Brands Team Up for User-Generated-Ad Contest

Ten Marketers to Launch Creative Competition That Will Culminate at Cannes

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NEW YORK ( -- The nation's top marketers are known for a lot of things, but here are two things they're not known for: turning over their brands willingly to the YouTube hoi polloi and, well, doing anything together.

Looking for the next Herberts: Brothers were Doritos Super Bowl winners.
Looking for the next Herberts: Brothers were Doritos Super Bowl winners.
Yet that's what 10 marketers have decided to do in a bid to tap their most passionate fans for new marketing ideas. The brands involved -- PepsiCo's Doritos, Visa, Hewlett-Packard, Marriott, Telstra, Kodak, Phillips and three others who asked not to be named -- are launching a user-generated advertising competition through short-film festival Mofilm, culminating at the Cannes International Advertising Festival in June.

The deal was negotiated among the chief marketing officers for the various companies, some in conjunction with their ad agencies and some outside the agency structure. The ink isn't yet dry on the deal, and some are still waiting for various legal approvals before sealing the pact.

The goal of the competition is to unearth the next Herbert brothers, who won Doritos' third-annual "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, and produced an ad that topped USA Today's Ad Meter as the most memorable during the big game.

Each brand will select two entries, resulting in 20 finalists, which will be submitted to a judging panel that will include filmmaker Spike Lee.

Prize, no glory
Joe and Dave Herbert were paid $1 million by PepsiCo for topping USA Today's poll. The winner of the Mofilm competition will get some form of cash and a prize but no official honor at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes.

Unlike in the Doritos contest, 30-second spots aren't necessarily the goal. "Creativity comes in all forms, and we're keeping our mind open to what you could find out there," said Frito-Lay exec VP-marketing Ann Mukhergee.

Some of the brands involved could use some marketing help; all are looking for new ideas to freshen up their images and sales. But the concept is hardly a new one. Asking fans for input is a mainstream-marketing technique tried by the likes of Dunkin' Donuts, McDonalds and even the Cheesecake Factory, not to mention Doritos, which has been running its Super Bowl contest for the past three years. "From what I've seen, this is clearly the most ambitious effort, because it's beyond one brand," said Pete Blackshaw, VP-digital services for Nielsen Online.

Brands are also routinely stung and embarrassed by what consumers do with their products online. Consider the "Smoking Smarties" fad, which has racked up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube.

The brands aren't obligated to use the winning concepts, or any that are entered into the contest, but all say they'd like to find something they can use, either as part of their mobile or interactive marketing or even as part of their mass-media tactics. As more than one observed, it could result in a lot of good ideas -- many from young agency execs themselves -- at a fraction of the cost.

And while Cannes has no plans to honor the likes of the Herbert brothers and their crotch-shot antics, amateurs will get a moment in the sun. "Cannes has decided to join the conversation even though it could be uncomfortable for agencies," said Jeffrey Merrihue, CEO of Accenture Marketing Sciences. "We hope it will break new ground."

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