Columns Archive

Video and the Internet an Explosive Mix

Appeared in the Toronto Star on July 17, 2006 as $20 Million in Publicity for $300
Appeared on the BBC on July 17, 2006 as Video and the Internet an Explosive Mix

The combination of Mentos and Diet Coke may seem like an unlikely pairing – a mint-flavoured candy together with a diet soft drink.  Through a quirk of chemistry, however, mixing Mentos and Diet Coke creates an immediate chemical reaction – a beverage geyser spurting several metres into the sky. 

The fizzy combination has created a veritable genre of short videos experimenting with mentos and soft drinks.  Online sites such as YouTube and Google Video are home to hundreds of these videos, yet none compare with The Diet Coke and Mentos Experiments, a three-minute video created last month by two Maine residents, Fritz Globe, a professional juggler, and Stephen Voltz, a lawyer (the video is online at Likened to the waterfall show at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, this video provides an entertaining example of the power of online video distribution.

Released for free on the Internet in early June, Globe and Voltz are featured combining 101 two-litre bottles of Diet Coke with 523 mentos.  Less than two months after it was first posted, the video has attracted an audience of millions and has become a commercial success story. 

Filmed with a US$300 budget, it has already generated nearly US$30,000 in advertising revenue for the two creators. Globe and Voltz posted their video on Revver, a new video site that places a short advertisement at the conclusion of user-generated videos (Revver shares the resulting revenue with the creator).

Further, Mentos has since become a sponsor of the video, estimating that the value of the positive free publicity associated with the video – Globe and Voltz have appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman and the Today Show – may eventually exceed its US$20 million annual advertising budget.

Not everyone is excited by the video, however – Coke has not embraced the phenomenon, noting that it hopes "people want to drink [Diet Coke] more than try experiments with it."

While the Mentos success story may sound like a fluke, it is better understood as part of a growing trend toward innovative online video distribution models, the majority of which operate outside traditional broadcast regulation.  Revver's ad-supported model holds great promise for individual creators seeking to effortlessly generate sponsorship revenue.

YouTube does not insert advertising into its videos, yet its enormous audience – the site reports streaming 100 million videos per day – is responsible for several success stories.  For example, the once-aptly named Nobody's Watching, a television comedy pilot that languished without network support, has found a big audience on YouTube, leading several broadcasters to consider picking up the series as a regular show.

Mainstream media is also turning to YouTube with increasing frequency.  After French soccer star Zidane head-butted an Italian player in the World Cup final last week, the New York Times Online coverage of the game pointed to a video-replay of the incident posted on YouTube.

Google Video, which supports longer videos (YouTube caps its videos at ten minutes in length) has become a favourite home for documentary and feature-length film makers.  Many are distributing free versions of their movies on Google Video and through peer-to-peer services such as BitTorrent, while separately offering the option to purchase a higher-quality DVD version.

Technology is also facilitating new collaborative video creation models.  Machinima, which brings together hundreds of video game players simultaneously to create new video shorts, combines animation and music in a manner that would not have been possible before the Internet.

The growth of online video has clearly caught the attention of conventional broadcasters, many of which are racing to offer their shows online.  The Apple iTunes store in the United States now features dozens of shows with every major network offering its most popular programs for US$1.99 per episode. 

In addition to the download model, many networks offer streamed versions of the same shows for free.  For example, ABC is streaming episodes of Lost together with advertising that cannot be skipped (currently only within the U.S.), CBS streams highlights of popular scenes from various shows including the Globe and Voltz appearance on David Letterman, while this summer NBC is streaming ten original "webisodes" from The Office, a hit comedy.

Those free streams compete not only with online video sites but also with hundreds of video bloggers, who release daily videos in a range of formats designed to play on personal computers, video iPods, and even cellphones.  The most popular video bloggers (such as Rocketboom, which recently set off a media firestorm over its departed host) are downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and have the potential to generate significant advertising revenue.

The end-result is an incredible array of video choices where established, professional productions compete with inexpensive, amateur creations for audiences and advertising dollars.  In this environment, it isn't the power of broadcasters, big-budgets or technological controls that determine the winners.  All it takes is a little candy, some soda, and a lot of creativity.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law.  He can reached at or online at

Comments are closed.