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VCN Interview with 2015 Crash the Super Bowl finalist and the creator of “Lemonade Stand,” Dave Horowitz

Dave and his lemonade stand

The “Lemonade Stand” team

This year’s crop of Crash the Super Bowl finalists was really, really weird.  There were a few ok entries, a few terrible entries, a few ultra-low budget entries, a few gross entries, a few boring entries and one entry that was almost certainly a rip-off of an old ad from Europe.  So there were only two commercials in the Top Ten that I thought deserved to air during the Super Bowl; Middle Seat and Lemonade Stand.  It turns out Middle Seat was created by a professional director that already has a successful career so for the last few weeks I’ve been voting for Lemonade Stand…
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As it happens, the creator of this ad, Dave Horowitz is a fan of VCN and he actually sent me “Lemonade Stand” to review a few months ago.  It’s quite possible that I literally groaned out load when I saw the title; lemonade stands are one of the lamest and most over-done crowdsourced video tropes.  (I once warned filmmakers about this problem in a short lived feature I use to write entitled “Know Your Tropes.”)  But to my surprise, THIS lemonade stand-themed video contest entry was actually fresh, original and funny!  So let’s talk to Dave and find out how he created this commercial:

VCN:  Dave, why don’t you tell us about yourself.  Where are you from?  What do you do for a living?

DH:  I grew up in El Paso, Texas and went to school at the University of Rochester and Tokyo International University. I majored in Japanese and was set on doing something in the business world after college, but I couldn’t suppress my passion for film making so I began my tumultuous journey into the film world. The last 17 years haven’t exactly gone as planned so I have supported myself by slinging drinks and managing a bar at Sushi Roku here in Santa Monica, where i currently reside.

VCN:  Have you ever entered the crash the super bowl contest before?

I entered about 5 years ago and it was a pretty bad one. The irony about the first ad that I submitted was that it also involved a trope that you warned against doing as this one involved a guy who dressed up like a corn chip. If you are surrounded with a good core group of film makers, it will naturally be reflected in your film, so over the years you learn which people you want to work with and which ones you shouldn’t work with. And it’s on these type of mediocre projects that you learn the most from because learning what you shouldn’t do is sometimes more valuable that what you should do. That’s part of the process of cultivating a good network of people. The director of Lemonade Stand had entered 4 times and one of them I believe spoofed The Exorcist, and the guy who came up with the idea was a CTSB virgin. More on him later though.

VCN:  What is your favorite Crash the Super Bowl commercial of all time?

DH:  I of course loved Time Machine last year. I think there are a lot of similarities between our commercials with an adorable kid bamboozling an unsuspecting adult, but I’m a sucker for animals (especially dogs) and my favorite of all time was probably Man’s Best Friend. I heard the Great Dane in that video recently passed away, so my condolences go out to the family of that ad.

VCN:  Where did you get the idea for lemonade stand?

It was funny because for the last 5 years the writer Richard Jindapornsuk (a waiter at Sushi Roku) has been bugging me to submit an ad and during slower hours at the bar, he would pitch ideas to me. Quite frankly most of them ranged from mediocre to absolutely horrific, but then one day during last year’s CTSB contest, he pitched the general idea for Lemonade Stand and my eyes immediately lit up. I knew with a little finessing, we had a potentially great commercial on our hands. We only had 3 weeks left during last year’s contest to submit and because I knew that this idea warranted extensive preparation, we should take the chance and wait a year to properly execute the idea. Fortunately for us, Doritos announced another CTSB contest in September and we immediately went to work. Choosing the right location and finding our little girl were the 2 top priorities and challenges that we faced, and I knew that we wouldn’t find these over night. Ironically enough, after an exhaustive search, the little girl Addison Aguilera was literally right under our nose. A close friend of mine overheard a conversation I was having about the frustrations of finding a talented 7-year old actress in Los Angeles, and he interjected and said, “My niece is an actress…check her out.” So we saw that she had some good experience with some national spots and sat down with her, and within 30 seconds, we knew our search was over and we found our little auctioneer.

VCN:  Who helped you create the ad?

DH:  Once Richard and I locked in a script, I approached one of my best friends, Nick Sivakumaran to direct. He’s a directing teacher at the NYFA here in Los Angeles and I knew he would be perfect for this. Working with children is never easy even with someone as talented as Addison, and Nick has 2 kids of his own, so he has that invaluable inexperience, patience, and language that children really respond to. Additionally, Nick and I, have a long working history together as we won a video contest for Lifestyles Condoms 20 years ago, which aired for a brief period of time on MTV and won us a few bucks. The irony isn’t lost on us that 20 years later, we team up again for a video contest that has a lot more at stake.

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VCN:  What kind of camera did you use?

DH:  We used a black magic and shot it on 4k. Nick brought on his D.P., Gonzalo Digenio, who I had the good fortune of working with on a couple of Wetzel Pretzel’s training videos. I knew he was good, but I was truly astounded how beautiful the colors in the Lemonade Stand turned out. It’s such a luxury to shoot on a 4k camera because you have the flexibility to do so much like punch in, zoom in, or even smooth out a shot without compromising the resolution. We were very fortunate to have so many talented members of the crew and cast.

VCN:  How did production go?

