VCN Interview with Crash champs, the Herbert Bros!

In your face, Madison Avenue!

There are only 18 days left to enter the Doritos Crash the Superbowl commercial contest.  But if you’re visiting this site, you probably already know that.  And if you know exactly when the Crash the Superbowl deadline is then I bet you certainly know who Joe and Dave Herbert are.  They are the dudes that you aspire to be!

Last year, the Herbert Brother’s commercial “Free Doritos” not only won the Crash the Superbowl competition, it went on to be ranked the #1 best spot of the entire game by the USA Today Ad Meter.  That amazing feat earned them a million dollar bonus from Doritos…and lots of jealousy from ad execs on Madison avenue.

With a single win, Joe and Dave Herbert became the biggest video contest winners of all time.  If this site had a hall of fame, they’d be the first inductees.  Since their big win the brothers from Indiana have made the most out of the exposure they’ve gotten and have gone on to become for real, professional filmmakers.  Now that’s a prize you can’t put a price tag on.

I had the opportunity to do an e-mail interview with the Herbert Brothers about their experiences and about the new installment of the Crash the Superbowl contest.  They were insanely generous with their time and came back at me with some really awesome answers.  If you’re planning on entering the Crash the Superbowl, or really, ANY video contest, READ THIS INTERVIEW!  It’s filled with tips, strategies and nuggets of wisdom about HOW TO WIN.


Guys, first off, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.  I hadn’t seen the Crash the superbowl finalists before the game last year but I was thrilled when I saw your commercial.  Right away I knew that it had to be the winner of the Doritos contest and I also immediately knew that it was hands down the best commercial of the game.  The impact of your million dollar win has just been enormous.  This time last year, filmmakers had to scour the web looking for video contests to enter.  Today, video contests are such a hot marketing tool that there are too many to even keep track of.  And I know that if your spot hadn’t ranked number 1 on the ad meter, contests would be nowhere near as popular as they are now.  So everybody enters and wins video contests really owe you.  Ok, now for the questions:

VCN: You guys seem to have gone through a lot of trouble to shoot your commercial. How difficult was it to get everything you needed for the spot?

DAVE: Great question and the answer is that it was both difficult and easy-as-pie all at the same time. My biggest concern when we finally committed to the idea was getting our hands on a vending machine that we could destroy…and do it on our pea sly budget. The only place we looked was EBAY. We bought a nicer looking piece of junk for $400 and were in business. The next thing we needed to obtain were pieces of glass that we could put into the machine that would explode on impact. We looked into glass that would break with the kind of explosiveness that we wanted. We ended up getting five panes of tempered glass made to the right dimensions for around-about total of $130. The last big prop that we needed to figure out was the sno-globe. We needed a nice looking globe for close-ups, but one that was heavy enough to toss through the vending machine glass and light enough to hit a person in the jewels. What we did do was purchase a nice sno-globe for the close-ups. We used a duct-taped bocce ball to zing through the vending machine glass (which we did NO effects to in the spot – freeze frame the throw mid-air and you’ll see a perfectly round, duct-taped bocce ball). We wanted to do the entire last shot without cutting to make it look (and feel) more real so we used CGI and animation. The cast and crew were simple to get. Most of them we’ve worked with before, and the ones we haven’t worked with were excited to jump on board.

JOE: Before everything Dave talked about it was simply coming up with the right concept. When we do something, we put every effort into making whatever it is we do the best we can make it — and usually that involves a lot of research. Once we understood how the USA Today Ad Meter worked we began to generate ideas that we thought would give a wide audience (men, women, races, ages, etc.) reason to turn up their dials. We also did a study of previous winners – from what quarter they aired, to how long the commercial was, to what the subject matter was, etc. and looking at the top five ad meter finishes over the past 8 years gave us some good insight as to what works and what doesn’t. On the one hand I can say I’m not surprised we took the top spot because that’s actually what we set out to do — on the other hand we realize what an amazing feat it was to actually do what we set out to accomplish — which was seemingly impossible (even in our own minds).

Joe and Dave’s Million Dollar commercial:

VCN: Was there a point when you considered making something less complicated?

DAVE: No, but we did make two spots for the contest. Our other spot, NERDS, of course did not make the finals but you can view it from our website, When they announced the contest we both knew that FREE DORITOS was the idea to use. BUT, this was the first year that Doritos was offering the $1M bonus, so we did the homework and looked into what we needed to do to rank high on the USA Today Ad Meter and tailored the idea to work for Doritos AND score as high a ranking as possible.

JOE: I don’t believe we’ve done anything since birth to make things less complicated — not on ourselves, not on our parents, not on our wives, not on anyone. I hope one day to accomplish the complicated task of making a task less complicated. =)

The Herbert Brothers OTHER entry for the 2009 Crash the Superbowl competition:

VCN: Was this your first video contest experience?

