all of these Red X’ed videos must have been disqualified. Gain of course can’t reveal WHY these entries didn’t make the Top 25 but there are only 3 explanations:
1. An entry could have gotten a creative score of ZERO.
2. An entry could be disqualified for cheating.
3. An entry could have been disqualified for breaking other rules like using “third party content” (music, images, SFXs) the entrant didn’t own.
There is no way any of these entries were bad enough to deserve a creative score of zero so reason #1 can’t possibly explain what happened. Some of these entries do use “third party content” but a lot of the the videos in the finals do. (Like this one) So I don’t think Gain disqualified any of these submissions because they broke other rules. So…that only leaves cheating.
I kept a close eye on the view count race in this contest and I can tell you, it looked like there was massive amounts of cheating happening. Some videos recived 100’s of views every day like clockwork. Others would suddenly gain 200 views in the middle of the night. There was even one video that got just about 270 views every day! What are the odds that the same number of people would watch the same video every day for several days in a row? Or how about the video that was the 3rd Most Viewed? That video has nothing in it that could possibly cause it to be disqualified. That video was approved on June 22nd and by the view count deadline of July 11th, they had 5,150 views. Does 257 views A DAY really seem realistic when most entries in this contest weren’t able to get 257 views during the entire viewing period?
So did all those people with Red X’s on their videos really cheat and fake their views? There’s no way for us to know. For the record, I’m not saying any of those people cheated for sure. But the evidence suggests that they did SOMETHING to break the rules of the contest that got them disqualified. I do want to say that I do NOT believe that the 2nd most viewed video cheated. It was created by a reader of this site named Andrew D. and I know that he had an army of people working on getting him a lot of views. But I do know that other contestants were trying to get him disqualified because he posted his video to youtube and that was sort of against the rules. So, I think he might have been bounced on a technicality.
As I mentioned a few weeks back, I actually entered this contest but I submitted my entry way too late. I only managed to get about 400 views so I didn’t make the Top 25. However, I absolutely have to applaud Gain and the company running the contest, Don Jagoda Associates for doing the right thing here. It was against the rules to “view” your video over and over using fake accounts so anyone who did that deserved to be disqualified. It’s nice to see that some companies actually care about running a fair, online contest.
HOWEVER…I also have to CONDEMN Gain for basically lying to contestants about how they were going to determine the winners. Even if Gain had to disqualify dozens and dozens of entries, there is simply no way that a video like this should have or could have made the finals:
This video only received about 200 views. So even if it got a perfect, 100% creative score, it still would have only had a creative score of 200 which wasn’t supposed to be enough to get it in the top 25. But this video is so amazingly awful that there is no way it got a perfect creative score. So how and why did it ever make the finals?
It’s clear that something seriously unethical did happen here. Gain lied to their customers about how the winners would be picked. So what can you do about it? Jack shit, that’s what! The finalists have been picked and there’s nothing you can do to fight Gain’s terrible decisions.
And so, the real contest now begins! To be honest, I’m actually kind of relived I didn’t make it to the finals now that I know that Gain is willing to play fast and loose with the rules. And on top of Gain’s shadiness, votes alone determine the winner of this contest. So I can’t even imagine how horrible the next 2 weeks are going to be for the people in the finals. If a finalist wants to have any chance of winning, they’re going to have to spend at least 60 hours a week begging for votes. And if someone isn’t willing to work that hard on their campaigns, they might as well not even bother. Because somewhere, among the finalists there are surely several people who ARE ready to take the next 2 weeks off from work and do nothing but scrounge for votes. One of the people listed on this page is going to win a million dollars: https://apps.facebook.com/gainmillionbucks. I can’t tell you specifically who the winner will be but I can tell you this, the prize will go to whoever is smart enough not to cheat and whoever is determined enough to dedicate every waking hour for the next 2 weeks to winning that million bucks.
Later this week I’m going to announce my picks and predictions for this contest. So if you made the finals and want to let me know why you think you’re going to take home that million bucks, let me know: VideoContestNews@gmail.com.