DH:  When your budget is as small as ours, production never goes as smoothly as you would like. We spent only $1,200, but obviously when you have as many years as I do cultivating relationships, you are able to call in favors, so everyone pretty much worked for free, and most of the equipment we used was free too. The only things we really paid for were food, permits, and the actual Lemonade Stand. Richard’s girlfriend volunteered to design the Stand because we really wanted a female perspective and she did a hell of a job. We told her we wanted vivid bright colors and she ran with it. The fact that the permit only allowed us to shoot the ad in one day added to our stress levels so we knew we had very little margin for error. Additionally we had no idea which bidders we were going to use in the film so we decided to have about 30 show up. As we fell behind in the day, more bidders waited to shoot their scenes so we had a lot of people milling about on other people’s front lawns. Fortunately, we had a great location with a very tolerant neighborhood, so no one was upset at the end of the day. It was really a race against time with the sun setting around 6, but luckily we were able to get all of our shots. When I would edit the ad a few days later, most of the 30 bidders ended up on the cutting room floor, but it really improved the ad cause we had so many to choose from. Due to the frenetic nature of the shoot, we didn’t have enough cups in the money shot when Sticky Hands Slater is eating his Doritos, so it didn’t have the humorous impact that we originally envisioned. So we CG’d in more cups, and if you were to freeze that shot and you counted all the cups, you would count 84…that’s how accurate we were.

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VCN:  How and when did you find out you made the finals?

DH:  I found out we made the finals in mid-December. I was at the gym and I’m about 30 minutes into my workout on the stair master when I get a call from a woman in San Fran. She said she was Elizabeth Banks and she was calling on behalf of Doritos to congratulate me in making the finals. You can imagine that I pretty much almost fell off the Stair Master. I think I was so out of breath that Elizabeth had to ask a couple of times if I was still there or not.

VCN:  What have you been doing to get out the vote?

DH:  Wow, what a process. I don’t think anyone can imagine how much work goes into campaign. It truly is a full time job. I considered myself somewhat socially media savvy, but once this campaign started I realized how little I knew and how fast my learning curve would have to be. We have mostly used Facebook and Twitter to help drive people to vote. To help supplement the commercial, we shot about 70 promo videos that provided each character with a background and a story. Like for example, the unwitting bidder at 84 is one of those guys who still lives in the past. “Sticky Hands Slater” claims he caught 130 touchdown catches in high school and never once dropped a pass. Of course, he’s 40 years old and still living with his mom. We really tried to have fun with all the wonderful characters in the ad. We shot another video with Addison practicing her auctioneering skills on her dolls. We also brought Addison and the Lemonade Stand down to Hollywood and Highland and had her pass out flyers, Doritos, and lemonade, and a news crew filmed it and we got some great press out of it.

VCN:  Are you excited about the super bowl? Who are you taking with you?

DH:  I am so excited about the Super Bowl. Being a Jet fan, I figured this was the only way someone of my ilk would be able to go. I think it goes without saying who I will be rooting for, but I will be watching the commercials with a tad bit more interest than the actual game. Nick, the director will be going as Richard the writer is noble enough to volunteer and stay home.

VCN:  Have any final thoughts for us?

DH:  I really want to thank Doritos for putting together an amazing contest. The fact that they give opportunities to people like me who have been hitting the pavement for 20 years, is something that I am so appreciative of. This has been an unforgettable experience and sometimes I find it hard to believe it is all happening. I also want to thank all of my loyal friends, family members, acquaintances, and the amazing amount of people who have supported us during this campaign. I have been humbled by all of the unwavering support and am very fortunate to have such a great group of people behind the project. To the amazing crew and cast who believed in the project since the very beginning, I also thank you for your immeasurable contributions. Thanks Dan for the interview as I truly appreciate your time and consideration.

VCN:  Thanks Dave for taking the time to talk to us!

If anyone would like more info about this project, head to votelemonadestand.com.  And there are still a few days of voting left so if you’d like to vote for Dave’s ad, just click this link and hit the vote button:  https://crashthesuperbowl.doritos.com/finalists#/6514

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How much does it cost to make the Crash the Super Bowl finals?

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Frito-Lay has published the budgets for all 10 Crash the Super Bowl finalists and the numbers are all over the place.  The judges really picked a diverse set of finalists here.  Well….I mean to say they picked a FINANCIALLY diverse set of finalists.  The roster of filmmakers that created these ads isn’t diverse at all.  All ten of them are white guys.  But let’s save that PC rant for another day and focus on the good news; a lot of low-budget entries managed to make the top 10.  And here’s another fun fact: there are ZERO re-peat finalists this year.  Hardcore Crash the Super Bowl fans will understand why that’s a big deal.  A lot of the same people seem to win this contest every year.  Doritos has run The Crash 8 times now and they picked at least one re-peat finalist in 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.  But I guess that trend has finally been broken.  So the 2015 finalists are all first-timers.  That’s kinda neat.  Anyways, here’s what everyone spent on their entries:

