Kelley Blue Book's first video contest began as a simple concept; invite kbb.com users to create two-minute video car reviews and give the best among them some sweet prizes. On paper it sounds so easy. We won't bore you with the intricacies of running such a contest, but we will say it was filled with challenges and surprises. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how amazingly talented many non-journalist folks can be when charged with the task of making a video review.
There are a number of contest entries that stick out in our minds as noteworthy: The kid who reviewed an ultra-rare Lamborghini, the young soldier who assembled his video while deployed in Iraq, a review of a Mercedes 300SL hosted by a crash test dummy. The video submissions covered the full range of styles and abilities. Some presenters were serious, while some aimed for laughs. Some videos looked like they were shot on a cell phone, while others blew us away with their professional shooting, editing and voice work. The sheer variety of interpretations of what a two-minute car review could be was staggering, and to see all that effort and creativity aimed at our little contest was humbling. After sifting through more than 50 submissions, prizes were awarded for the best entries. In the end, $1,000 went to Patrick Latimer for his informative yet funny review of a 2004 Subaru Forester, and $5,000 went to a gentleman who delivered a genuinely insightful review of his 2001 Volkswagen Passat in super-catchy rap form.
Ultimately, the $10,000 grand prize-winning video didn't feature the most striking visuals, the flashiest editing or the the coolest car. In fact the video, shot on a rainy afternoon in Illinois, focused on one of the least exciting cars around: A white 2000 Toyota Corolla. However, what the video lacked in flash it more than made up for in charm, thanks in large part to Neil Arsenty, a uniquely funny presenter whose popular refrain "Coroollaaaa" immediately wedged itself into the collective mind of Kelley Blue Book's staff. Neil's on-camera abilities coupled with the artful production skills of David Olson and Guy Clark helped this humble Corolla review climb to the top of our video contest heap.
Along with a $10,000 grand prize, the contest winners won the chance to fly to California to participate in an official kbb.com video review. Sadly, both David Olson and Guy Clark fell ill in the days leading up to the trip, nixing their travel plans. Thankfully, Neil Arsenty remained healthy enough to fly out from Chicago on a recent Saturday to shoot a video with kbb.com's video team. The concept involved putting Neil, aka "Corolla guy," in a car that is the antithesis of the rational but boring Toyota Corolla featured in the winning video. We went with a Nissan GT-R. The hope was that putting Neil, who admits he's not really a car guy, behind the wheel of an $85,000, 485-horsepower, all-wheel-drive super car would open up comedic possibilities...and did it ever! Despite the fog and drizzle of an unusually dismal day in Malibu, the shoot went great. Scratch that, it wasn't just great, it was downright fun. The end result is a video that captures the humorous feel of the contest-winning video but with a high-horsepower twist. We couldn't think of a better way to conclude Kelley Blue Book's first video car review contest.