The 2016 Crash the Super Bowl contest already has a clear front-runner

Today we learned which two teams will be competing in Super Bowl 50.  But we still have to wait until February 7th to find out which fan-made Doritos ad will air during the big game….or do we???

Yes, of course we do.  Frito-Lay has been running this contest for 10 years now and the results have never once leaked out early.  But if you’re paying attention it’s not too hard to guess which commercial will air.  The best indicator seems to be social media buzz.  Every year, hundreds of thousands of votes are cast in the final round of the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  The people who make these ads always try and promote their entries but their “get out the vote” campaigns probably don’t have much of an impact.  Most of of the people who vote in this contest are objective members of the public.  It’s all a global popularity contest and these days it’s easy to tell which videos are popular and which ones aren’t.

On January 19th, all three 2016 Crash the Super Bowl finalists were posted on the company’s official Facebook page at the exact same time.  I suspect that this was an intentional experiment; the sponsors probably wanted to see which ad would gain the most traction on social media.  If this was a premeditated experiment, the results were surprisingly conclusive.  Here’s how each entry fared:




Look at the numbers for Ultrasound!  1.7 Million views in less than a week is pretty impressive but the crucial stat here is the number of shares.  When a facebook user shares a piece of content that means they love it…..they love it so much that they want their friends to see it.  A person who shares a CTSB ad is the type of person who would actually go to and cast a vote for that entry.  Since January 19th, these three commercials have been shared a total of 33,889 times on facebook.  But 89% of those shares were for Ultrasound.  It’s an absolute blow-out.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Ultrasound is a lock but at this point it’s definitely this year’s front-runner.

Zack Snyder pranks the Crash the Super Bowl finalists

The sponsors of the Crash the Super Bowl contest love torturing their finalists.  It’s one of the weirdest and most interesting aspects of the entire promotion.  I’ve always thought it was a little bit cruel (and brilliant) to make the finalists sit and watch the Super Bowl live to find out who actually won.  But that’s just the final plunge in a month-long emotional roller coaster.  The selected filmmakers are always notified a week or two before the Top 5 (or this year, the top 3) are made public.  But the new finalists are sworn to secrecy; they can’t even tell their teammates that they made it to the final round.  I’m guessing that most finalists are forced to flat-out lie when their friends start asking them “hey, did you hear anything from Doritos yet???”

In recent years the sponsors have even messed with the finalists when they called with the good news.  (A celebrity connected with the contest like Michael Bay would make the call and hold off on revealing his identity.)  But this year Frito-Lay took things to a whole new level when they decided to pull an elaborate prank on the three semi-finalists that had been selected for the next round.  The company flew a bunch of the potential finalists to LA and took them on a Warner Brothers backlot tour…..or at least that’s what the winners thought was happening.  Watch this video for the full story:

That was pretty friggin’ great.  The sponsors basically set up a prank within a prank.  It was a stroke of genius to have actors play the other “semi-finalists” because it would be kind of sadistic to fly someone in, get their hopes up, and then tell them to their face that they DIDN’T make the Top 3.  It’s probably for the best that this is the last year for the Crash because the folks over at Doritos are getting a little diabolical with this stuff.

Doritos announces their picks for the 2016 Crash the Super Bowl finals!


D-Day is finally here!  This afternoon Doritos revealed which three Crash the Super Bowl entries will be advancing to the finals.  These three ads were selected from a pool of 50 semi-finalists that were announced in December.  Last fall Frito-Lay received more than 4,500 submissions so a director’s chances of making the finals were 1 in 1,500.  Here are the 3 ads that made the cut.  Overall all I think these ads are solid picks and they range from “good” to “really good.”

Doritos Dogs

Creator:  Jacob Chase from Los Angeles, CA
Budget:  $1,000

Every year I try and predict which entries will make the finals and this time around the only pick I got right was Doritos Dogs.  It’s a cute, fun entry that is just a perfect fit for the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  The image of the giant dog-man is really incredible.  I’ve watched this entry a a few times and it does get a little boring after repeat viewings.  But FritoLay could easily cut this commercial down to 15 seconds.  I think this entry is going to win the online vote by a landslide and a 15-second cutdown of Doritos Dogs will probably run on TV for months. VCN’S GRADE:  A-


Creator:  Peter Carstairs from Melbourne, Australia
Budget:  $2,000

Maybe it’s just me but I think this ad is freaking creepy!  It’s also funny and based on a good idea but something just feels sort of wrong here.  Some bouncy background music probably would have helped lighten the tone a little.  To be honest, I’m shocked that this entry made the Top 3.  I’m not really sure that CBS will want to air Ultrasound during the PG-rated Super Bowl.  Some uptight parents might get upset if their young kids learn about the mechanics of childbirth during a football game.  Plus some viewers might get freaked out by the punchline; the mental image of a baby shooting out of a woman’s vagina is kinda terrifying.  (at least the Doctor mentions that the baby is only a few days away from being born).  I’d really like to know if the network has pre-approved this ad.  If they haven’t, maybe the judges picked this one because they know it will be rejected.  If the winning entry can’t air during the Super Bowl, I assume the ad that came in 2nd will be named the as the winner.  So when the judges picked Ultrasound they may have secretly been staking the deck in favor of one of the other finalists.  VCN’S GRADE:  B-