1. “Doritos Angler” by James Bedford, UK: $20
2. “What Could Go Wrong?” by Alex Pepper, USA: $80
3. “Trouble in the Back Seat” by Jason Johnson, USA: $100
4. “Baby’s First Word” by Travis Braun, USA: $350
5. “Mis-Spelling Bee” by Brian Kleinschmidt, USA: $500
6. “Doritos Manchild” by Armand de Saint-Salvy, Australia: $700
7. “Selfish Sneezers” by Devon Ferguson, Canada: $800
8. “The Lemonade Stand” by David Horowitz, USA: $1,200
9. “When Pigs Fly” by Graham Talbot, Canada: $1,200
10. “Middle Seat” by Scott Zabielski, USA: $2,000

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s what a $2,000 video contest entry looks like:

Two grand is a lot of money to spend on a commercial that has a 1 in 4,900 chance of winning a million dollars.  But there are only two “great” entries on this list and “Middle Seat” is one of them.  But that ad looks like it cost a lot more than $2,000.  The director didn’t just pull out his camera and start filming on a real plane.  That’s a set that filmmakers in LA can rent.  But I’m guessing the director was able to call in a lot of favors because guess what…?  His name is Scott Zabielski and that dude is the producer and director of Tosh.0!  His IMDB page says he’s directed 139 episodes of the Comedy Central show.  (I assume that’s all of them)  This news came as a bit of a shock because The Crash is supposed to be for amateur filmmakers who want to break into the industry and win their “Dream Job” at Universal Studios.  But it sounds like Mr. Zabielski already has a dream job.  What’s going to happen if he wins?  Is he going to quit Tosh.0 so he can become a glorified assistant at Universal?  In January 2012 it was announced that Zabielski was going to direct the new Police Academy movie.   That film’s been in development hell for five years now and he’s no longer attached to the project.  But there’s no way that will be his last, big offer.  Eventually he’s going to get a chance to direct a major motion picture and his career will be set.

So why did he feel that he needed this opportunity too?  Is he just after the million bucks?  I don’t think it’s ethical for a successful pro to try and compete in a contest that was created for “aspiring” filmmakers.  But I will say this; so far no one associated with Tosh.0 has asked people to vote for “Middle Seat.”  That’s a lucky break for the other finalists because if Daniel Tosh or Comedy Central or Tosh.0’s twitter account were to plug Zabielski’s entry, “Middle Seat” would win the online vote (and the million dollars) in a landslide.

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JANUARY 15th UPDATE: 

Wow.  It looks like this post really freaked somebody out.  I’ve been getting slammed with angry comments all day.  Basically “people” are mad that I said it was unethical for the director of “Middle Seat” (and Tosh.0), Scott Zabielski, to enter the Crash the Super Bowl contest because he was already a very successful filmmaker.  All of the comments were coming from first-time commenters and most of them were posted under goofy, fake names.  So after a few hours it became obvious that something fishy was going on.  Here’s the first comment that I received:

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This person claimed to be a former Crash the Super Bowl finalist.  So I decided to check VCN’s traffic logs and see who actually left this comment.  Here’s the data for Mr. “Cheerios Are the Best.”

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Heh.  Ok.  Well, I guess there are two possibilities here.  Either a former Crash the Super Bowl finalist quit filmmaking to work for William Morris or Scott Zabielski is represented by someone at the agency.

That was just the first of maybe 9 or 10 weird comments I got today.  I won’t post them all.  If you’d like to read them, just check out the comment section of this post.  Basically a bunch of “people” called me a few names, defended Zabielski and told me my opinions were ridiculous.  Most of it was run-of-the-mill anonymous Internet smack talk.  But a few comments were a little more sinister.  Some “people” tried to divert attention away from the Tosh.0 guy by bashing three other Crash the Super Bowl finalists.  As you already saw, the William Morris guy accused one finalist of plagiarism.  And a commenter named “Michael Brannigan” tried to out two other finalists as “professionals.”  He even provided links to these directors’ websites.  But Brannigan’s definition of a pro was pretty generous.  One guy did have some great commercials on his site but “Brannigan” didn’t realize that they were all video contest entries.  And the biggest thing the other filmmaker ever shot was a promo for the Sochi Olympics.  One promo and some spec ads hardly put these guys on the same level as the producer/director of Comedy Central’s highest-rated show.

So where did these comments come from?  They all came from different IP addresses but most of the comments were made with an iPhone on AT&T’s wireless network.  Also, none of these users were “referred” to the site by an outside link.  So they didn’t get to VCN via twitter or facebook or wherever.  They either had this article bookmarked or they typed the actual address to VCN in their browser:

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I’m guessing that the iPhone Guy’s IP address kept changing because he was out and about and he kept jumping onto different networks.  But late last night I got another comment from the iPhone guy….

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I guess iPhone Guy was home by then because he was logged into his personal Wifi account…..

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So Mr. iPhone Guy, the guy who had been posting angry comments all day using multiple IP addresses, fake names and fake e-mail addresses and who had tried to make some of the other Crash the Super Bowl finalists look bad lives in Burbank, California.  I wonder who else lives in Burbank…..

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I’ve been covering the Crash the Super Bowl contest since 2009 and I’ve never had something like this happen before.  Obviously I don’t know for sure that Zabielski (and maybe his agent) were behind all the nasty comments I got today but I’d be willing to bet Dollars to Doritos that Zabielski owns an iPhone and that he has VideoContestNews.com saved in his bookmarks.

If the director of “Middle Seat” really did do all this it was a pretty dumb move on his part.  The rules of the Crash the Super Bowl contest are pretty clear…..

Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual deemed to be (a) tampering or attempting to tamper with the entry or voting process or the operation of the Contest or any Sponsor or Contest-related Web Site; (b) violating these Official Rules; (c) violating the Contest Sites’ terms of service, conditions of use and/or applicable general rules or guidelines; (d) acting in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person; or (e) engaging in fraud, dishonesty or illegal activity; (f) attempting to deliberately damage or corrupt or otherwise attempting to undermine the legitimate operation of the Contest, and/or Sponsor’s business operations, including without limitation by cheating, hacking, deception, and/or other unfair practices, including but not limited to using automated entry or voting programs and/or devices; (g) colluding to alter the results of the Contest; and/or (h) giving false or misleading information to Sponsor or Contest Parties.

Mr. iPhone Guy behaved in an unsportsmanlike manner today.  He also harassed and annoyed another person and because he used fake names and e-mail addresses, he engaged in fraud and dishonesty.  If a that person turns out to be a Crash the Super Bowl finalist he could be in danger of being disqualified.

Fortunately for Zabielski, it would be almost impossible for anyone to prove who actually posted all these comments.  So let this story be a warning to all you Crash the Super Bowl finalists out there.  If some dumbass blogger doesn’t like your entry (or the fact that you entered a contest for “aspiring” filmmakers even though you’re already the director of one of the most popular shows on cable) don’t send that guys a bunch of nasty anonymous comments.  But if you do feel the need to talk some trash, at least be a man and use your real name.
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Doritos reveals a strange slate of Crash the Super Bowl finalists

crashthesuperbowlfinalistsThe first Monday after January 1st is one of my favorite days of the year.  I love Christmas and I always have a lot of fun on New Year’s Eve but the rest of late December is excruciatingly boring.  It’s just dark and cold and everything is closed and the whole world is at a standstill.  But thankfully the holidays are officially behind us which means we can all finally get back to work.  And the first item on the agenda for 2015 is the Crash the Super Bowl contest!  This morning FritoLay’s picks for the finals were revealed in a short segment on the Today show.  You can see the full clip here and I suggest you watch it just so you can see the AGONY on Carson Daley’s face as he’s forced to read a “news story” that’s obviously just a big commercial for Doritos.

Out of 4,900 entries and 29 semi-finalists, these are the 10 entries that will advance to the finals.

1. “Doritos Angler” by James Bedford, UK
2. “Baby’s First Word” by Travis Braun, USA
3. “Selfish Sneezers” by Devon Ferguson, Canada
4. “The Lemonade Stand” by David Horowitz, USA
5. “Trouble in the Back Seat” by Jason Johnson, USA
6. “Mis-Spelling Bee” by Brian Kleinschmidt, USA
7. “What Could Go Wrong?” by Alex Pepper, USA
8. “Doritos Manchild” by Armand de Saint-Salvy, Australia
9. “When Pigs Fly” by Graham Talbot, Canada
10. “Middle Seat” by Scott Zabielski, USA

This list is really a mixed bag (pun intended).  The quality of these entries is all over the place and there are some very weird choices here.  A few of these ads are bad, a few are boring and a few are good.  None of them are horribly terrible but on the other hand, none of them are amazingly great.

FritoLay has run the Crash the Super Bowl contest 8 times now and this is the first year that they’ve picked more than 5 or 6 finalists.   I think the organizers decided to expand the list of finalists so they could include a few international entries on the list.  Very few GOOD entries came from people outside of the US but it wouldn’t look right if all the finalists in Doritos “global” contest were Made in America.  Plus the inclusion of a few entries from the UK, Canada and Australia ensures that the media in those countries will probably promote their local finalists.  So including mediocre international entries is a clever way to get a lot of free publicity.  And the tactic is already working.  Just take a look at some of the CTSB stories that were published online today….

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Everyone loves a little free publicity but FritoLay is playing a dangerous game here.  By expanding the number of finalists the judges have increased the chances that a bad or embarrassing ad will air during the Super Bowl.  Two fan-made Doritos commercials are going to air during the big game. One will be picked by the judges and the other will be picked via an online vote.  So what will happen if this video from Canada gets the most votes and makes it to air?
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I still don’t understand how that entry made the semi-finals and I’m stunned that it actually advanced to the top 10.  It’s one of the grossest commercials I’ve ever seen and it certainly doesn’t make me hungry for Doritos.  Can you imagine how twitter and facebook would react to such a disguesting commercial?  Or how about this ad from the UK?
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People do not want to hear loud, annoying screams during a TV commercial.  Thousands of people across the country would be tweeting and posting that “this screaming Doritos fish needs to STFU!” before the ad was even over.

I’ve always believed that the Crash the Super Bowl contest was 100% fair and on the level.  But this slate of finalists has me wondering if maybe FritoLay has the ability to somehow manipulate the votes or alter the results if they don’t like the ad that “the public” selects.  I just can’t imagine that a multi-billion dollar corporation would really spend four million dollars to air a commercial during the Super Bowl that features a bunch of dudes spraying snot all over the delicious chips they’re trying to sell.

Now having said all that, I want to mention that I actually like a few of these entries.  If the judges had only picked 5 finalists they could have come up with a really strong line-up.  The decision to select 10 commercials might get the company some extra international press attention but I don’t think the free publicity is worth the damage that’s being done to the Crash the Super Bowl brand.

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Doritos wants you to create “movie posters” for the Crash the Super Bowl Semi-Finalists

FritoLay has decided to use a tiny crowdsourced ad contest to promote a gigantic crowdsouced ad contest.  Over on the company’s new Legion of the Bold platform, Doritos fans are being asked to create “movie posters” for any of the consumer-made commercials that made this year’s Crash the Super Bowl Semi-Finals.  Here’s the relevant copypasta:

Attention Movie Buffs! We’re looking for bold Doritos® movie poster ads that will turn heads and spark excitement to vote on the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl finalists. Crash the Super Bowl is an annual online commercial competition run by Doritos, where fans get to create, vote on, and pick our next Super Bowl commercial—the biggest of big leagues. Each year at least one fan-made commercial is guaranteed to air during the Super Bowl. This year, two ads will air, and one finalist will win a dream job at Universal Pictures and a million dollars. Cha. Ching.

Want in on the action? On December 1st our twenty-nine semi-finalists were announced. Pick a semi-finalist ad and come up with a Hollywood-worthy movie poster for that ad. If that ad is selected as one of the ten finalists in the contest, your poster could be used during the voting phase of our Crash the Super Bowl promotion! Fame and glory, thy name is Doritos.

Ten poster-makers will win $200 each.  No that is not a typo.  The biggest prize you can win in this contest is 200 bucks.  I have no idea why FritoLay would offer millions of dollars in prizes for the Crash the Super Bowl contest and then cheap out when it comes to promoting the CTSB finalists.  How many people are really going to spend an hour or two creating a 24 x 36 inch. 300dpi, CMYK poster in exchange for the opportunity to maybe win $200?  Hmmm, actually, that’s a good question.  I wonder if they’ll even get 10 entries.  Hey, maybe I’ll slap a couple submissions together tonight!  They’ll probably suck but if less than 10 people enter I’ll be guaranteed to make a couple hundred bucks.  If you want to enter too, you better hurry; the deadline is December 16th at 11:59PM.  Details here:  https://www.doritoslegionofthebold.com/assignments/6

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VCN reviews all 29 Crash the Super Bowl Semi-Finalists

This year FritoLay received closed to 4,900 entries for the 2014-2015 installment of the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  It took about a month for the judges to go through all the submissions but on Monday they finally revealed their 29 Semi-finalists.  And as always, everyone is pissed off by which commercials made the cut.  I have to say, I think a lot of the anger and confusion is justified.  This isn’t a very strong line-up.  It seems like the judges went out of their way to pick ads from countries other than the US.  And I guess I can understand that.  But all those sub-par international really brings down the average for the entire slate of semi-finalists.

As promised I’ve spent the last few hours watching and reviewing all the ads that made it to the next round.  I wish I could post the videos for all these entries but if I tried to embed 29 youtube videos in one post my site would crash.  So I will just post a few of them.  Each video will be ranked in ascending order.  So the entries I liked the least will be first and the entries I liked the best will be last. I’ll also give a Production Quality score and a Story score for each ad.
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#29:  “Selfish Sneezersby Devon Ferguson, Canada:  I really can’t believe the judges would pick this one.  It’s disgusting.  Have you ever seen a disgusting TV commercial for a food product?  Of course you haven’t. Maybe the judges picked this one for the shock value but I think it’s dangerous to put out imagery like this.  The next time I’m at the grocery store reaching for a bag of Doritos, what if I subconsciously think of slimy, snot-covered chips?  Production Quality:  5.  Story: 2.

#28:  “Meditastingby Luke Seer Brown, Australia:  I’ve seen this entry 4 or 5 times now and I can never remember what it’s about.  That’s because nothing actually happens in this ad.  The effects are cool and the actor actually gives a great performance but there’s no plot.  This ad feels like the first 30 seconds of a 2-minute mockumentary about a zen master who loves Doritos.  Also, that opening shot of the guy holding a real samurai sword to his throat is a little disturbing…isn’t it?  Production Quality: 8.  Story: 1.

27:  “The Pink Slipby David Olson, USA:  I hate to be so flat-out negative but this just isn’t a very good commercial.  It’s a good effort but it simply looks bad.  The lighting is especially unattractive.  The Doritos-muncher guy has a big shiny spot on his forehead.  I also think this entry was miscast.  It always bugs me when I see video contest entries that feature a 26 year old boss.  Production Quality: 2.  Story: 2.
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#26:  “Thief Catcherby Johan A. du Toit, Canada:  There’s just no logic to this entry.  Character A tells Character B that his Doritos have been stolen.  Character B finds the “stolen” Doritos and grabs them so he can return them to Character A.  But the whole thing was a trap.  The Doritos were never stolen.  They were placed in that room under a bucket of tar by Character A.  But why?  Why set a trap if the chips weren’t really stolen?  It felt like the whole “plot” was just an excuse to show the tar-and-feather gag.  Production Quality: 6.  Story: 2.
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#25:  “Trouble in the Back Seatby Jason Johnson, USA:  There’s something about this one that I just don’t like.  I could swear I’ve seen this idea before.  The whole premise just feels so familiar.  Does anyone know what I’m talking about?  If you can think of another commercial or a TV show or movie that used a joke like this, post the info in the comment section.  Production Quality: 5.  Story:  3. 

