Mtn Dew Goes Outside Agency Box to Handle New Flavors

Consumers Select Production-Focused Shops to Create 15-Second Spots

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NEW YORK ( -- Mtn Dew is passing agency-of-record duties for three new flavors to a trio of small shops -- none of them advertising agencies. An animation company, a production company and a group of aspiring creatives are being charged with producing 15-second commercials that will air in heavy rotation on broadcast and cable beginning in April.

Animatic Media, whose entry was among the winners, will handle the new Mtn Dew flavor Distortion.
Animatic Media, whose entry was among the winners, will handle the new Mtn Dew flavor Distortion.
As part of the brand's Dewmocracy program, more than 200 ads were submitted via, including a number of ads from advertising agencies, said Brett O'Brien, Mtn Dew's director-marketing. Consumers voted on their favorites, narrowing the choice down to six finalists. Those half-dozen then created two-minute pitch videos for Mtn Dew's "Flavor Nations," groups of brand advocates who ultimately selected the three winners. The winners are: Animatic Media, which will handle the flavor Distortion; Crash Test Productions, which will handle Typhoon; and a group that's calling itself Dewdadew, which will handle Whiteout. The final six also included two other small production shops and a freelance graphic designer.

"Honestly, I'm not sure these were the six we would have chosen. There were some in this group we loved and a lot we loved that didn't make the cut," Mr. O'Brien said. "The beauty of reaching out to the consumers is that they see things we don't see. The final three are great thinkers with great pitches. I think we'll get some great stuff, and all three are Dew fanatics, which is awesome."

But does the absence of an advertising agency in the chosen lineup portend the rise of smaller, production-focused shops in traditional advertising? Already, PepsiCo has made waves by tapping shops such as Firstborn to handle its Sobe account, and Huge to handle a piece of its Pepsi business.

"The space itself lends itself to that, the ability of anyone with a video camera or webcam to post content. If that content is funny and gets some buzz behind it, it leaves plenty of opportunity," Mr. O'Brien said. "You're also going to see a lot more aggressive, unique thinking coming out of smaller shops."

Still, Mr. O'Brien believes traditional agencies have a place, noting their ability to work in mass media, like TV, to develop a brand and to tell a story to a broader audience. Indeed, he stopped short of saying that any of the three winners will permanently maintain a piece of the Mtn Dew business, noting that the brand isn't looking to engage in a retainer-based relationship. It's more likely that the brand could occasionally tap one of the shops for work, he said.

But, at least for the next few months, these small shops will have a major beverage brand on their rosters and will be paid accordingly. Mr. O'Brien said that the shops will be paid the same way Mtn Dew would pay any of its roster shops, with a production budget and agency fees.

In the coming weeks, the winners will begin working with the Mtn Dew brand team and the "Flavor Nations" on the 15-second spots. The brand team will present them with a brief, while the Flavor Nations will provide feedback on the concept and creation of the spots. "I hope [the commercials] end up being very, very different," said Mr. O'Brien. "My hope is that they're true 15-second spots against these products."

Come April, the spots will air and the three flavors will hit shelves nationwide. From there, consumers will have 12 weeks to choose their favorite flavor. The winning flavor will become a permanent part of the Mtn Dew lineup and launch in September 2010.

BBDO, Mtn Dew's agency of record, will be working on a spot that gives an overview of Dewmocracy, which will also air in April. Mr. O'Brien said it hadn't been determined yet what kind of interaction would take place between the three winning shops and BBDO.

"The bottom line is we didn't really know how this would turn out," Mr. O'Brien said. "We weren't dangling a huge cash price. We didn't put any advertising behind this. But we've been really excited with what we've seen."

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