votigo.jpgVotigo is an Oakland, Calif. company that offers businesses a way to engage their users with video or photo competitions.

While other companies have offered something similar, Votigo’s next step will be more interesting: It will turn its software into a Web-based application with an easy-to-use dashboard, so that anyone can create a contest featured around their brand.

Until now, marketers wanting to promote themselves on sites such as YouTube have been subject to proprietary policies. For example, YouTube doesn’t hand over any data to marketers about how their video ad campaigns perform. Votigo puts that data back in the marketers hands.

For example, Votigo lets Victoria Secret solicit video submissions from its users, in for a contest where users explain why they should be allowed to attend the Victoria Secret’s fashion show. The best video creator gets to attend (screenshot below.) With Votigo’s next step, though, the contest could be turned into a marketing campaign on other sites that Victoria Secret can then manage itself.

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Votigo provides features like user-registration, moderator tools for screening entries, customizable user profile pages, user-ratings of entries, opt-in email collection, customized voting widgets, user-commenting and customized email notifications

Large marketing firms can’t do these sorts of things on their own, so Votigo is working with agencies such as MWW and Fleishman Hillard to provide them the tools.

Votigo launched a year and half ago, and has gotten $1.25 million in a first round from Headwaters Holdings, a hedge fund in Sausalito, Calif.

Votigo will also support OpenSocial, Facebook and mobile sites, so that the video contests can run anywhere.

Today, Votigo just kicks of another contest, this time for the ethanol industry. The winning 30-second video promoting the use of ethanol will be aired during the ESPN television coverage of the Indy 500 on May 25th.