Tongal’s Superstars converge in Hollywood for the 3rd annual Tongie awards!


For the third year in a row I was lucky enough to get an invite to Tongal’s annual award ceremony in LA and for the third year in a row I had a damn good time.  I got back on Saturday but as always it took me a few days to recuperate from my trip.  I’ve finally started going through my photos and this year I’ve got some great ones to share.

The festivities started on Wednesday at the Tongie’s Eve Cocktail party in Santa Monica.  My girlfriend Carla and I showed up a little late and as we were walking up to the venue we could hear someone singing an Everclear song in the patio area.  Carla asked, “so is this like a karaoke party? Whoever’s singing sounds really good.”  But of course it wasn’t a karaoke party.  We walked into the patio and up on stage was the lead singer of Everclear, Art Alexakis doing an acoustic set for about 200 very surprised guests.  (Here’s a pic).  After we soaked in the scene, I managed to find and say hello to some of my favorite Tonglers and Tongal staff members.  I learned the hard way that you shouldn’t over-do it at the Wednesday night reception (last year I decided to try all of the custom cocktails and my brain was a little fuzzy the next day) so Carla and I slipped out before it got too late.

On Thursday we took a trip to the LACMA, had lunch (and pudding) from some food trucks and picked up my tux.  We did a quick change back at the hotel and then we inched our way through LA traffic to get to the awards dinner at the Avalon in Hollywood. 

The show started with a surprise aerial act.  It was a big hit and it really got people amped up for the show.  This kind of spectacle was a good fit and I hope Tongal does some more crazy stuff like this next year.


As always, the event was MC’ed by Tongal co-founder, Rob Salvatore….


…and individual awards were handed out by various staff members.  Here’s Tongal co-founder Mark Burrell reading the nominees for best comedy video.


The winners were….Pretty Nifty Productions.


After about half an hour it was time for a dessert/cocktail/photo break.  Here I am posing with my lovely lady friend….


And here’s friend of VCN, Joel Levinson with his wife Randy.


I managed to make some new friends this time around including these two guys; Eric McCoy and Justus Meyer.  Their Tongal team “McCoy Meyer” was nominated in the Best Comedy category.  This guys do amazing work and right now the Devin Kurtz music video they made is spreading all over the web.  You know you’ve hit the big time when even Perez Hilton is saying your work is awesome.


Here’s a shot of the theater just before everyone went back to your seats. The place is huge and I’m still kind of amazed that Tongal would rent out such a baller venue.


Here’s a shot of all the Tongalers that were inducted into the Tongal hall of fame this year.


The crowd gave the inductees a standing ovation but one dude at the table next to mine gave me a smirky stink eye when I tried to get a pic of the crowd. Frankly, I don’t blame him.


The party continued after the awards ceremony ended.  Here’s a semi-blurry shot of Tongal’s three co-founders, Mark Burrell, Rob Salvatore and James DeJulio as they introduce a surprise musical guest, guitar legend Johnny Marr of The Smiths.


As I’ve said, I’ve been to the Tongies three times now and Johnny Marr put on the best post-ceremony show yet.


Up near the front of the venue, folks were cramming together to get their picture taken at the digital photo booth.


And the winners showed off their new hardware. Here’s “Best Idea” winner, Tina Radel with her new Tongie.


The “Best Comedy” winners, Pretty Nifty Productions went on to be named the Tonglers of the Year.  After they got their awards, a rep from Mastercard (they’re a To gal partner) came out on stage and surprised the guys with a trip to Japan.




On our way out we were given weird cardboard viewer-dealies that you can stick a smart phone into. Carla was good enough to demonstrate how they work.


So that’s it; another Tongies is in the books. As always the show was a big success and I personally had a great time. I’d like to thank all my friends at Tongal for being such amazing hosts.  And I’d like to extend a special thank you and congrats to Tongal’s Senior VP of Creative and Strategy, Caleb Light-Wills.  Caleb was hard at work behind the scenes so I didn’t get any shots of him…which is a shame because at one point he was walking around carrying a giant manatee.  Yes, seriously.

If you’ve made it all the way down to the bottom of this post and you’ve still got Tongie fever, head here to watch all the videos that were honored this year:

Behold the glory of my fake gold Dorito

I’ve been covering the Crash the Super Bowl contest since 2009 and over the last 5 1/2 years I’ve written over 100 articles about the contest.  I’ve given Doritos so much free publicity that I think I deserve a medal for all my hard work.  And I guess the folks at Frito-Lay agree because last week I was honored to receive the highly coveted “Golden” Dorito….

gold dorito

Ok, it’s not really an award.  And I didn’t get it because of my kick ass blogging skills.  A few weeks ago I received this message via e-mail:


Subject: WINNER/ Crash the Super Bowl Voting Sweepstakes


You were identified as a potential winner of the following prize in the Crash the Super Bowl Voting Sweepstakes, pending verification against the Official Rules.

3rd Prize: MerlinGold DORITOS® chip replica

On behalf of Frito-Lay, Inc., thanks for participating in the promotion!


Usually I get pretty excited when I receive an email that includes the words “WINNER” and “CONGRATULATIONS” but this particular email just left me confused.  I didn’t even realize that you could win prizes for voting in the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  I checked the rules and apparently there were thousands of prizes at stake.  Five people won tickets to the Super Bowl, eight people each won a single ounce of gold (estimated value, $1,076), a thousand people won “gold-plated” Doritos (ARV $31) and another thousand people won a replica of the gold Dorito (ARV $28.77).

That last prize is what I won.  It would have been nice to get an ounce of gold but I’m actually very happy with my fake gold Dorito.  The Crash the Super Bowl contest was a big part of my life so it’s kind of nice to have a small, non-digital memento of the competition.  Having said that, I wonder what would happen if I plunked this thing into the Coinstar machine at my local grocery store.  It would be awesome if it spit out $28.77 worth of real Doritos.

“Doritos Dogs” wins the final edition of the Crash the Super Bowl contest!


Super Bowl 50 is over and so is the Crash the Super Bowl contest!  It’s been a great ten years but I think the folks at Doritos are wise to retire the contest while it’s still popular.  The final winner was Doritos Dogs by Jacob Chase of Los Angeles, California.  Frito-Lay was only supposed to air one CTSB entry this year but they surprised everyone and ran two.  The other ad was Ultrasound by Peter Carstairs of Melbourne, Australia.  Ultrasound aired really early in the first quarter and I just assumed it was the big winner.  So I was really surprised to see Doritos Dogs just after half time.  (or was it just before?  Coldplay makes my memory go fuzzy.)  Ultrasound has turned in a viral hit online so that’s probably why Doritos decided to air it.

Most of the Super Bowl commercials sucked this year but Ultrasound and Doritos Dogs really stood out.  I definitely think a lot of people will be talking about Ultrasound tomorrow.  Congrats to the winners and thanks to Doritos for running such an amazing contest for the last 10 years!

POST SCRIPT:  Hardcore CTSB fans will want to check this out.  Someone associated with the contest was on Periscope during the game.  So now all us non-winners can see what it’s like inside of Doritos’ private box at the Super Bowl.  I was surprised that there weren’t more Doritos!

POST SCRIPT #2:  The USA Today ad meter results were released on Monday; Ultrasound and Doritos Dogs were ranked the #3 and #4 best ads of the game, respectively.  That may sound impressive but keep in mind that the USA Today Ad Meter is pretty much worthless now.  The paper used to run multiple live focus groups but now the Ad Meter is basically just an online poll.  That’s probably why Doritos stopped using it to measure the success of their ads.

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: