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Streaming Spotlight: The Sniper Twins Take Aim

A lot of people are making their futures in online video, but the Sniper Twins are inventing a whole new career path. Sniper1

This New York City-based duo is creating its own business-friendly brand of viral video. Rather than creating skits or songs and releasing them on YouTube, the Sniper Twins are creating catchy raps, selling them to businesses, and then making professional videos to entertain the masses. So far, they've had a high degree of success, working with Seagate Technology and The Hershey Co. 

Their journey started in Austin, Texas, where the future twins-Barry Flanagan (now 29) and Dax Martinez-Vargas (now 27)- met in high school and did the morning announcements together. They both had an early interest in video and attended film school at the University of Texas. They were able to present their short videos at regular shows at local bar and theater space, The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. The shows, called Nothing Liquid, featured recurring characters and
occasional throughlines.

That video work carried them to internships and then paid positions with MTV, where they currently work in the promotion department as producers, writers, and directors of on-air promotions, with desks next to each other. They're also roommates, sharing an apartment in New York's Financial District.

Flanagan and Martinez-Vargas evolved the Sniper Twins persona over time, as they looked for ways to package their work. They wanted to create a cool name that would "cut through the clutter," Flanagan says. So they settled on the Sniper Twins because it sounds like a takeoff on a rap duo. Once they had a name, all their work went under the Sniper Twins umbrella. (Their name was almost Gator Boots, but that sounded  too jokey.) 

The direction they chose to go next was their own: They decided to create humorous but deadpan rap songs, trying to interest businesses in them, almost as a sponsorship. They would do the creative work, and the businesses would increase their online presence. They write the songs first, and when they’ve got something they like, the Twins approach a potential client. 

“I think that’s a good way to approach this kind of stuff because if you’re making it for your own amusement, then it doesn’t really get tainted by the clients or whatever,” says Flanagan. Their first sponsored video was called “Computer Friends.” You can find it and the other videos mentioned in this article on the Sniper Twins’ website (www.snipertwins.com). The pair wrote the tech-related rap at the heart of the video and then simply started cold calling companies looking for a client. They contacted big names such as Apple and HP before finally turning to Seagate, which liked what it saw. Seagate’s marketing didn’t want any changes to the video or lyrics, and the Twins added a nonobtrusive thank you graphic at the end that displayed the Seagate logo. The pair likes the idea of minimal branding. 

“It allows people to watch the video without feeling [like] they’re being sold to, but at the same time, they associate the brand with the content at the end,” says Flanagan. 

While the team previously would have found the idea of blindly contacting companies to be too difficult, working for MTV changed all that. They realized what the people in marketing departments are really like. The veil has been lifted, they say.

“It’s really just a bunch of people in an office who are down to do some cool stuff, whether they have a budget or not,” says Flanagan.

"People out there trying to get ... their stuff sponsored by clients shouldn't be too intimidated because these are fun people, and they're looking for fun, creative folks. If anything, they're probably hoping they're cool enough and aren't coming off conservative," adds Martinez-Vargas.

That isn't to say that everything went smoothly with Seagate's sponsorship. In the days that the Sniper Twins were finalizing a price with Seagate, the stock market took a major hit, and Seagate's offices were in a panic. Reaching their contacts by phone became difficult. When the Twins finally did get a hold of them, they were told there simply wasn't any money for them.