Swipe For Doritos

Creator:  David Rudy from Los Angeles, CA
Budget:  $4,500

This is a cool ad and I think people will really like the visual effects.  But I’ve always been put-off by big-budget Crash the Super Bowl entries.  This contest is supposed to be about helping an outsider “crash” into the industry.  The creator of this ad apparently owns a talent agency and I’m guessing that most of the women in this commercial are his clients.  The most recognizable face is of course Doris Roberts from Everybody Loves Raymond.  But the other women all have serious resumes too.  (you may recognize the “I’d sneak out for you” girl from Parks and Recreation and the mom from Wet Hot American Summer.)  Casting recognizable actresses in this ad seemed unnecessary.  It feels like the director was sort of showing off.  I thought Frito-Lay created this contest to see what kind of ads the “average joes” out there in middle American could make.  But if you can spend $4,500 on your entry and if you can get a 5-time Emmy winner to do a favor for you then you don’t really need any help breaking into the industry.  Having said all that, I do think that this is a good commercial.  I just wish the judges hadn’t picked it because it goes against the crowdsoucing premise of the competition.  VCN’S GRADE: B

Voting in the CTSB contest is now underway and will last the rest of the month.  The ad that gets the most votes by January 31st will air during the Super Bowl and the creator will receive a million dollars plus a chance to work with the director Zach Snyder.  The two runners-up will each win $100,000.  Everyone is allowed to vote once a day (per device).  You’ll need to register before you can vote but you can automatically sign up with your facebook, twitter or Google + accounts.  If you’d like to vote, head here:

Which 3 entries will make the 2016 Crash the Super Bowl finals?

Frito-Lay usually notifies the Crash the Super Bowl finalists on or around December 21st but I remember one year when they called the winners on Christmas Eve.  I have a feeling that the Top 3 filmmakers have already been notified but if you made the top 50 you should still leave your phone on tomorrow.

The Top 3 ads won’t be reveaked until January 4th but I thought now would be a good time for me to make my annual CTSB predictions.  Here are the three entries that I think will make the 2016 Crash the Super Bowl finals.  I think all of these videos are great but I didn’t pick these ads because they’re my favorites.  These are the 3 entries that I think the judges will like the most.  Here they are in no particular order:

I Don’t Think That’s a Leaf Blower by Stefano Pennisi (USA):

No Dogs Allowed by Jacob Chase (USA):

Paranormal Snacktivity by Logan Paul (USA):

I picked these three ads for several reasons:

  1.  The production values are excellent and they all look like “real” TV commercials.
  2.  These ads fit the style of humor that the judges usually like.
  3.  The judges usually like ads with lots of action and very little dialogue.
  4. The sponsor wants their Super Bowl commercial to be re-watchable and all of these ads will stay funny after multiple viewings.
  5.  These videos are all buzzworthy.  The judges like ads that will get a lot of social media shares.  I think a lot of people would share these commercials on facebook and twitter the day after the game.

Crash the Super Bowl finalists are always sworn to secrecy but non-winning semi-finalists can probably talk about their status.  So if you made the top 50 but did NOT get a call from Doritos, maybe you could leave a comment and let us know.

Doritos announced 50 (surprisingly decent!) Crash the Super Bowl Semi-Finalists

Doritos-semi-finalistsThis year Doritos received more than 4,500 entries for the Crash the Super Bowl contest and on December 1st the judges over at Frito-Lay whittled that number down to 50 Semi-Finalists.  50 may seem like a big number and it is; last year there were only 25 semi-finalists.  But since this is the final CTSB contest and since 2016 marks the company’s 50th anniversary the sponsors decided to go big and pick 50 ads for the next round of judging.  In January, the judges will pick just 3 finalists and then a few weeks of public voting will commence.  The ad that gets the most votes will win a million bucks and air during the Super Bowl.  The other two finalists will each receive $100,000.  The 47 Semi-Finalists who don’t make the Top 3 will receive $2,000 a piece.

I’ve watched all 50 Semi-Finalists and I’m very impressed with the judges picks this year.  Last year’s slate of Semi-Finalists included some real clunkers.  It seemed like the judges intentionally some gross or sexy ads because they wanted to milk some extra views from videos that had no chance of making the finals.  But this time around it seems like the judges really wanted to target millennials.  A lot of the entries feature the quick cuts and tongue-in-cheek absurdist humor that you’ll see in a lot of popular Vines or Youtube videos.  Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.  Over the last few years I’ve seen at least a dozen entries that used the title “Paranormal Snacktivity” but this is the first one that actually made me laugh:

I thought that was pretty great.  In any other year I would say this entry was a shoo-in for the finals.  But I think at least 40% of the Semi-Finalists are good enough to make it to the Top 3.  Here are a few other entries that I really enjoyed.  The first one is probably my favorite….

I went though all the semi-finalists and I jotted down some raw data.  Here are some random factoids:

  • 45 of 50 semi-finalists are men
  • 5 of 50 semi-finalists are women
  • 41 of 50 semi-finalists are from the USA
  • 9 of 50 semi-finalists are from other countries
  • 4 semi-finalists are from Australia
  • Israel, Canada, Romania, Denmark and the Netherlands each had one semi-finalist.

One more fun fact:  As far as I can tell, only ONE past finalist made it to the semi-finals this year.  The one repeater I spotted is Jonathan Friedman.  In 2012 his Doritos ad Man’s Best Friend aired during the Super Bowl and won the million dollar grand prize.  Usually I’m kind of critical of past winners who enter the contest again but since this is the final Crash I figure all bets are off.  Plus this director happened to make my favorite ad in the Top 50 (the one with the guy who faints when he sees Doritos.)  I’m sure some other past finalists made the cut so if anyone recognizes any names, please let me know.

This year it’s going to tough to predict which ads will make the finals but I’ll post my picks for the Top 3 later this month.  Feel free to share your own thoughts about the semi-finalists in the comment section below!