UPDATE:  This post was only up for about 3 hours before a reader named Tim posted a link to the exact commercial I was thinking of.  It’s an ad from the UK and I’m 100% positive I’ve seen it before.  I think it once aired during one of those “most outrageous foreign commercials”-type shows.  I suspect this ad was the “inspiration” for “Trouble in the Back Seat”.  Here it is….
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#24:  “Cheesy Teasyby Perry Lang, USA:  This is a pretty good idea but I’m not crazy about the execution.  The set feels too cramped and I don’t like the lead actor.  I think a more experienced character actor could have turned this script into something amazing.  Still…it was ok.  Production Quality: 5.  Story: 6.

#23:  “History Bitesby Adam J. Hardy, USA:  This one is a big mess.  The set-up (Doritos don’t belong in history) has a ton of potential but the script feels like a rough first draft.  There are some good ideas buried in here but the jokes are all jumbled together.  The shot of Napoleon with his Doritos hat should have been cut.  It just didn’t belong.  This entry also loses a lot of points because the audio is really bad.  I couldn’t understand the first line and the first line sets up the whole story.  Production Quality: 4.  Story: 6.
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#22:  “Doritos Manchildby Armand de Saint-Salvy, Australia:  Ahem….I hate to use the word “hate” but yo….I hate video contest entries like this.  These type of ads introduce a strange character and then do nothing with them.  The director films a bunch of funny vignettes and then fails to tie them together with a story.  This video doesn’t have a beginning, middle or end.  It just starts, continues and finally stops when the time runs out.  Production Quality:  8.  Story: 1.

#21:  “Mis-Spelling Beeby Brian Kleinschmidt, USA:  I don’t like fart jokes.  I just don’t.  And they really, really, REALLY don’t belong in a commercial for a food product.  To make things worse, the boy in this commercial responds to the girl’s fart by saying “P.U.!” which means the fart was especially stinky.  Stinky farts don’t make me want to eat Doritos.  I think the judges picked this one because they’re hoping that it might become a viral hit before the actual finalists are announced.  Production Quality: 6.  Story: 3.

#20: “Summer of ’64by Dan Stowell, USA: This is another “totally ok” entry. It wasn’t funny but it was sort of amusing. Um….yeah, not much else to say about this one. Production Quality: 7. Story: 4.

#19:  “Baby’s First Wordby Travis Braun, USA:  Wow, I’m having a hard time reviewing the entries that are just so-so. Was this one bad?  Certainly not.  Was it good?  Ehhhhh.  It looks like a “real” TV commercial but the story feels like something we’ve seen many times before.  Production Quality: 8.  Story: 4.

#18:  “Blind Dateby Haidy Bahgat Zakher Ibrahim, Egypt:  This entry is also absolutely, totally, perfectly fine.  It’s not amazing but it’s not terrible.  It’s ok. But if it was shot by someone from the US I don’t think it would have made the semi-finals.  The judges had to pick a few “just fine” entries from other countries and I have to assume this was literally the best ad that was shot in the entire Middle East this year. Production Quality:  6.  Story: 4.

#17: “Doritos Anglerby James Bedford, UK: I love absurd, strange and semi-creepy CTSB ads like this one. However, I happen to hate screaming in commercials. Actually everyone hates screaming in commercials! Viewers already have their hands on the remote as soon as a show goes to a break. And as soon as a loud, annoying ad starts playing people click away. So while I do like the weirdness of this entry it could never air on TV. Everyone would be on twitter and facebook complaining about that loud annoying fish commercial. And speaking of complaints, a lot of people would probably be upset that the director used an actual dead fish as a puppet. Production Quality: 6. Story: 7.
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#16:  “Nice Bagby Carl Vasile, USA:  This entry is one long joke about ball sacks.  What else can I say about it?  It is what it is.  I guess it was one of  the best ball-sack-themed CTSB ads I’ve ever seen but I don’t expect this one will be advancing to the finals.  Production Quality: 8.  Story: 5.

#15: “When Pigs Flyby Graham Talbot, Canada: This entry looks amazing but frankly, I don’t like it. The story is really flimsy. The whole thing is just an excuse to show us a CGI joke of a pig with a rocket on his back. The flying pig wasn’t a strong enough punchline because everyone knew it was coming. Some kind of last second twist could have turned “When Pigs Fly” into something special. And this might sound weird but I think this entry is actually a little over-produced. The kid comes across as a child actor and not an actual kid. Plus did you notice even the cows in this ad were CG?? Production Quality: 8. Story: 4.

#14:  “Doritos Handby Todd Dack, USA:  The production quality and the performances are great.  I liked the premise and the set-up but the ending is a little weak.  I wish something a little crazier had happened to the guy who stuck his hand in the bag.  This entry really needed some kind of weird twist to put it over the top.  Production Quality: 8.  Story: 6.

$13:  “Wish Upon a Doritoby Matthew Shoychet, Canada:  If I had one wish I’d wish for a dollar for every CTSB ad I’ve seen about magic wishes.  This is a concept that’s been done to death.  This particular version of the wish-gone-wrong trope is kinda fun but the ending is a little soft.  If you’re going to do a wish-gone-wrong you should aim higher and end on a really crazy note.  Production Quality: 4.  Story: 5.

