Major Retailers Latch on to 'Hauler' Viral Videos

J.C. Penny, others turn to tech savvy teen "haulers" for viral marketing.

ByABC News via GMA logo
March 20, 2010, 6:47 PM

July 14, 2010— -- The first thing every tween or teen girl does right after getting home from the mall is show off her shopping spree. But thanks to the Internet, girls are doing more than bragging about their fashion finds to their best friends.

A growing phenomenon called "haul videos" allows the girls to show off their purchases to the whole world on sites like YouTube.

Now, major retailers -- always eager to find new ways to market to teens and tweens -- are giving the haul video makers a commercial makeover by actively recruiting a handful of them for back-to-school marketing campaigns. And it could mean big business.

There are more than 150,000 haul videos currently on YouTube, and some videos are racking up tens of millions of views.

CLICK HERE to learn how to make a "haul" video from the pros.

Hauls are, in a sense, short product review videos. The "vlogger," or video blogger, shows off her goods, gushing about everything from lip gloss to flip-flops and gives her opinion on the quality of the products.

"Haul videos are the perfect marriage of two of Generation Y's favorite things: technology and shopping," Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist, told "GMA" in March for an initial report on this phenomenon. "It's a vicarious pleasure. You don't have to spend the money and you still get the thrill; it's a bit like pornography."

Haul videos are not just about blowing allowance money on designer clothes. The vloggers brag about scouring sales at drug stores and bargain outlets, too.

While haul videos are making one girl's shopping treasure into another's online entertainment, they're also transforming these savvy shoppers into young tycoons. Some videos are being viewed millions of times, and the vloggers are cashing in -- scoring sponsorships, product deals and magazine spreads.

"We have some haul videos that compare to major cable channels in views," Shishir Mehrotra, director of Product Management at YouTube, said.

Mehrotra scours YouTube looking for top talent. When he finds a vlogger who has cultivated a large following, he'll offer a YouTube partnership to them.

The YouTube Partner Program allows budding entrepreneurs to get paid to make videos and pocket a cut of the ad revenue.

"We have hundreds of partners that make over $1,000 a month, and we have several that are making six figures and really are supporting a living off of YouTube," Mehotra says.

The stores are also compensating some of the vloggers. J.C. Penny has deals with six girls to create back-to-school videos in exchange for gift cards from $250 to $1,000, according to a report by USA Today.

"It's one of the most innovative things we're doing this fall," Mike Boylson, chief marketing officer at J.C. Penny, told USA Today. "All of these haulers have followers and friends. That's how you start the ball rolling."

American Eagle is also getting in on the action, USA Today reported, with its own version of AE hauls.