How Cynopsis Created an Instantly Successful Video Awards Festival

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Editor's note: This is the sixth of an ongoing series profiling the 2018 SIPAward winners. See links to the others below.

I've written before about the importance for publishers of names for events. Informa's Esca Bona conference (it means good food in Latin) and Columbia Books & Information Services' Learnapalooza are two events where strong names certainly helped on the path to instant success.

In reading the materials and results for Cynopsis' 2017 Short Form Video Festival—an awards competition-plus that they started—their decision to call the event a "festival" gave it a more original and desirable feel. If it had just been video "awards," I mean how many of those are there? People enjoy festivals and want to be a part of them. How many of us attended one over the Labor Day weekend? Guilty. According to The Washington Post, more than 200,000 people came to Saturday's National Book Festival, for example.


Cynopsis, a division of Access Intelligence, built an event out of their new awards, offering panels on the state of short form video, the actual awards presentation (shown here), and opportunities to network with creators, buyers and jurors. (In the film world, judges are jurors.)

Their marketing for the event brought in 300 entries representing 100 companies and a good chunk of revenue, earning them a 1st Place SIPAward for Best Awards Program Marketing. Much of the credit goes to Jenn Ocampo, marketing director, and Cathy Pearson, marketing coordinator.

Here are more things Cynopsis did right in their marketing:

 1. They made their own great short-form videos. There's a 45-second video of various film images—none on screen for more than a couple seconds—that they used to market the festival. To create it, Cynopsis partnered with an established video agency (Situation Interactive). The video was utilized in email and social media marketing throughout the campaign cycle. Even more impressive, on their 2018 site now sits a two-minute video of highlights from the 2017 festival that's just riveting.

2. They attracted and promoted a high-caliber panel of jurors. "Getting content in front of these experienced executives is enticing enough for creators, let alone becoming a finalist and eventually placing 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in the program." Jurors for 2018 include film executives from Vox Media, IFC, People/Entertainment Weekly and Meredith.

3. Pricing is reasonable—if you get it in early. Entries cost $199 if submitted by the early-bird deadline then rise to $398 and $449 in subsequent weeks. Additional entries in the same category cost $99.

4. Many varied categories. The first year they had 20 categories, and I see that for 2018 there are now 25. In addition, content on any platform is eligible: YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and more... (They define short form video as content that runs from 5 seconds to 10 minutes.)

5. They went email-heavy. To promote the awards event, Cynopsis sent a dozen dedicated emails to their database (about 48,000) over a 9-week period. They did not spend any marketing dollars on print promotions or mailings. "The messaging was focused on highlighting the benefits of being named a Cynopsis Short Form Video Award honoree, the chance to get their work judged by our esteemed jurors, and the half-day conference and networking event with the industry's top talent and decision-makers." Three of their subject lines were:

  • Share your brand's short story;
  • Video killed the radio star;
  • Re: short form storytelling.

6. Having a good social media following comes in handy. The theme of digital and cutting-edge carried over into social media. Cynopsis platforms reach approximately 22,000 followers on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. In all, they invested just $700 on digital advertising, "yet saw tremendous activity through impressions, likes and shares."

7. The entry process was easy and solely online. They also do a nice job with a carousel of testimonials on their home page.

8. Show who's coming. There's an extensive sponsorship page that breaks down who came last year, who's coming this year (we all like to see that), who sponsored, and what types of companies should sponsor.


Previous 2018 SIPAward profiles:

January Spring – Best Editorial and Marketing Collaboration

EB Medicine – Best Use of Video

AAA Northeast – Best Product Launch

Access Intelligence - Best Conference Marketing

Behr's Verlag – Best Video Product

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…