Corrections have been made in this story. See below for details.
The Super Bowl is already starting to have its way with the Viral Video Chart.
Extravaganzas from heavy-hitting creative shops haven't shown up yet, although those will come soon enough as marketers try to use free impressions on YouTube to make their Super Bowl investments go further. But Doritos' sixth "Crash The Super Bowl" contest surged to the top of the chart after the company posted the finalists last week, helping the collective submissions generate 1.7 million views. This year's effort elicited more than 6,100 entries from filmmakers vying for one of two Super Bowl ad slots, with a possible $1 million prize if viewers rate their ad highly enough.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen is cashing in again on the viral gold it struck last year with "The Force," which depicts a little boy trying to channel Darth Vader's powers within the confines of his suburban home. The effort collected the fifth-most amount of views this week, presumably getting significant viral reactivation from year-end roundup stories linking to the most viral spots of 2011. "The Force" debuted online last year, racked up 10 million views before it was ever shown on TV, and became the most-viewed Super Bowl ad on the web.
Aggressive paid placement prior to the game paid off in the end for Volkswagen, and Kantar Video estimated last February that the spot was worth $538,470 in free media when benchmarked against the roughly $3 million cost of a 30-second Super Bowl commercial. (That's just what the impressions would cost to reach those additional people, and doesn't try to account for the PR value from the exposure and positive press coverage.)
Evian (No. 4) and Blendtec (No. 7) also seem to be benefiting from viral reactivation spurred by year-in-review stories. Their campaigns had made the chart for 121 and 52 weeks, respectively, but are returning now after an absence.
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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article called this year's "Crash the Super Bowl" contest the fifth installment; it is the sixth. The article also said the top amateur spot would air during the Super Bowl alongside creative by The Lonely Island, winning $1 million for its creator if viewers like it better. Doritos said earlier this month, however, that it won't air a Lonely Island spot during the Super Bowl after all, using the time for a second amateur commercial instead. Viewer response will determine whether either amateur spot receives $1 million.