#12: “Gone Apeby Hugh Fleming, Australia: “Gone Ape” has a perfect set-up but it just kind of peters out after the first 20 seconds. I don’t think the scientists needed to say anything at the end of the ad. I would have rather seen the gorilla do something funny. Also I gotta say, that was one creepy-ass gorilla! I think it was the human eyes. It kind of felt like there was a person trapped inside the body of a gorilla. Production Quality: 8. Story: 6.

#11: “What Could Go Wrong?by Alex Pepper, USA: Heh…I love this premise. It’s brilliantly twisted. I just wish it looked and sounded more professional! This is one ad that would be perfect if it just looked slicker….you know, like a sappy big-city dance/romance movie? The director of this ad definitely has a lot of potential though. The shots and pacing were great. Anybody can hire a great cinematographer but it takes talent to come up with a simple and shocking story like this. Production Quality: 4. Story: 9.
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#10:  “Girl Voiceby Keith Hopkin, USA:  This might sound nuts but I’ve come to the conclusion that the director of “Girl Voice” might be a natural-born filmmaker.  When you first see this ad you might think it looks kind of crappy and that the guys look like slobs.  But I think the director made some very clever decisions about how this ad should look.   As it is, “Girl Voice” is funny and weird and kind of endearing.  But imagine what this idea would look like if it was shot with a big fancy camera, a full professional crew and good-looking actors.  It would have zero charm.  It’s a simple, low-budget, “amateur” idea and it only works because it’s been paired with a low-budget, “amateur” look.  Production Quality:  3.  Story:  6.

#9:  “Buried Treasureby Jessica Sattelberger, USA:  This is a cute ad but some people are upset that it made the semi-finals because it violates the rules of the contest.  Entries aren’t supposed to feature firearms.  Not only does “Buried Treasure” include a bunch of guns, the ad ends with those guns being pointed right in a man’s face.  So why did the judges pick an entry that should have been disqualified?  I really hate to say this but I think they let the rule violation slide because the director was a woman.  Out of 29 semi-finalists, only 2 are women!  That’s bananas and totally sucks.  But picking an ineligible entry for the semi-finals sucks too.  Production Quality: 7.  Story: 7.

#8:  “The Portalby Jorgen Persson, Sweden:  Man, that was weird.  I liked it but I don’t think it would go over well during the Super Bowl.  The story progresses slowly and viewers have to pay attention to get the ending.  I guess this entry is the exact opposite of the gross and shocking ads that managed to make the semi-finals.  Leave it to a Swede to create a strange, silent, thoughtful Superbowl ad about an art gallery.  Production Quality:  10.  Story: 7.

#7:  “Mom?by Markus Erhart, Germany:  I wasn’t surprised at all when I learned this ad was from Germany.  That blonde kid is the most German-looking person I’ve ever seen.  This is far and away the best “International” submission.  The story is actually driven by drama and suspense!  The viewer is drawn in and there is a fun sense of relief and surprise when the story concludes.  As a bonus, the plot here is driven by the characters’ love of Doritos.  Production Quality: 8.  Story: 8.

#6:  “I Did Thatby Zeke Hunter, USA:  I have mixed feelings about this ad.  On one hand, it’s funny and entertaining.  On the other, it features gags that have literally been used in hundreds of other CTSB entries.  I would guess that least 70 people a year submit ads that feature actors in giant doritos suits.  And I have seen the girl-with-orange-hand prints-on-her-butt gag a bunch of times over the years.  So even though this was a good commercial, it probably should have gotten a very low “originality” rating.  Production Quality: 7Story: 4.

#5:  “Dog Dreamsby Brandon Morris, USA:  Ok come on….do I even have to review this one?  It’s an original idea, it stars a cute dog and the effects are perfect.  It seems like a shoo-in for the finals.  But there is one problem with this ad; the guy in the car isn’t wearing a seat-belt.  That might sound like a small issue but there are a lot of federal regulations that advertisers must follow.  I’m not sure if FritoLay could actually get this ad approved for broadcast because it features scenes of unsafe driving.  Production Quality: 10.  Story: 7.

#4:  “Middle Seatby Scott Zabielski, USA:  “Middle Seat” is easily one of the best CTSB ads I’ve seen all year.  (How did the director get permission to shoot on a plane??)  The actors all did an awesome job and the editing was perfect.  There’s just one little thing wrong with this ad.  The lead actor is seen reading a book about managing IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome.)  He stops reading and mutters to himself, “So I do have it…”  The delivery was perfect but the joke was in bad taste.  Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a real (and apparently very unpleasant) condition.  IBS has become an easy punchline and people with IBS are usually quick to complain.  So even though this ad is good enough for the finals, the joke about a real medical condition might keep it out of the top 10.  Production Quality: 9.  Story: 8.