DAVE: Our first video contest experience was in the original 2007 Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Contest. Niether Joe nor I are formally trained filmmakers. We weren’t professionals, we’ve never taken a film class. We had only just begun to learn about filmmaking by teaching ourselves and had just finished our first short film EVER just before that contest launched. We were looking for a new project to do and a friend had heard about it and we dicided to give it a try.

JOE: In 2008 we were super excited to enter our second competition – that being another shot at the super bowl with the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl ad contest. Sadly they changed it up on us making a contest for original music. Had we attempted making music, no amount of research in the world would have saved us from coming in dead last! 2009 Doritos had the contest again and this time it was for commercials again! And this time a million was up for grabs. And this time… well, you know the rest.

Joe and Dave’s 2007 Crash the Superbowl Finalist video: Doritos Duct Tape

VCN: If not, what other kind of competitions have you entered?

DAVE: Joe and I are not really contest kind of guys. We were definitely pursuing filmmaking as dream careers, but did not go hunting for every contest we could get into. Of course, as mentioned above, we entered the 2007 Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest which was our first ever contest and we did quite well. We were gung-ho about entering the 2008 Crash, but Doritos ran it for musicians…and Joe and I are NOT musicians. When we found out that we couldn’t create a spot for the 2008 Crash we started looking for aother contest to enter and got into the Heinz 57 Top This TV Challenge. Nothing against Heinz or ketchup in general, but we never really got into that contest with as much enthusiasm as the Crash…but we wanted to shoot something. Those are the only video/commercial contests we’ve ever entered before winning the 2009 Crash.

JOE: Most of the competitions we enter are unwritten ones – that is to say the competitions we have amongst each other. Dave and I are the oldest of five boys. All of us are VERY COMPETITIVE in sports, jobs, dreams, you name it. In fact a few years ago, simply as a joke, we decided on a competition to determine who will be the most famous Herbert Brother – and that to determining factor was to be the first to appear on a late night talk show. So we can thank Doritos and Jay Leno for making Dave and I the winners of that contest!

VCN: How did you guys find out that your video was going to play during the Superbowl?

DAVE: The folks at Doritos like to give people ulcers so they don’t reveal the winner before hand. We found out the exact same time that everyone else in the world found out…once it aired! Doritos lines up all of the finalists in front of the TV to record the winners’ reactions as the winning spot airs. And since we were finalists in the first Crash in 2007 we’ve been in those seats before and lost. Joe and I both were disgusted by the thought of getting so close and losing again. I could barely take it! I had such a sick feeling going into it all of the way up until the excitement of actually winning. The whole experience is emotional torture but, win or lose, is such a wild ride that you want to get on again and again…it’s addictive. And I have to say that, although the folks at Doritos love to watch the finalists squirm and give them ulcers, they sure make it a lot of fun. It is hands down the BEST video/commercial contest on the planet!

JOE: It’s funny when you watch the reaction video. Everyone comments on the reaction AFTER we see our commercial air, but few notice the expressions leading up to it. Because Dave and I have been there and lost before it wasn’t enough just to be there this time… and when you see the five finalists the other four are on the edge of their seats, eyes wide open in anticipation, with huge grins on their faces — meanwhile, I’m leaned back in my chair with my arms crossed just sitting there will no real expression whatsoever. It’s funny to look back on that.

DAVE: Yes, of course! Part of being a finalist is getting an all expenses paid WEEK LONG party that ends with going TO the game and watching it live from a luxury box!!!

JOE: And then when we returned our entire town of Batesville threw us a parade with the help of Doritos. The mayor gave us the key to the city, and the Governor gave us distinguished hoosier awards. It was a great party!

Joe and Dave and the Snowglobe and a whole lot of chips
Dave and Joe and the Snowglobe and a whole lot of chips

VCN: How have your lives changed since the win?

DAVE: Joe and I began pursuing dreams of filmmaking for about 5 years before we won, but winning has become our “big break” into the industry. After winning we were able to sign with a commercial repping firm that represents us nationally for commercial work. We’ve also partnered with an Indianapolis production company to produce commercials with us and have had small businesses and multi-million dollar companies contact us directly about doing spots for them which we’ve been doing – both writing and directing. We can finally say that we are professional filmmakers! On top of all of that we’ve signed with a manager in Los Angeles that represents us for writing/directing feature films and have had introductory meetings with numerous studios including Fox, Dreamworks, MGM, Universal, Lakeshore, Funny or Die, Comedy Central, and many others! We have two screenplays that we’re currently developing. Needless to say we’ve been having a lot of fun with our new jobs which on top of filmmaking includes launching a board game that we’ve been developing for almost 10 years. We went into debt before the contest began to finally manufacture our game, TRIVIATHON, and winning the bonus prize of $1M has definitely relieved that financial stress – especially since neither Joe nor I had a “real” job at the time. You can check out TRIVIATHON, which itself has won some major awards in the industry including 2009 Creative Child Magazine GAME OF THE YEAR, etc., at

