There are few unquestionable truisms of the internet marketing, but it’s safe to say that online, men are suckers for scantily clad women. Domain registrar GoDaddy essentially built its brand around that axiom. And for the past two years, ‘infotaining’ how-to web series French Maid TV has been garnering millions of views and thousands of dollars in sponsor revenue.
The latest tantalizing episode (above) was released today, with the costumed maids instructing viewers “How To Make Money with Webinars.” The whole six-minute episode is an exclusive sponsorship by webinar service Dimdim, with the online conferencing product the central plot point as the maids actually set up their own ticketed webinar, an apt choice, “How to Buy Lingerie.”
Despite its bawdy premise, the male-leaning series has attracted a handful of known sponsors over its run with custom episodes built around a problem usually solved by the companies’ products—”How To Find Music You Like” (iLike), “How To Register a Domain” (GoDaddy), “How To Barter Online” (BarterBee.com).
French Maid TV creator Tim Street is a staple on the web video scene, often seen on panels or events espousing his battle tested lessons to eager newcomers or pressing caged execs to cut through the PR doublespeak. His candid videoblogging shoots can quite literally pop out of his pocket in the form of a Flip camera that refreshingly catches his guests off guard.
Pushing the envelope and breaking away from safe conformity is Street’s style—along with an ever-present pair of sunglasses. French Maid TV is in some way his web video laboratory, testing the boundaries of entertainment and corporate temerity.
“I’ve always tried to add two or more emotions—I try to play with being sexy and funny,” said Street. “Both lust and joy work pretty well on the internet.”
For Dimdim’ s CMO Steve Chazin, experimenting with web series marketing to reach the early adopters online is a move he’s willing to make. The company also sponsors a handful of Revision3’s tech-friendly web series like Diggnation, TekZilla and Film Riot, hoping to lure tech-savy viewers to its web-centric conferencing platform.
“This is content created for the web that is entertaining,” Chazin told us. “It’s titillating, sure, but that’s just the hook. You watch it initially for entertainment reasons and then you get hooked for the educational reasons—or, education by osmosis, as we like to call it.”
The deal itself is a blend of upfront money and further commitments should certain benchmarks be hit. While the specific amount of the deal was not shared, judging by the show’s sponsor rate card, it’s most likely a five-figure number.
In terms of metrics for success of the sponsorship, Chazin said they will look at how many users come through the link and sign up for the free service (or the pay version) and compare that against their Google Adwords campaigns to see the cost of acquisition for each new user. Street pointed out that Chazin is actually a repeat sponsor, having been at another firm (TubesNow) which sponsored an FMTV episode that generated over 5 million views, lowering their acquisition cost from $30 per-person to about $1 per-person.
But Street confides that it isn’t always easy convincing mainstream brands to align themselves with the series. “There’s discrimination against French Maid TV because of its sexual nature,” he notes. “The costumes that the maids wear show less than the girls on MTV Spring Break, but a lot of sponsors that would sponsor the bikini contest wouldn’t touch French Maid.”
As web series creators and marketing execs get to know each other better and the tools for effective measurement get improved, the more lucrative business opportunities will emerge. But with all new technologies this can take time to flesh out. Street brings up a quote from noted screenwriter Robert McKee’s book Story, “Whenever there’s an advance in technology in entertainment, spectacle comes first, then story.” Street, it seems is toying with both.