#3:  “The Lemonade Standby David Horowitz, USA:  By my estimates, Doritos has received roughly 500,000 CTSB entries about lemonade stands over the years.  The director of this ad sent it to me during our open review period and as soon as I saw the title I starting writing a snarky review in my head.  But this commercial really took me by surprised.  I actually liked it!  I still can’t believe that someone actually made a GOOD entry about lemonade stands.  Production Quality: 8.  Story: 8.
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#2:  “Doritos Tiny Mouthby Chuck McCarthy, USA:  This has got to be the stupidest ad the judges have ever picked…..and I love it.  I love that it’s stupid.  That’s the point.  The idea is ridiculous and I’m glad the director didn’t take it too seriously.  It feels like these people came up with this idea, walked out their front door, shot it in 15 minutes and then ran back inside laughing.  This doesn’t really look “TV Quality” but the performances are so good that I think it could air during the Super Bowl and it would be one of the most talked about commercials of the whole game.  “I got a tiny mouth toooo” could wind up being the most memorable line of the night.  Production Quality: 5.  Story:  9.
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#1:  “Tea Time!by Josh Day, USA:  The “Grannies Gone Wild” trope has been played out for 10 years.  But “Tea Time” redeems itself by going way over the top.  These grannies don’t just go wild….they go batshit crazy.  I loved the rising action and the ending felt perfect.  If I was in charge of picking the grand prize winner, I’d give the million bucks to “Tea Time.”  Production Quality: 9.  Story: 9.

So which semi-finalists are YOUR favorite? Feel free to post your thoughts or reviews in the comment section!
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Let the whining begin! Doritos announces 29 Crash the Super Bowl semi-finalists

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Well it’s official; after 8 installments of the Crash the Super Bowl contest the public has finally run out of ideas for Doritos commercials.  This afternoon FritoLay revealed their list of 29 Semi-Finalists and their picks are completely and totally underwhelming.  Once again the Crash was a “global” competition so the judges had to throw in some International entries even if they weren’t very good.  But even if you look past the token picks from Canada, Australia and the UK the rest of the semi-finalists are still pretty mediocre.  I don’t want to use the word “bad” because most of the ads range from “ok” to “decent.”  But almost all of the entries seem derivative and uninspired; they feel like weak, watered-down versions of the type of ads that usually make the CTSB finals.  And some of the entries use plots or concepts that have literally been used dozens of times before.  Take, for example, this semi-finalist from the USA:
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Was that a bad commercial?  Certainly not.  In fact, it looked great and the actor playing the Dorito did a great job.  But over the years I’ve seen HUNDREDS of entries that feature guys in homemade Doritos suits.  And believe it or not, I have seen the “girl with cheese-dust hand prints on her butt” punchline dozens of times before.

Now here’s an entry for Australia that I just straight-up dislike:
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That ad looked great and the actor was funny but there was zero story here.  It was literally just an odd guy explaining why he likes Doritos.  I just watched this video less than 60 seconds ago and I can’t remember a single word the character said.  Let’s compare this martial arts-themed ad to the 2010 CTSB finalist “Snack Attack Samurai.”
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Snack Attack Samurai wasn’t a work of comedic genius or anything but it was funny, it featured a clever twist and it had an interesting plot with a clear beginning, middle and end. Every year the judges pick a few ads that I don’t think are funny. But at least those un-funny ads always had STORIES. Some of the 2015 Semi-Finalists are just pointless vignettes about weird people doing weird things.

But if you really need proof that Doritos fans are out of ideas you just need to look at all the “gross” ads that made the semi-finals…
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Again, I would never say these particular entries are “bad.”  They’re well-made and even a little entertaining.  But they’re also disgusting.  Stinky farts and food that’s been sneezed on does NOT make me crave Doritos. And isn’t that the whole point here? To make me want to eat more Doritos?

Normally I blame the judges when a few stinkers (no pun intended) make the finals or semi-finals.  But I think this time the blame belongs to US.  This year fans submitted almost 4,900 entries and I suspect that FritoLay picked the best commercials they received.  For example, I totally and completely believe that martial-arts/mediation ad that I posted was literally one the best submissions that came in from the entire southern hemisphere.

So if you’re upset about this year’s slate of semi-finalists, don’t blame Doritos.  It pains me to say this but I think the Crash the Super Bowl contest may finally be running out of steam.  A lot of talented filmmakers have stopped entering because the odds terrible and for some weird reason, the same guys manage to win every single year.  I myself haven’t entered the contest since 2011!  If CTSB super-fans like me are getting tired of the Crash then maybe it’s time FritoLay considers retiring the promotion.

Now having said that….I still think this installment of the Crash the Superbowl contest can be salvaged.  There are actually a few really good ads mixed in with the other semi-finalists.  The official rules say that the judges will pick “up to 10″ entries for the finals.  But I think picking 10 finalists would be a big mistake.  I’ve spotted maybe 2 great semi-finalists and 4 more ok ones.  Any ad that makes the finals will have a shot at airing during the super bowl.  And if a terrible entry airs during the big game, it will be a huge embarrassment for the brand.  (Do you really think FritoLay wants to pay three million dollars to air a commercial about farts during the biggest TV event of the year?)  So the judges should limit their risk and just pick like 6 or 7 finalists.  They’ll still have to put a few sub-par entries in there but at least most of the winning ads will be good enough to air on TV.

So….which entries do I think qualify as good or great?  Well, for the answer to that question you’ll have to check back here in 2 days.  On wednesday night I’m going to post mini-reviews for all 29 ads that made the semi-finals plus I’ll list the entries that I think deserve to make the finals.  For now, if you have any thoughts about this year’s semi-finalists, feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

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