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5 unwritten rules of the Crash the Super Bowl contest

It seems like the vast majority of people who enter the Crash the Super Bowl contest never bother to read the rules.  Over the past 6 years I’ve watched thousands of homemade Doritos ads and I’m constantly amazed by the flagrant rule violations I see.

But the official rules aren’t the only criteria you need to worry about.  You also need to comply with the un-written rules of the contest.  For instance, “sexy” Super Bowl ads have really fallen out of fashion.  The CTSB rules don’t explicitly say that your entry should be PG-rated but it’s been 6 years since Doritos picked a finalist that included a scantily clad character.  Technically you CAN feature a little sexual content or innuendo in your video but history shows us that an entry like this will have almost zero chance of making it to the finals:

That wasn’t the slickest or wittiest CTSB ad I’ve ever seen but I gotta admit, it make me laugh.  But entries need to be funny AND good for all ages.  Here now are 4 more common Crash the Super Bowl mistakes that you should avoid this year:

Cultural Insensitivity:  The rules state that entries “must not contain defamatory statements or messages (including but not limited to words, images, or symbols) that are widely considered offensive to individuals of a certain race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic or other group.”   So entries that are straight-up racist will be disqualified.  But you also need to worry about creating something that might offend people in more subtle ways.  Everyone knows that blackface is wrong but it’s always a bad idea to cast actors of one race or culture to play characters from a different race or culture.  This entry will demonstrate what I’m talking about:

The director of this ad cast a group of blonde white kids to play a tribe of spear-wielding savages.  The kids’ costumes resemble the clothing and facepaint that some tribes of the Amazon use.  (The aerial shot of the jungle even looks like the Amazon.)  The people who created this entry would probably argue that this story takes place in a fantasy world and that the kids do not represent any real life people.  But the winner of this contest doesn’t get an extra 60 seconds of air time to explain his concept.  So before you shoot an idea you need to ask yourself “could this commercial offended anyone, anywhere in the entire world?”  I know that might sound extreme but you’re not making a short film here; you’re making a TV commercial.  If you want to get edgy or push boundaries you should entry SXSW, not the CTSB contest.

BLOOD!!  BLOOD EVERYWHERE!!:  I would estimate that Doritos will receive at least 200 zombie-themed commercials this year.  But entries like this one will quietly be disqualified because they’re too gory to air…

That wasn’t exactly a masterpiece but I wanted to feature this ad for a reason.  Teenager filmmakers usually try and come up with an idea that will be cheap to make and that can feature all of their friends.  And that’s why Doritos gets dozens and dozens of zombie videos every year.  But most teenagers aren’t highly-skilled make up artists so when they want to dress up like zombies they just put on some old clothes and slather themselves in halloween make up and fake blood.

But here’s the problem, you can’t really show blood in TV commercials anymore.  Even movie trailers have to desaturate blood so that it looks like brown gravy.  So even though the rules don’t mention blood, the judges know that the network can’t air a bloody commercial during the Super Bowl.

Overloading your ad: Writing a tight, funny, exciting, interesting story that’s only 30 seconds long is really freakin’ hard.  A lot of CTSB filmmakers try and jam way too much stuff into their entries; and by “stuff” I mean story, characters, jokes and action.  These overloaded ads zip by way too fast and leave the viewer dizzy and confused.  Here’s an entry with a funny premise but it’s so busy and overwhelming that it should come with a seizure warning.

A professional editor probably would have cut out the first 6 seconds of this ad so that the later shots could have some time to breath.  If you feel like your entry might be too busy, show it to some friends and ask if it went by too fast.  If it’s too fast for your friends, it’s too fast for TV.

Dipping Doritos:  Ok, this final mistake is a little more obscure but I do see it a few times a year.  Apparently there are actually people out there who don’t understand how to eat Doritos because some Crash the Super Bowl ads include jokes about dip…..

For the love of God people, you don’t dip Doritos!  Doritos are already delicious on their own!  The rules don’t say that you can’t dip  these chips but Frito-Lay would never air a commercial that advocated this type of snack abuse.


PSA: Warn your parents and grandparents about computer scams!


Something weird happened today and I feel like I should do a quick public service announcement.  My dad called me this morning and said “some guy from India called me and said that my copy of Windows is out of date and I need to update it.  He was saying I needed to disable Firefox and then ht certain buttons.  I told him I needed to check with my son before I did anything.  He said he’ll call back in a few hours to walk me through the process.  So…do I need to do this?