JOE: While I can say without a doubt that YES it did change our lives I can also say without a doubt that it did NOT change us. We’ve had the pleasure of doing a lot of traveling as guest speakers at events all over the country and it amazes me how many people stop us afterward to point out how down to earth and genuine we are. We don’t do it on purpose, we just be ourselves, but I guess that’s the point, lol.

VCN: Aside from the money, what was the coolest thing to happen as a result of you winning the Crash the Superbowl challenge?

DAVE: Most people would probably be surprised to hear that the money WAS NOT even the coolest thing that has happened. I’m not motivated at all by money and it is not why we entered the contest. In fact, I haven’t really bought anything with the money and Joe hasn’t either. We gave around $90,000 to our team that volunteered and worked with us creating the spot, we’ve given a decent chunk to charity and are investing some of the winnings into an entrepreneurialy philanthropic adventure that we’ve had buzzing in our heads for the last few years… but aside from that have invested it into our board game and filmmaking careers. The experience itself is the real prize!!! You cannot buy it with all of the money in the world!!! The exposure that we’ve received and the lives that we’ve touched through the inspirational story that we’ve lived is as sweet as it gets! To chose one specific thing throughout the experience for me personally would be appearing as guests on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The rest of the exposure that we got was news, but Jay Leno is entertainment!!! News HAS to cover news worthy stories, but Jay Leno doesn’t have to have us on unless he wants to. Besides, three years prior, my four brothers and I agreed on a contest that would determine the “Most Famous Herbert Brother”…and that would be the first to appear as guest on a late night talk show! Joe and I won, but it was almost too easy only taking three years to accomplish. So we agreed to start the contest again and this time pick something a little harder. The winner of “Most Famous Herbert Brother” will now be determined by the first of us five to appear on the cover of a national magazine (bonus for being Time Magazine Man of the Year) -OR- have a road in a major city named after us. We like to have FUN!!!!

JOE: I agree with dave. I think the parade our town threw for us one of the coolest things. As part of the contest Doritos was supposed to pay us a million for taking the top spot. But nobody HAD to throw us a parade. That was special. Jay Leno was great too! I think both of us feel it’s not one moment in time to cherish now because it will be gone soon…. for us it was a beginning and not and end, so we’re just getting started. The coolest stuff to happen as a result of it haven’t happened yet…but it will. That’s making a movie… and seeing our board game become a huge hit.

The brothers sit down with former Doritos pitchman, Jay Leno
The brothers sit down with former Doritos pitchman, Jay Leno

VCN: What are your plans for the future?

DAVE: It’s great to plan for the future but I don’t like to get too far ahead of myself. Joe and I began the filmmaking quest a bit over 5 years ago and our goal then was to shoot a feature film, something that we have not done yet. Winning the Crash is definitly not the END of our story. We continue to develop our feature scripts, write and direct commercials, and push our board game, TRIVIATHON, into the market. Both Joe and I, and our other three brothers for that matter, are entrepreneurially minded and are always thinking of new adventures to start. But no matter what direction we get spun into we go at it with all we got and, as Doritos says, “GO BIG, OR GO HOME TRYING!”

JOE: I keep finding myself answering a question only to read the next question and see Dave answer something similar to what I said in the previous question. actually… GO HOME TRYING is not even an option for us because we’ll simply never stop trying. We don’t give up on anything. That’s why any disputes we had as kids are still disputed today.. and will be forever. lol. Making a movie and turning our board game into a success are definitely our plans. Both of us have great wives and a bunch of crazy kids, and our other plans for the future lies with them.

The brothers visit Madison Avenue to announce this year’s Crash

VCN: You’ve probably been asked this more that a few times but if you had to give one piece of advice to someone planning to enter this year’s Crash the Superbowl contest, what would it be?

