What seems like a pretty simple request, asking musicians to record themselves performing an original jingle, has turned into a PR coup for car insurance company SafeAuto.
"The exciting aspect of this is that it's combining traditional broadcast, online, and every avenue of marketing into one big campaign," says Jason Parks, emerging media and video specialist for the company.
In its fifth year of inviting anyone with music in their heart to participate, SafeAuto's contest has generated hundreds of thousands of votes and more than 200 video entries. It's netted the company tons of attention on local newscasts, social media sites, and, perhaps most important, search engines.
Local beginnings to national spotlight
"It started out almost local here in Columbus and Ohio," Parks says of the contest's first year.
In the years that followed, Parks would travel to more and more cities in SafeAuto's sales area to audition musicians. Some entries are videos that SafeAuto creates at those auditions; others are user submissions.
"We make sure that we travel to different cities in our footprint to make sure we have a certain number of videos," he says.
Social components have been part of the contest for a few years, but this year, social media has particularly taken off.
"We did a lot of things differently this year," says Senior Developer Alan Butler, noting that this year's version of the contest site has been optimized for mobile devices.
Everything has been engineered to boost the contest's social reach, Parks says. For example, each submitted video has its own, individual page so musicians can share theirs on Facebook or Twitter. The URLs for those pages aren't random numbers and letters, either. They're just dothejingle.com, a slash, and the band or musician's name, graphic designer Chris Berry points out.
Those individual pages each have a comments section that runs on the Disqus platform, which has had a big effect, according to Senior Programmer Analyst Mike Cottrill.
"Overall, the banter between the contestants has been great, and we've seen a huge uptick in comments and interaction this year," he says.
The extent of that reach has surprised even SafeAuto's team.
"We had people in Idaho, where we don't even offer insurance, submitting videos," Parks says.
Quid pro quo
The contest doesn't benefit just SafeAuto.
"We're creating a mechanism not just for us to be successful, but for these musicians," Butler says. "People get on here because they want to be discovered."
SafeAuto provides musicians who enter the contest a PR kit that enables them to get their names and faces out into the local media in their hometowns. Musicians, particularly those at the top of the voting, ratchet up tweet campaigns among their networks. Those tweets, if they include the #DotheJingle hashtag, are prominently featured on the contest site's homepage.
"We have seen people mentioning #DoTheJingle on Twitter constantly each day throughout the contest," Cottrill says.
SafeAuto also features specific entrants on its blog and on Facebook. Parks says the company asks entrants for information about their band and permission to write a blog post during the entry process.
Even for musicians that don't end up winning, the videos are a boon. Several ask if they can promote their videos on YouTube after the contest is over, Parks says.
This year's contest is "twice as successful" as last year, Butler says. Voting started Jan. 2 and will run through February. The top five vote-getters have anywhere from 150,000 to 300,000 votes each, and the company's planning a big push in the final days of the contest.
Entries, which SafeAuto accepted in October and November, increased by about 30 percent, Parks says. More than 220 people entered videos this year in hopes of winning $5,000 and an appearance in a SafeAuto commercial.
Butler says the link from the Do the Jingle homepage to insurance quotes doesn't do "a tremendous amount of traffic," but that's not the point of the contest anyway. The major victory of the contest is how much it has boosted SafeAuto's profile in search engines. Local news stories about the company and entrants have made it a major player in some cities, Butler says.
"We now rank above competitors," he says. "We could pay professionals to do the kind of thing we're doing here and not get anywhere near the same SEO results."
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.