My dad is 65 and he never even used a computer until about 5 years ago.  Now he’s online all the time and he loves it.  But he’s a perfect target for scammers; every few months he’ll call me and say something like “A box popped up on my computer and it says I have a virus and I need to pay for Super Virus-Guard 3000, what should I do?” or “I got an email that says my facebook page is under attack and this company will save it if I send them my password, is this for real?

When I first set up my dad’s computer I told him “people are going to try and scam you.  Never believe anything, anyone says to you.  People will email you and people will call you.  They will want your money or your passwords.  Always assume that everything is a scam.”

But no matter how many times I warn my dad about scammers, he still gets concerned when people call him or email him and tell him there’s something wrong with computer or one of his accounts.  So here is my PSA:  If you have a parent or grandparent that uses a computer, sit them down and tell them about all the scammers that are out there.  And then (and this is the important part) make them promise you that they will call you if….

  1.  A stranger asks for their personal information.
  2.  A stranger asks for their password or login information.
  3.  They get a suspicious bill or credit card charge.
  4.  Strange pop-up boxes start appearing on their computer
  5.  Some tries to get them to do ANYTHING on your computer
  6.  You get contacted by someone who claims to be from IT, Windows, Microsoft, Google or Facebook.

Scams work because the SOUND like they might be legit.  Your parents and grandparents are probably nice people who don’t want to be rude to someone who might be trying to help them.  So you need to play the “bad cop” roll for them.  They don’t have to say “no” to a scammer.  They just need to say “let me check with my son/daughter first.”  That right there should be enough to scare away “Ronald” from New Delhi.

By the way, here’s an article about the scam my dad almost fell for today.  It sounds pretty common so you may want to specifically warn folks about it.


Here are all 46 Crash the Super Bowl finalists from the past 10 years!

Making the Crash the Super Bowl finals is one of the hardest accomplishments in the world of filmmaking.  This year there were 8,061 short film submitted to Sundance and 60 shorts made the final cut.  That means your odds of being selected for the most prestigious film festival in the country are 1 in 134 (0.7%.)  But last fall Doritos received more than 4,900 Crash the Superbowl entries and only 10 of those ads made it to the finals.  So your chances of making the Top 10 were just 1 in 490 (0.2%.)  And this year it’s going to be even harder to make the finals because this time the judges will only be picking THREE finalists.

So if you want to go all the way you’re going to have to work your ass off.  And the road to victory begins with RESEARCH.  Before you schedule a brainstorming session or write a single line of dialogue you should watch and analyze all the CTSB finalists from the past 10 years.  Watching these commercials will show you exactly the type of ads that the judges like.  So I’ve done something that literally no one else has ever done; I’ve compiled a list of all 46 ads that have made the CTSB finals since the contest was launched in 2005.  If I tried to embed 46 youtube videos in one post my site would probably crash so instead of videos I’ve posted screen shots of each entry. If you’d like to watch the actual ad on youtube just click the screenshot.


2014 – 2015 finalists:

The judges usually pick 5 finalists but last year they picked 10.  The quality in this set of finalists is really all over the place.  Some ads are actually kinda bad and they really didn’t deserve to make the finals.  Frito-Lay made a big deal about the contest “going global” so they had to pick a few token international entries even if those ads weren’t as good as the finalists from the US.  I also suspect that the judges picked a few gross ads just to try and generate a little lowest-common-denominator social media buzz.  So take this set of semi-finalists with a grain of salt.


Middle Seat (USA)

Middle Seat.  Aired during the 2015 Super Bowl. WINNER: One Million dollar grand prize.

When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly.  Aired during the 2015 Super Bowl. WINNER: $500,000 2nd place prize.


Doritos Angler. CTSB IX finalist.

Baby's First Words (USA)

Baby’s First Word.  CTSB IX finalist.

Selfish Sneezers (USA)

Selfish Sneezers.  CTSB IX finalist.

Lemonade Stand (USA)

Lemonade Stand.  CTSB IX finalist.

Trouble in the Backseat (USA)

Trouble in the Backseat.  CTSB IX finalist.

Miss-spelling Bee (USA)

Miss-spelling Bee.  CTSB IX finalist.

What could go Wrong? (USA)

What could go Wrong?  CTSB IX finalist.

Doritos Manchild

Doritos Manchild.  CTSB IX finalist.

