When Dale Backus and Weston Phillips, two founding members of creative video-development firm Five Point Productions, entered Doritos' "Crash the Super Bowl" competition last year, bypassing traditional ad agencies was the last thing on their minds. What they were aiming for was some quick cash and a chance to put their company on the map.
Watch Five Point Productions' contest-winning spot for Doritos that appeared in last year's Super Bowl.
They came across the competition four days before the deadline and thought it might provide the kind of attention their fledgling firm needed. They locked themselves away for a day until they had the concept: a romantic comedy centered on the multifaceted Doritos brand (spicy, cheesy, crunchy, bold and smooth). They produced it on a budget of $12 -- which included the prices of the bags of Doritos in the ad -- for the next three days and handed in the video two hours before deadline.
The real work
An internal panel pared down the thousands of entries to just 16 videos to present to the public for three rounds of voting. And that's when the guys at Five Point really got to work. Rather than just marketing the brand, they marketed themselves and their ad.
"We worked our grass-roots networking for the voting, set up a blog, sent out e-mails, Facebooked, got people involved and excited about the project," Mr. Backus said. "We had people in other countries who were voting in. We won by a margin of 2% over the runner-up, so it clearly made a difference."
Doritos took a major gamble with the $2.7 million, 30-second TV spot by placing a user-generated ad that was entirely conceived, produced and voted for by consumers; its only contribution was to add its tag at the end.
It also risked wearing out its welcome before the big game. Super Bowl ads are generally a secretive affair, a surprise showcase of some of the best material the industry has to offer. The secrecy also avoids diminishing the post-game impact of the ads. Even though the winner of the contest wouldn't be revealed until the Super Bowl broadcast, the Doritos ads were on display weeks ahead of the event.
'David vs. Goliath'
"We found that Doritos were the third-most-discussed brand before game," said Jim Nail, chief marketing and strategy officer at Cymfony, a division of TNS Media Intelligence, adding that the brand managed to stay top of mind following the game, with post-game chatter rising 38%. "Doritos had that David vs. Goliath aspect of 'Can someone not on Madison Avenue challenge the masters of the universe?'"
The answer seems to have been a resounding yes. USA Today even named "Live the Flavor" the best ad of 2007. The spot changed everything for Five Point Productions.
"We started getting calls from local to national companies," Mr. Backus said. "Sony contacted us to edit one of their movies into a 30-second trailer. We began consulting with Doritos on their brand and marketing. We were no longer making sales calls."
This year's contest
Frito-Lay is taking a different tack this year, asking consumers to produce songs that best embody the Doritos brand image. Unlike Five Point Productions, which had to leverage its victory into more business, the winner of this year's contest will receive a contract with Interscope Records.
The three finalists have been announced, and there's not a jingle in sight, a testament to the freedom Doritos gave consumers to come up with their own concepts. Voting ends Jan. 27.