DAVE: My advice is to THINK! Actually put more thought into it than, “Hey, here is an idea…let’s make it!” The concept is KEY!!! It has to be funny…and not just funny between you and your friends. It has to be funny to everyone. Think about who the audience is and make it funny for them, without forgetting about who the commerical is for – Doritos. Doritos will pick the six finalists so THEY have to like the commercial first for you to have a shot. Read the rules to find out what specifically they are looking for. There have been TEN finalists so far in past Doritos Crash contests… go onto YouTube and get a visual idea to see what Doritos has chosen in the past and view the type of quality your spot has to be. Be creative and ORIGINAL!!! And don’t be afraid to bring in professionals if you can. Filmmaking is a TEAM sport!!! Build the best team that you can. If no one on your team has experience in filmmaking you’re going to be at a severe disadvantage!!! Do whatever you can to give yourself the advantage!! Contact your local film commision (every large city has one – google search to find the site/contact info for yours) and get in touch with REAL filmmakers to build into your team. If you have a GREAT idea then some of them should be willing to work for FREE and even bring their own equipment (professional labor, camera, lights, sound, etc. for FREE!!!!!) If you can’t find people willing to work then your IDEA may not be as good as you think!!! Get professional crew if you can…equipment if you can… actors if you can. Don’t just be satisfied with rounding up some friends if you want to take a REAL shot at WINNING!!!! You are not competing against other amateurs…in the end you are competing against the absolute BEST in the business, and if you don’t go into it knowing that then you will lose! But, with the right idea, if it is created at a professional level you can be the next million dollar media darling!!!!!! It’s worth the shot, and we’ve proved it possible. All that’s left is simply doing it!!!

JOE: Just because we did it, doesn’t mean someone can’t do it in a totally different way, and everyone should rely on their own gut feelings… that said my advice, for what it’s worth, is exactly what Dave said. And here’s my top 10 of things to rethink when entering the contest:

10. Doritos made nasty in some way then eaten anyhow does NOT make anyone want to buy and/or eat Doritos!

9. If you finished the commercial the same day you thought of it, OUCH!

8. If the BEST thing about your commercial is something from the toolbox, GOOD LUCK!

7. Doritos being used as a paper football is NOT a new idea!

6. Just because Halloween is coming up does NOT mean it’s smart to use your costume! (thieves, ninjas, monsters, etc.)

5. Just because it’s the Super Bowl doesn’t mean it has to be a commercial involving football! (of the 10 finalists in previous years none were)

4. Your pets and your kids are not half as cute or funny as YOU think they are!

3. Doritos orange dust finger prints has been done only a few hundred times!

2. Doritos causing a loser to get a hot girl has only been done a few thousand times!

1. Doritos bags treated like a person (especially dating a bag) has only been done a few million times!

MY OPINION ONLY – and I’m sure now that I said it that this years winners will have all the above, lol!

VCN:  Thanks for the great interview guys.  I’m going to get back to working on my entry right now!

5 thoughts on “VCN Interview with Crash champs, the Herbert Bros!

  1. Great article Beardy. The Herbert Brothers are very accessible and truly down to earth people. I couldn’t think of more salt of the earth peeps to represent the Freelance Community. Keep up the good work brother.

  2. wow, very good stuff. I loved the snowglobe commercial last year. It’ll be hard to top. Must have been a b-tch to light that set and rig all those sheets of glass.

  3. Great article! I’m about to begin filming my own spot for this and have been scouring the web for any info and advice I can find. Haha this has been so much fun procrastinating on my architecture work for the sake of trying to make a really creative spot. I wish Doritos had posted up the Herbert Brothers Top 10 lest of what not to do on their site because those ideas are running rampant there but I guess on the upside it means the Doritos PR guys did a phenomenal job advertising this contest

  4. Ahh! It’s “Tamorris!” I’ve been reading your comments on the Crash the Superbowl site. You’re pissing people off but I think pretty much all of your comments are spot on. There are A LOT of not great entries and I also can’t believe some of the stuff that’s been submitted. You seem to know what you’re talking about so I can’t wait to see your entry!

  5. Haha yeah, the infamous title hasn’t been intentional, but it happens. I’m taking the I am who I am approach.

    Like I said to Jared, my goal isn’t to be condescending in the least bit, but I am amazed by some of the work submitted. I feel like a LOT of the people never paused for 2 minutes to ask themselves “If this wasn’t my own work would I ACTUALLY want to have see this aired amidst the best of the best during the Super Bowl?” I was actually inspired to get into this contest late in the game because I was couldn’t believe the lack of quality, but Jared assures me a large number of top competitors will be entering in mass towards the end which is exciting.

    I’m no pro by a LONG SHOT, I’m admittedly very much a rookie to all this. I do, however, find any creative work of interesting, it’s part of my career path which is why I have fun taking 20 minutes a day just to type up some quick thoughts. So far a lot of people aren’t taking it well, but my view is what good does telling everyone “good job” do if it’s just to make them feel better? I’m glad so many people are picking up the camera to have some fun, because regardless film making is always fun, but I’d love to see the bar of the submissions raised much higher for the sake of everyone. Everything else is meant for YouTube and emailing family and friends.

    Great job on your interview again! It was really informative!


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