2013 – 2014 finalists:

time machine

Time Machine.  Aired during the 2014 Super Bowl. WINNER: One Million dollar grand prize.

Cowboy Kid

Cowboy Kid. Aired during the 2014 Super Bowl. $50,000 2nd Place Winner.

Breakroom Ostritch

Breakroom Ostrich. CTSB VIII finalist.

Office Thief

Office Thief.  CTSB VIII finalist.


Finger Cleaner. CTSB VIII finalist.

2012 – 2013 finalists:

Goat 4 Sale

Goat 4 Sale.  Aired during the 2013 Super Bowl.  1st Place WINNER.

Fashionista Daddy

Fashionista Daddy. Aired during the 2013 Super Bowl. Runner-Up.

Road Chip

Road Chip. Aired during the Super Bowl. Runner-Up.

Express Checkout

Express Checkout. CTSB VII finalist.


Fetch. CTSB VII finalist.


2011 – 2012 finalists:

Man’s Best Friend. Aired During the 2012 Super Bowl. WINNER: Million dollar Ad Meter bonus.

Sling Baby. Aired During the 2012 Super Bowl. WINNER: Million dollar Facebook poll bonus

Bird of Prey.  CTSB VI finalist.

Dog Park. CTSB VI finalist.

Hot Wild Girls.  CTSB VI finalist.

2010 – 2011 finalists:

Pug Attack. Aired during the 2011 Super Bowl. WINNER: Million dollar Ad Meter bonus.

The Best Part. CTSB V finalist. Aired during the 2011 Super Bowl.

Adam and Eve. CTSB V finalist.

Birthday Wish. CTSB V finalist.

House Sitting. Aired during the Super Bowl. WINNER: $400,000 ad meter bonus

2009 – 2010 finalists:

Underdog. Aired during the 2010 Super Bowl. WINNER: $600,000 Ad Meter bonus.

Snack Attack Samurai. CTSB IV finalist. Aired during the 2010 Super Bowl.

The Smackout. CTSB IV finalist.

Casket. CTSB IV finalist. Aired during the 2010 Super Bowl.

House Rules. CTSB IV finalist. Aired during the 2010 Super Bowl.

Kids These Days. CTSB IV finalist.

2008 – 2009 finalists:

Free Doritos. Aired during the Super Bowl. WINNER: Million dollar Ad Meter bonus.

The Power of the Crunch. CTSB III finalist. -Also Aired During the 2009 Super bowl.

New Flavor Pitch. CTSB III finalist.

The Chase. CTSB III finalist.

Too Delicious. CTSB III finalist.

NOTE: Doritos did not run a commercial contest in 2008-2009. Instead, CTSB II was a music-themed contest.

2006 – 2007 finalists:

Live the Flavor. WINNER. Aired during the 2007 Super Bowl.

Checkout Girl. CTSB I finalist. -Aired during the 2007 Super Bowl.

Mousetrap. CTSB I finalist. -Aired a year later during the 2008 Super Bowl.

A Chip Lover’s Dream. CTSB I finalist.

Duct Tape. CTSB I finalist.


Doritos announces the FINAL installment of the Crash the Super Bowl contest!


After nine years, 8 installments, 32,000 entries and $7,000,000 in prizes, Frito-Lay and PepsiCo have finally decided to retire the Crash the Super Bowl contest….after they run it just one more time!  Here’s what Frito-Lay’s VP of marketing Jeff Klein said about the company’s plans for 2016:

“We’re giving consumers one last shot to make their mark and see their homemade ads air during the Super Bowl broadcast,” J, said in a statement. “This is truly last call for all of those who not only want a shot at $1 million — but want a chance to jump-start their career in Hollywood.”

Frito-Lay claims that this will be the “most audacious” installment yet but it seems like they’ve actually scaled back the promotion this year.  Doritos usually picks 5 finalists and gives them each $25,000 and sends them to the Super Bowl.  Then Doritos airs at least two fan-made ads and the directors win either $1,000,000 (if they won the online voting) or $500,000 (if their ad was picked by the judges).  But this year there will only be 3 finalists and only one of their ads will make it to air.

But there is some good news here; this year there will be 50 semi-finalists and each one of them will $2,000.  I think that’s a great way to spread the fun (and wealth) around a little.  The finalists are getting bigger prizes too.  Instead of $25,000, the two non-winning finalists will recive $100,000 a piece.  And finally the grand prize winner will a get million bucks PLUS they’ll be offer an “epic gig” working with Zach Snyder, DC comics and Warner Brothers.

Because this is sorta the 10th anniversary of the CTSB contest (it was first launched in the fall of 2006) I had a feeling Doritos would be retiring the promotion this year.  Consumer-Generated content just isn’t as raw and exciting as it used to be.  Nine years ago it was big news that an “average Joe” would get to see his commercial air during the Super Bowl.  But we live in a viral culture now and we’re all used to the idea that some regular guy or gal from Nowheresville, Oklahoma can be a “star.”  Plus technology has advanced a lot in 10 years and some homemade ads look just as good as “real” TV commercials.  So the cutesy, low-budget gimmick became irrelevant a long time ago.

But ultimately it was probably money that killed the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  This year CBS is raising the price of 30-second Superbowl ads from $4.5 Million to $5 to $6 Million a piece.  It’s just too risky for FritoLay to buy $12,000,000 of ad time and then HOPE that they get at least two great, Super Bowl-worthy ads every year.

So it’s kinda too bad that the contest is ending but I do think that Frito-Lay made the right call.  I also think it was a genius move to announce the end of the contest before running the final installment.  The last CTSB contest ever is going to garner a huge amount of attention and I think the competition this year will be fierce.

The Crash the Super Bowl rules are already up and it looks like the site is actually excepting entries.  But I’d hold off on shooting anything for now.  You’ve got a long, long time to get your ideas ready; the deadline for entries is November 15th, which, according to the little counter at the top of the contest site, is 66 days, 2 hours and 20 minutes from now:


Happy 6th Blog-O-versary to me!


Lucky #6!

For weeks Godaddy has been sending me emails that said “You have products experiencing soon. Please update your credit card information to avoid a disruption in service blah blah blah.”  I keep my wallet all the way on the other side of the room so instead of walking 6 feet to look at my credit card I just kept ignoring the emails.  Then on Saturday I got a twitter message that basically said “Hey man, what happened to your website?  Its been replaced by some godaddy page.”  So I had lost my game of chicken with Godaddy and they took the site down for a day or so.  The move got my attention and I finally updated my info and renewed for another two years.

But the screw up did remind me that I first registered the domain for VCN on September 1st, 2009.  So happy blog-o-versery to me!  Thanks to all of you who visit this site on a regular basis.  Most of my traffic comes from people googling “video contests” or “crash the super bowl” (11K page views last month!?) but I just checked my web stats and in the last 24 hours this site has had 91 “direct hits.”  That means 91 people visited this site via a bookmark or after they typed into their browser.  That’s kind of a lot!  Even after 6 years it feels weird that I have a blog that even 9 people would want to look at on a semi-regular basis.

I’d also like to say a big thank you to the two main sponsors of VCN; Tongal and Mofilm.  If it wasn’t for their support I’m not sure we’d still be here.  So thanks for keeping the dream alive guys!


Vote for Tongal’s SXSW 2016 Panel


Item #27 on my bucket list (right after “Master the Lambada”) is “go to South By Southwest.”  I’ve been to Austin and it was far and a way the best mid-sized city I’ve ever been to (sorry Madison).  This year I’m thinking of flying their just for Halloween but that’s crazy….if I’m going back to Austin it’s got to be for SXSW.  It sounds like the fest is on Tongal’s bucket list too because they applied to host a panel next year entitled “A Crowd Can Fund a Movie…But Can It Create One?”  Here’s a synopsis from the SXSW site:

Crowdfunding is a proven way to raise cash for film projects. But it’s no longer unique or exciting for fans; their participation in the film’s creation rarely extends beyond the money they give a filmmaker or studio, which does the rest. What happens when we flip the process, with studios and brands funding the film and the crowd creating it? Iconic names like The Twilight Saga, Airbnb and LEGO have succeeded using the creative crowd to develop short films – but can this model apply to big-budget filmmaking? Hear entertainment insiders discuss how the principles of successful crowdsourcing can be applied to filmmaking, and what feature films might look like when created by a crowd.

Hmmm, that sounds like a panel I’d enjoy and tweet about afterwords.  If you’d like to help Team Tongal get to the fest, you’ll need to vote for their idea.  To vote, click here to register a Panel Picker account.  Then visit Tongal’s panel page and click the Thumbs Up icon on the upper left hand side of the screen.  Voting ends on Friday, September 4th at noon so don’t procrastinate; vote now!



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