James also started Stockpickr.com, the first user-generated investing site, and, in ancient history, he was a pioneer in the online video space, doing original web-only videos for HBO. (He’s also become a major financial writer, has run a hedge fund, etc.)
JungleSmash is a bit of a mashup of everything that’s come before. James picked a random brand, Crest toothpaste, and is offering $2,000 to whoever makes and posts to YouTube the best video about Crest.
It is an experiment to see if the buying public, when properly incentivized, can create advertising that’s as compelling as what firms and ad agencies create (on much, much, much larger budgets).
Do customers appreciate products in ways that firms don’t understand? Can ad agencies be eliminated from the food chain?
James plans on doing a new experiment with a new product every couple weeks or so, and giving away $2,000 each time. (By the way, here’s an interesting piece on what happened to advertising dollars during the Great Depression.)
I love this idea — in part because I once wanted to do something similar on this site. Not long ago, we posted a wacky short film about Freakonomics that was lovingly made by a French student named Peha de Milain.
When I first saw Peha’s film, I had the idea of hosting a virtual film festival on this site, open to anyone who wanted to make any sort of film based on any aspect of Freakonomics. We planned to offer a cash prize every month and an even bigger prize (Palm d’Freak) at the end of the year — but, because we are housed on a newspaper’s website, we aren’t allowed to give away bags of cash.
But here’s the main point: we only heard about Peha’s film after he had completed it and sent it our way. Why on earth had he gone to such trouble to write, shoot, and edit the film?
Because on some level the book meant something to him, and he felt like expressing what it meant. Similarly, James Altucher suspects that people feel strongly about a lot of things (Crest, e.g.), and will want to express it.
I am very eager to see what the JungleSmash experiment reveals about the state of advertising, the internet, and viral videos. (Will this mark the beginning of the end of the traditional ad agency, just as the internet has begun to turn full-fee Realtors into an endangered species?)
I am not crazy about Crest as the first experiment, but what do I know? (Also, James is much smarter than me.) If you have suggestions for future JungleSmash product-experiments, feel free to leave them in the comments. And let us know if you are one of the people who make a Crest video — we can cross-post them here too.
I’ll be sure to follow up and let you know what becomes of the Crest experiment. Good luck to James and to all entrants. Two thousand dollars buys a lot of toothpaste.
Addendum: The winner is announced here.