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USA.gov winner is a contest pro

By Ed O'Keefe

How does USA.gov make your life better? For stay-at-home dad Peter Sullivan of Nashville, it put $2,500 in his bank account.

Sullivan won the General Services Administration's first-ever online video contest that asked citizens to describe how the site helps them find vital government information. His video showed the bald Sullivan sing-shouting about moving to a new city and using USA.gov to figure out how to stick it to unruly neighbors and get in touch with his representatives. There was a flag, there was apple pie, there were his two kids jamming on a guitar and drums to a catchy rock tune (watch above, lyrics below):

For those who love their moms or apple pie / Or pledge allegiance to the prairie sky / Let's run this government from the inside / Right here at USA.gov.

Okay, so maybe he didn't actually move to a new city or stick it to any neighbors. But Sullivan knows what wins: This was the fifth online video contest he has won since November, with prizes totaling $8,000 in cash and a free trip to Disney World.

"I could do one every day forever," he said of the contests. "There's so many of them out there. It's a little niche that no one really tapped into."

Sullivan's wife is a first-year resident in emergency medicine at a Nashville hospital, and he stays at home to care for their two kids, ages 5 and 2. Though money may be tight, he said, time is abundant. So when a friend sent him a notice on Facebook about an online video contest hosted by Southwest on saving money on baggage fees, he decided to enter.

"What would I do for $100?" he sang into his video camera, then puckered up for a goat, break danced in his hallway (or, at least, he tried) and bowled pumpkins. Back in his heyday, Sullivan said, he was in a band, so his videos are filled with original power punk songs reminiscent of Blink 182 or Rage Against the Machine, only without the rage.

Sullivan won the contest -- and a free trip to Disney World. Since then, he's made winning videos for LTL Printing Co., Legal Zoom and a medication that helps ease mouth numbness after a trip to the dentist ("Say No to Numb!"). He's only lost two contests: one to promote pistachios and one for a dating background check company.

The videos typically take a few hours to a few days to shoot and edit. Sullivan said he goes after smaller contests because the ones with big money typically attract film students and other professional videographers. His shtick is strictly amateur: The videos star his wife and kids and basically just feature Sullivan being goofy.

"It was great to tell my kids that we're going to Disney World because dad did this silly video," he said.

By Ed O'Keefe  | April 28, 2010; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Miscellaneous  
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