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Just when we thought Matt Harding’s story couldn’t get any better, the unlikely Internet dancing sensation has landed in a big new advertising campaign.

Matt Harding

Harding is the guy from Seattle who achieved YouTube fame for his globetrotting expeditions of goofy dancing, chronicled in his popular video series, “Where the Hell is Matt?” And now he has extended his reach with a starring role in an ad for Visa credit cards.

We’ve always marveled at Harding’s story as an example of the Internet’s ability to upend traditional economics. Seriously, who would have thought a guy could make a living dancing like that?

But beyond his endearingly awkward moves, Harding’s videos are inspiring — bringing together people and cultures from around the world in one big piece of performance art.

Harding was in an earlier Visa “Travel Happy” campaign that aired internationally several years ago, playing more directly off his own videos. This ad is much more slick and commercial, but it’s still fun to see, and if this is what it takes to make a living as an Internet star these days, we’re all for it.

“The old ads had a crew of about 5 people,” says Harding via email. “This new one was shot like a movie with hundreds of crew and extras.”

Here’s how he explains the balance that he strikes between his own projects and revenue-generating opportunites such as this one.

After my 2008 video, I spent a couple years earning as much as I could, then ended up using it to self-fund two years of travel for the 2012 video. I was able to make that one without anyone to answer to, so I could include places like Syria and North Korea and the Gaza Strip without any sponsors getting nervous. With that done, I turned my focus back to these sorts of projects.

It’s a balance that’s worked for me so far and given me the freedom to make the videos I want. And yeah, it pays the bills too.

He’s also doing something very interesting with the US Tour Operators Association — a one-minute video that they’re placing as a pre-roll ad in front of his YouTube channel content. Harding gets YouTube partner revenue every time the ad shows, and it’s so well-targeted (to Harding’s viewers) that the Tour Operators Association gets strong engagement with the audience, and far less-than-normal skipping.

We asked Harding how the latest Visa ad came about, but he said Visa would have to answer that. “Honestly, I’m afraid to ask too many questions,” he said. “I just show up.”

Previously: Q&A: Matt Harding on his unlikely career as a YouTube star


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