Yesterday we saw a lot of attempts at humor from tech companies, with varying degrees of success. To help shake off that April Fool’s Day hangover, Vooza, the satirical “startup” that has been putting out spot-on parodies of modern tech company culture since this past summer with fake (but scarily real sounding) buzzwords like “Radimparency,” is coming clean about what it’s really up to — creating a fresh kind of web-based advertisement for startups.
The official explanation, Vooza’s creator and professional comedian Matt Ruby (perhaps better known as Vooza’s CEO “Matt Stillman“) tells me, is this: “Vooza is a video content platform targeted at the startup world that uses native video advertising integrated into the experience.” In plain English, that means that startups and other advertisers have been paying Vooza to include them in videos that take the piss out of the whole “startup” scene. The team behind Vooza is called Fort Pelican, and it’s a group of full-time NYC comedians, directors and editors who have specialized for years in the business of making people laugh.
It’s something that’s been pretty darn successful. So far, Vooza’s clients have included email newsletter startup MailChimp, app analytics platform Tapstream, branding firm Eat My Words and others. The companies pay to have their brand worked into a segment written by Vooza’s writers and featuring its cast of characters — the video then goes out to Vooza’s own audience, and can also be used by the company in any way they wish.
It’s a business model that can be classified as branded content or sponsored product placement, but Ruby says that he thinks of it more as “a throwback to the old school TV advertising model when the stars of a show would do the ads, like Johnny and Ed schilling for Alpo.”
Thus far, all the growth in clients reaching out to work with Vooza has occurred organically on a case-by-case basis — and it’s not exactly something that Ruby had planned for initially when he started making his first Vooza videos. But now, he said, he’s looking to scale things out a bit more, and amp up Vooza as a real business. He put it like this:
“When it comes to advertising, the big brands, the Snickers and the Toyotas, are all going through ad agencies. That’s not who we’re going after. There are many companies out there, especially in the startup space, who would never think they’d advertise in video or on TV, but they would come to Vooza and say, ‘Let’s make a fun video together.'”
It’s a fresh angle that could be hitting at a good time for its niche. Upstart tech companies have more and more competition these days, and advertising is a tried-and-true way to help differentiate your brand from others — but traditional modes can be expensive. Meanwhile, founders nowadays know it’s good for business to be funny. It’ll be fun to see what comes out of Vooza in the future.
Oh, and what does Ruby think about all those April Fool’s tech gags? “I have to say, I usually ignore it,” he said. “I’m a little of a comedy snob. Sometimes when people try to be funny, it kind of makes you cringe.”
Here’s an example of a sponsored video by Vooza, done for MailChimp: