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.
The (almost) final view counts of the 12 "most viewed" entries. I added the Red X's and Green checks to indicate the videos that did and did not 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:
Click to view
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: 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: .