Super Bowl: Have Fan-Created Spots Rendered the Ad Firm Dead?

Superbowl XLV Logo
Superbowl XLV Logo

At $100,000 per second, Super Bowl ads are already expensive. But the success of spots like Doritos and Pepsi Max this year proves that the big guys don't have to pay ad firms to make the ads.

Simply hold a contest and crowdsource it.

Fans devise the creative and fans vote on their favorite. You don't have to pay to make it or to hold focus groups. And what the success of these ads prove is that just because they've been posted online well in advance of the game — for the voting — doesn't diminish the impact of the ad.

Instead of being tied to a single ad firm and seeing just a couple of ideas, the guys from Pepsi MAX and Doritos had to the chance to look at 5,600 submissions. Four of the ads that were eventually found themselves in the top 10 of USA Today's Ad Meter. The Doritos "Pug Attack" spot, in which a dog slams through a glass door to get his chips, tied for the top spot.

"The numbers hint that crowdsourcing is the key," said Rudy Wilson, vice president of marketing for Frito Lay .

But Wilson said that traditional firms are also what makes the company's Crash The Super Bowl contest so successful. Frito Lay uses Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (ad firm), Ketchum (PR) and UEG(entertainment).

"A lot of people don't know all the work that the traditional firms do to make this successful," Wilson said. "They're just humble enough to take a back seat."

Although many cite low costs as a reason to have fans write and produce the advertisement, Angelique Krembs, vice president of marketing for Pepsi, says that's not really accurate.

Business of the Super Bowl - See Complete Coverage
Business of the Super Bowl - See Complete Coverage

"It's actually a pretty expensive program to run," Krembs said. "It's a very long program and it takes almost a year to get through it. We started last July."

Krembs also doesn't think the ad firm is dead. "The monologue is dead," Krembs said. "It's all about having a dialogue with your consumer and letting your fans engage in that dialogue."

JR Burningham, who made the "Pug Attack" Doritos commercial, got a $1 million bonus for being in first place in the USA Today poll. Tynesha Williams won $400,000 in bonuses thanks to her "House Sitting" Doritos, which placed 3rd on the Ad Meter list. Wilson said Burningham's bonus was not insured so it will come out of PepsiCo's coffers.

Burningham, a 31-year-old freelance editor and part time Web designer, made the ad for $500. The dog was his friend's dog, he rented a camera and some of his budget was spent to feed his crew. Not only will he get the $1 million prize, but he'll now film more ads for Doritos and or Pepsi Max this year.

This is the fifth year that Doritos has turned to the general public to create its ads, but as social media has become more prevalent, it had more momentum going into this game more than ever before. With technology getting cheaper, people who aren't professionals can make it look pro with little cost.

And the fact that the online voting happens for months proves that the idea that a Super Bowl commercial can still get buzz even if it isn't a secret.

"Holding the commercial until the Super Bowl is something we've gone back and forth on," Krembs said. "But here we had a dialogue for months and got 1.5 billion impressions that I'd never want to give up."

Questions? Comments?