Adam Schleichkorn, the creator of the original "fence plowing" video, wrote to me to share his story about what really happened with the video. It's funny because his story reads like a "totally wired" marketing case study. While Adam and his friend may have deliberately posted the video to attract eyeballs and attention to their record label, I still feel like the essence of my post the other day holds true, especially for the kids who copied him. Adam's note is very long (he included a term paper he wrote about the whole experience) so I'll start it here and continue it in the extended entry.
Also, just a reminder, I'm en route to SXSW tomorrow (Friday) leaving on a 6 a.m. shuttle so I won't be posting again until Monday morning....
From Adam's email:
I just wanted to give you some background on fence plowing. I feel as if there is no possible way to clear my name, but at least I can attempt to give my side of the story. I am a 25 year old grad student, and the record label mentioned, was co-founded by myself and Peter Toh a little over a year ago. I absolutelty do not promote vandalism, and I never meant to cause it either. If you could take a look, the following is a rough draft of a paper for grad school, regarding the entire situation. I am presenting this to you because I respect your opinion, as well as an attempt to let people know where I'm coming from.
You can read Adam's paper in the extended entry...
About 4 years ago, I started creating videos with the sole purpose of making fun of my friends. I made a dvd of about 20 bits, and passed it out to 30 of my friends. I was entirely self-taught every step of the way, and I enjoyed the fact that I was capable of learning on my own. As the time went on, people started to see vast improvements in my writing, filming, and editing, and I suddenly felt the constant need to expand my audience of 30 friends. So I started to expand my material, to attempt to appeal to as many people outside my circle of friends. The next dvd I made was for about 50 of my friends, and the third I passed out to 86 people. For me, the fact that 86 people were watching my work was so cool. I then thought that if each of them showed one friend, I'm at over 170 viewers, and I really am getting myself out there.
Fast forward to a year and a half ago. At this point in time, we started to see numerous amounts of user-created video websites. I now had about 80 videos under my belt, and I originally thought that this is a great way to direct my friends, and no longer have to make a physical dvd. Although people still don't realize it, I saw a year and a half ago that these sites had the potential to do to dvds what iTunes and MySpace did to cds, make them obsolete. I never really thought about the "random" people that could possibly view my work as well.
At this point in time, YouTube was nowhere near the powerhouse that they are today. I started by uploading a bunch of my videos to iFilm.com (which was by far the leader at the time, just after it was bought out by Viacom) and also on Stupidvideos.com. I would frequently check iFilm to see my views, and in my mind, each video getting over 100 plays was a huge success. I basically forgot about Stupidvideos.com, it seemed as if iFilm was my greatest concern. I even signed up for a YouTube account, and just never uploaded anything because it didn't even seem worth the time back then. Why worry about any other but the "big dog", ifilm. After about 6 months, I checked out my videos on Stupidvideos.com, assuming that I would have about 20 total views. Much to my surprise, I had over 250,000 views, all made possible by 5 of my videos getting featured. This totally blew the door open, and made me really start to think about this still new phenomenon.
Now we're at about 10 months ago. A couple months before, I co-founded a record label (Hidden Track Music Group) with Peter Toh and I took on all the internet marketing responsibilities. My main focus was MySpace for months, but all that was going on with my videos made me start to make the shift of our company to YouTube. I started by putting my work on my channel and Peter Toh's on his own channel. Eventually Peter's music video for "Shoes of a Beast" ended up on the"top-rated of all-time" list, driving more traffic to it than we ever imagined, and we sat down to really discuss the future of our label.
The conclusion we came to was to combine all of our videos, and attempt to generate as much traffic as possible. Our channel on youtube started growing, with the help of myspace, our original content, and word-of-mouth, but we still needed another "YouTube hit" to really give us a name.
We are now at February 2nd, 2007 and I turn on the tv, and see the headline, "Fence Plowing is the Latest Teen Craze" and then see them play my video! All I could think was, is this really happening? Kids were mocking my video and getting arrested? My first reaction was to change the keywords, and make all my serious work for the record label come up, and it was the best thing I could've done. I then started to see this story and my video on every single news channel, and then the next thing I know, Newsday is calling me for an interview! When they called tried to develop the story into what it actually was, "a marketing ploy by I attempted, that actually worked." They weren't too interested, but nevertheless, they wrote a very positive article about me starting a very negative thing. I was able to strongly speak against vandalism, and doing so lead me to FOX News, and The NY Times among others.
I knew the whole story was news-worthy, but the media was no having it. It then seemed like my 15 minutes of fame was winding down, until ABC News called my and came to my house for an interview. Although they made it like I'm the person responsible for all internet violence, (the media at it's best) they finally put the spin on it that this is a new form of marketing. The interview that put it over the top though was on 20/20, where myself, and the reporter were able to make these points legitimate. I was able to say that "this video was made for 30 people, and due to the power of the internet, it was viewed by tens of thousands". That really is the bigger picture. Also that this new for of marketing exists, and so many people still have no clue.
This whole experience really taught me a lot. First of all, be EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA careful what you say. I was extremely careful, and still several of my words were manipulated and taken out of context. Second, you never know what one thing will lead to. When I was live on FOX News, a part of me was dying to yell out "Bababooey" or "Howard Stern" but I now see if I did, I never would've been considered to do any other interviews. I had one chance to secure myself in Howard Stern history, but now I'm going to have to be content with the news and the others. People don't understand that for a 25 year old guy from Long Island, there are much bigger things than national news. My friends don't watch the news. Cute girls don't watch the news. The coolest thing to me was my clip played on The Jimmy Kimmel Show and The Tom Green Show. The fact that these people that I looked up to, are they are commenting on my video, is absolutely unreal.
Third, there is an old saying, "The luckiest people are the hardest workers." I know that for all of this to happen to me, I just caught some of the best luck ever, but it was not like I was sitting around waiting for it to happen. I've made over 100 comedy bits, and over 50 music pieces. Yes, some are mediocre, some are worse than mediocre, but some are just good, no matter what way you look at it. I feel that if this one didn't attract that attention, it was only a matter of time.
Fourth, I have realized that I love the hate. I am referring to all these idiotic comments surrounding my idiotic video. I just love reading people's irrational takes on my work, and the few lucky ones get put in their place by my responses. The fact that I am pissing them off so much, that they have to take even more time to express their anger with words, is what makes it all worth it. The fact that this did warrant such a response means I did something right.
A month ago people were telling me to get a new "hobby" referring to YouTube. Today, I've already been in contact with 3 production companies, and I have the possibility after all this time to actually start getting paid from this. Established acts are contacting us to put their material on our YouTube channel. Regarding the fence plowing story, many people have pointed out that today's youth are just looking for their 15 minutes of fame, however they can get it. I think it's human nature to want to be in the public eye. The vast majority of our society goes through life without even making a small blip on the radar, so if I could get on tv or in the newspaper, I'm doing it. I'm especially going to do it to promote or divert any attention possible to my record label (which ended up happening!) The fact that I've been accused of single-handedly dumbing down America, and starting the trend of people taping their mischief for others to see couldn't be more inaccurate, or flattering.
3. NY Times
5. Ypulse.com [yeah baby!]
6. FOX News
7. ABC News
8. ABC 20/20
9. The Jimmy Kimmel Show
10. The Tom Green Show
11. Fence Plowing Video
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