And since the Herbert brothers' spot topped the Ad Meter -- in part because Doritos set out to game the system -- Frito-Lay is kicking them $1 million to get their filmmaking business off the ground.
"Free Doritos," which cost $2,000 to make (mostly to feed the cast), features two guys and a snow globe that "can predict the future," essentially by throwing it at things. One guy tosses the snow globe at a vending machine, scoring free Doritos for the entire office. Then a second guy asks the snow globe if he's going to get "that big promotion." He turns and throws it, nailing a senior-looking person in the crotch. First guy: "Promotion? Not in your future."
"Unfortunately during the Super Bowl, what makes people smile is schoolyard humor, often sophomoric," said Bruce Horovitz, USA Today staff writer and Ad Meter guru. He said a 26-year-old ad meter participant in Oregon liked "Free Doritos," because throwing the snow globe at a vending machine "was unexpected." But that wasn't what put the spot over the top, he said: "It was the second throw."
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This was Frito-Lay's third Super Bowl contest with Doritos. Its consumer-generated spots have scored fourth on the ad meter for the past two years. Ann Mukherjee, group VP-Frito-Lay marketing, said she and her team decided to see what would happen if they made a concerted attempt to win, tossing in a $1 million bonus to participants. "We were hopeful," she said. Ms. Mukherjee added that ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners has been "very supportive" of the contest, and that the Doritos has been working "shoulder to shoulder" with the shop for the last five months. "We couldn't have done it without them," she said.
Best in the blogosphere
Carla McLeod, CMO of Zeta Interactive, a digital agency that monitors buzz, said that "Free Doritos" was also the best-performing Super Bowl ad in the blogosphere. Not only did the spot have the most posts in hours following the game, but nearly 90% of the posts were positive. "People thought it was a fun, memorable ad," she said. "It really resonated with that audience."
The Herbert brothers plan to use their $1 million bonus to get started in feature filmmaking. They've also been working on an online board game for the past 10 years. "To have 'Free Doritos' exposed on the Super Bowl stage was already amazing enough," Joe Herbert said in a statement. "But, to now claim No. 1 on the [Ad Meter] and win $1 million is unbelievable and affirmation that we can and will fulfill our dreams." The men quit their day jobs after being finalists in Doritos' first "Crash the Super Bowl" in 2007. A big part of preparing for round two: studying previous Ad Meter results.
It is somewhat ironic, of course, that Anheuser-Busch (King of Beers, horse farts and rocks to the forehead) was dethroned from top of the Ad Meter after a 10-year run by a kick in the groin. A-B has wielded that sort of humor so effectively in the poll that it has had Ad Meter victories -- a great source of valuable postgame PR buzz -- to itself for a decade.
But A-B President Dave Peacock was gracious in defeat: "Hats off to Doritos," he said. "It's great for them." Mr. Peacock noted correctly, however, that A-B's ads didn't exactly flop in the polls. They placed second and third in the Ad Meter and won at least two other consumer surveys (AOL Fanhouse and Mediacurves.com). A-B's Super Bowl involvement, he said, had generated 1,500 positive stories and more than 500 million media impressions as of this morning.
"We feel very good about the coverage we've received, and we have won some polls," he said. "It seemed like there were a group of ads that were all ranked very closely that resonated with consumers."
Still, fairly or not, those 288 USA Today focus-group sitters in Virginia and Oregon represent the most-quoted and cited postgame poll, and that means its winner -- regardless of how narrow the margin -- is seen as the winner of the ad game in the coverage that followed.
A-B has, in years past, celebrated the boost this provides for not only its drinkers, but also wholesalers and retailers. "If you have such a high concentration of beer drinkers sitting there watching the ads, and the next day they read that A-B won, that's a validation," A-B Chief Creative Officer Bob Lachky said in a 2007 interview. "It's impossible to put a value on that.
While the Ad Meter has been linked to a number of hirings and firings in the advertising world, there is no discernable link between having the winning spot and increased sales.