Kia Soul - LisaNovaAutomakers love web video, and they especially seem to love YouTubers.

With the US economy on the rebound, automakers have already heavily stepped up their spending on TV spots, but with more of their customers shifting time to online video watching, web networks like Hulu, YouTube and Revision3 are feeling the uptick as well.

“In many cases, content lives on TV and online, so we look to buy in integrated places,” said Ford’s marketing director Matt VanDyke in a recent interview with Auto News. He added that, Ford is “absolutely pushing our broadcast partners to bring us more meaningful integrations.”

Ford started early with its ambitious push last summer to launch its euro-styled subcompact Fiesta into the US market, through its Fiesta Movement launched on YouTube. The campaign literally gave cars to 100 active YouTube creators to become “agents” for six months, tasking the lucky auteurs to create serious of videos of experiences with their Fiestas. The campaign was so successful that the company expanded it again this year and continues to tap the YouTube community. Even Toyota’s Scion crafted its own web series, Reinvent the Wheels, that blended aspiring young creatives with its affordable compacts.

So when Korean automaker Kia Motors wanted to launch its sub-$15k subcompact Kia Soul, aimed at young first-time car buyers, YouTube was the natural place to head. Its popular ‘Soul Hamsters’ ad spots from 2009 scored in terms of views (more than 2.6 million), but the real power of harnessing YouTube is in tapping its creative community to make videos around a product. Launched a week ago, the new Kia Soul campaign went right to the core of what drives so many of its active uploaders—the insatiable desire to become YouTube-famous.

Do you have what it takes to be America’s next big hit in the YouTube™ community? Show us your new way to roll for a chance to be Who’s Next? Kia Soul is looking to find the next internet star – and give them a chance to win $10,000 – just submit your video to Kia’s YouTube™ page and let the contest begin!

So far the “Who’s Next” call-to-enter video (above) has garnered over 850k video views through the outreach done by Kia Soul and the YouTube stars it tapped for the project—SMOSH, ShayCarl, and LisaNova. Kia tells us they have received over 1000 video entries with still 2 days left to enter as video submission end August 8th. Then on August 20th, the contest takes a ‘YouTube Idol’ approach—think American Idol with rounds of fan voting and eliminations.

“These celebrity judges provide us with the best of both worlds in that they have huge established communities that largely consist of the Soul target customer,” said Kia’s David Schoonover. “Furthermore, their hard work and success lend an edge of credibility as well.”

Kia Soul ad

We’ll have a follow-up look at the “Who’s Next?” contest after August 20th when the first round of finalists are announced. With fan voting an integral part of the process, it will be interesting to see if an already popular YouTuber walks away the winner, or if this actually works to uncover a new talent.

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