The Crash will be back soon….better start training your dog now.
Did you know that web traffic dips sharply in the summertime? Isn’t that nice? It means that millions of people are shutting off their computers and going to beaches and BBQs and Burning Men festivals. For most of the summer VCN only gets about 2,000 page views a week. But every year like clockwork that number shoots up during the 2nd week in August.
I just checked my web stats and the annual traffic phenomenon is once again in progress. This late summer spike is always caused by the same thing; The Crash the Super Bowl contest. Once summer starts to wind down, thousands of Doritos fans simultaneously realize that it’s almost time for FritoLay to announce the new installment of The Crash. I’m not really sure why this happens. Maybe people start thinking about football and that causes them to think about the Super Bowl and that makes them think about the contest? Well, if you’re one of those aforementioned Doritos fans and if you’ve been scouring the web for details about this year’s contest, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few A’s for your Frequently Asked Q’s….
Q: Will the Crash the Super Bowl contest happen again this year?
A: Yes. There hasn’t been a formal announcement but I’ve heard from multiple sources that the Crash will be back this fall. In fact, it will probably be the biggest CTSB contest yet since 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the first Crash.
Q: When will Doritos announce the contest?
A: The company usually announces the return of the contest in early/mid-September.
Q: When does the contest actually begin?
A: The full details of The Crash are revealed in early October. Doritos starts accepting entries the same day the rules are announced.
Q: When is the Crash the Super Bowl deadline?
A: The deadline is usually a few days before Thanksgiving.
Q: Should I start working on my entry now!?!?
A: No! For Glob’s sake wait until the rules are announced! You never know….this year Doritos might ask for entries that only feature Cool Ranch chips. So just chill out for a few more weeks; Doritos season will be here before you know it….
The Super Bowl is still seven months away but it sounds like the folks at FritoLay are already working on the 2016 installment of the Crash the Super Bowl contest. We usually have to wait until the fall to find out if the contest is coming back but an executive from Pepsi just dropped some pretty big hints about the future of The Crash. Today, The Hub posted the transcript of a “roundtable discussion” that included the Chief Marketing Officer for PepsiCo, Ram Krishnan. The interviewer asked everyone “Is crowdsourcing a viable approach to collaboration?” Here’s the answer that Krishnan gave:
KRISHNAN: Frito-Lay was one of the first companies and brands to start the user-generated content phenomenon. We are coming up on year ten of Doritos Crash the Super Bowl, where we ask our consumers to create an ad that airs on the Super Bowl.
When we first did that, people thought that we were crazy, but every year we continue to grow it. We received submissions from 29 countries last year. So, I am a firm believer in crowdsourcing. Technology enables everyone to be a creative these days. All you need is your smartphone. I see that space accelerating.
Did this guy flat-out declare that the CTSB contest would be back this year? No. But he did talk about the contest in the present tense. So to me it sounds like the contest is alive and well. Plus come on, there’s no way Doritos would kill the contest just before they reached the Crash’s 10 year anniversary….right?
Above: A small business owner buys a 30-second super bowl ad for his car wash
It’s only been about 6 weeks since Doritos announced the grand prize winner of the 2015 Crash the Super Bowl contest but filmmakers are already contacting me and asking for information about the 2016 competition. I always tell people that it’s a bad idea to shoot an entry in the spring because there’s always a chance that FritoLay could change the rules or decide to retire the promotion.
And at this point, I would say that the odds that Doritos will run the Crash again this year are only about 50-50. The quality of the entries has gone down and the concept doesn’t really feel fresh any more. And neither one of this year’s Doritos commercials were especially popular. Middle Seat got some buzz because it won the Million Dollar Grand Prize but the runner-up ad, When Pigs Fly was immediately forgotten by the public. On top of that, FritoLay has started to produce their own Doritos commercials again. I think that’s a sign that we may be moving into a post-CTSB era because for years Doritos would only air ads that won their annual commercial contest.
So I think the Crash’s days are numbered. I figured FritoLay would probably run it one more time since 2016 marks the 10 year anniversary of the first installment of the contest. But the President and CEO of CBS, Les Moonves, may have recently killed the contest for good. CBS will be airing the big game next year and according to The Daily Mail, the network plans to raise the price of a 30-second Super Bowl ad from $4.5 Million to $5 to 6 Million.
Six Million dollars would be a 30% increase and ad exes are already complaining that the price tag is way too high. If CBS sticks with these numbers, major brands will probably have to skip the Super Bowl or at least cut back on the number of ads they buy. That means the folks over at FritoLay will have to decide if the Crash the Super Bowl contest is still worth the money. When they first launched the contest, a 30-second super bowl ad only cost $2.5 Million dollars. But this year, ad slots were selling for $4.5 Million a piece. I’m going to guess that big companies like FritoLay get a healthy discount for buying multiple ad slots but still, it does seem kinda crazy to spend ten to twelve million bucks to air two mediocre commercials that each cost less than $1,000 to produce.
So do I really think the Crash the Super Bowl contest is going to be cancelled this year? Eh…probably not. But I have a feeling the sponsor will have to scale things back for 2016. Instead of running the Grand Prize winner and the runner-up, they’ll probably only show the commercial that wins the online vote.
This is more scientific than this year’s USA Today Ad Meter
The USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter used to be a big part of the Crash the Super Bowl contest. Actually, it was a big part of the Super Bowl, period. But have you noticed that no one really talks about the Ad Meter any more? That’s because a few years ago, USA Today changed the way they run the Ad Meter and now it’s pretty much a pointless waste of time. The paper used to set up focus groups in different cities and they had participants watch the Super Bowl ads in real time. If a viewer liked what they saw, they turned a dial up. If they didn’t like what they saw, they turned a dial down. It’s sounds simple but no one else was generating scientific-ish data about the popularity of Super Bowl commercials so the Ad Meter was always big news the day after the game. But now USA Today scrapped the testing and turned the whole thing into a lame online poll. Anyone over the age of 18 can register and vote and there’s not really any kind of regulations or oversight. So if Budweiser wants to do well in the Ad Meter they can just send out a company-wide e-mail and ask their thousands of employees to rate their commercials five stars or whatever.
For years Doritos used to promised big cash prizes to any CTSB finalist that could score the #1, #2 or #3 spot on the Ad Meter. But now that the Ad Meter is just another dumb online voting thing, FritoLay has decided to just give a million bucks to the CTSB finalist that wins THEIR dumb online voting thing. But just for old time’s sake I thought I’d check and see how this year’s Crash the Super Bowl finalists did on the Ad Meter. It turns out they did good but not great. Middle Seat was the 5th highest rated ad of the night and When Pigs Fly was the 11th highest rated ad. So what does that mean exactly? It means nothing because like I said, the Ad Meter isn’t “scientific” any more. It’s just another pointless online poll so who cares? If you’re answer to that question is “me, I care!” then head here to see the full results of the 2015 Super Bowl Ad Meter.: http://admeter.usatoday.com/results/2015
Just a few hours after the big game ended, FritoLay revealed that “Middle Seat” was the grand prize winner of the 2015 installment of the Crash the Super Bowl contest. The news wasn’t supposed to be released until Monday but FritoLay had to make a quick announcement after actress (and Crash the Super Bowl Judge) Elizabeth Banks tweeted out the above photo late Sunday night. –
As the winner of the Crash the Super Bowl contest, the director of the “Middle Seat”, Scott Zabielski, will receive $1,000,000 and and a “Dream Job” at Universal Studios. Right now it’s unclear what Zabielski’s job at Universal will be (it might be related to Development) or even if he’ll accept the offer. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned the gig down. Mr. Zabielski doesn’t really need to “break into” the film industry because he’s already got a pretty impressive career going. Currently he’s the producer and director of the highest rated show on Comedy Central, Tosh.0. His track record has already gotten him a lot of attention in Hollywood and in 2012 he was hired to direct the new Police Academy reboot. That version of the reboot eventually fell apart but Tosh.0 is a money-making Juggernaut so eventually someone is going to hire Zabielski to direct a big-budget commercial or a major motion picture.
This year marks the first time that a legitimate, successful, professional director has won this competition. Nine years ago Doritos created the Crash the Super Bowl contest because they wanted to launch the careers of aspiring filmmakers. The whole premise behind the promotion was that “Average Joes” would be able to “crash” the biggest advertising event of the year. So personally, I think it’s unethical for a professional filmmaker to enter a contest that’s meant for amateurs and semi-pros. Don’t get me wrong, I think “Middle Seat” was a very funny ad and it was easily the best entry in the Doritos’ Top 10. But just because a professional director CAN call in tens of thousands of dollars worth of favors and shoot a high-quality commercial that would probably beat out all the real zero-budget, “fan-made” entries doesn’t mean he SHOULD.
But hey, who can resist a million dollars right? At least 90% of Crash the Super Bowl ads are shot by amateurs and consequently more than 90% of the entries aren’t good enough to air on TV. So FritoLay’s million dollar grand prize must look like easy pickins to a professional director. But you can’t just throw your professional ethics out the window because there’s a bunch of cash at stake. It is simply inappropriate for a successful director to punch below his weight so he can win a cash prize that was intended to be a “follow your dreams” windfall for some aspiring filmmaker in Indiana or Vancouver or Osaka.
I’ve watched and read a lot of the interviews Zabielski has given and I think he knew that he was doing something kind of skeezy here. For the last few weeks he’s been bending over backwards in an effort to paint himself as just another “average joe.” Here’s a promo video he shot for FritoLay. Skip ahead to the 33 second mark to hear his thoughts about how great it is that Doritos gives “average people” the chance to have their work seen by millions of people. –
Just for the record, Tosh.0 gets about two million viewers per episode (not counting re-runs). So Scott Zabielski is definitely no Average Joe and his work is already being seen by millions of people every week.
Even the alleged budget for “Middle Seat” seems like a fabrication. Zabielski claims that he only spent $2,000 to produce his entry. Despite what I just said about zero-budget filmmakers, a lot of well-funded semi-pros have managed to make the CTSB finals over the years. (Some filmmakers gamble everything they have for a shot at the Top 10) So when you compare it to past CTSB budgets, Middle Seat’s $2,000 price tag seems reasonable. But any producer will tell you that there’s no way in the world Middle Seat cost only $2,000 to create. As one reader pointed out, the entry was shot on a set at the “Air Hollywood” Studios. Here’s what one of Air Hollywood’s plane sets looks like:
Major TV shows like Lost and movies like Bridesmaids are shot on those sets. Here’s a sample price guide from the Air Hollywood website:
So a pre-lit, Narrow-Body Jet interior plus a location fee and an air conditioning fee would come to $11,000. So why would a director lie about how much he spent on his Crash the Super Bowl entry? Well, because no one is going to root for the guy who already has ten or twenty grand to blow on a video contest entry.
The rules of the Crash the Super Bowl contest don’t explicitly say that professional filmmakers are prohibited from entering. But they should. Doritos could keep out the pros simply by adding a rule that bars members of the Directors Guild of America from participating. Getting into the DGA is pretty tough so I think it’s a pretty fair way to measure who is a pro and who isn’t.
But unfortunately, Doritos will never institute a rule change like this. That’s because they LOVE IT when professional filmmakers borrow a $20,000 camera rig and rent a fake airplane set to shoot a “low budget” CTSB entry. The contest judges do seem to prefer great, authentic, low-budget ads. But every year a few pros splurge and and shoot entries like Middle Seat. And these high-quality professional entries are like an insurance policy for FritoLay. They ensure that there will always be a few TV-quality ads in the mix. So if the Average Joes blow it one year and submit a bunch of junk, the judges can run one of these slick ads and then just do a little spin to downplay the director’s true background.
I know that Doritos will never explicitly ban professionals from entering the Crash the Super Bowl contest, so I would like to propose an alternate solution to this problem. FritoLay has been giving away these studio “Dream Jobs” for a few years now. The rules should state that the “Dream Job” isn’t optional. If a filmmaker wins the grand prize, he or she must accept the ENTIRE prize package. The winner can’t just take the million bucks and then turn down the studio job. You can either accept the prize package or decline it. If the winner declines the prize, it would automatically be offered to the 2nd place winner.
Last year the Grand Prize in the Crash the Super Bowl contest was a million dollars plus the a chance to work on the set of the new Avengers movie. Do you think the director of one of the most popular TV shows on cable would quit his job so that he could spend four months making photocopies for Joss Whedon? That actually sounds like a pretty kick-ass gig to me and I bet most of the people reading this would agree. But for those filmmakers out there that think a job like that isn’t worth their time, maybe they shouldn’t be entering this particular contest. As I said, it’s not clear yet if Mr. Zabielski will accept the 2nd pat of his prize package. But I hope he does. It would be a real shame if an opportunity like this just went to waste.
With four minutes left to go, Super Bowl XLIX is still a nail-biter. But the 2014-2015 installment of the Crash the Super Bowl contest is finally over. The two winning fan-made commercials were:
Middle Seat by Scott Zabielski:
and When Pigs Fly by Nelson Talbot:
Here’s what it looked like inside FritoLay’s private box at the Super Bowl when “Middle Seat” aired:
Click image to view
Man, there were a lot of good sports in that box. And that includes Elizabeth Banks. She didn’t try and squirm away when the winning director gave her a weirdly long hug.
I wasn’t surprised when Middle Seat aired but I really didn’t think When Pigs Fly would win. Both commercials looked damn good and for some reason, When Pigs Fly just seemed more amusing on TV. We’ll find out tomorrow morning which commercial was picked by the judges and which one won the online vote. The ad picked by the judges will get $50,000 and the one picked by the fans will win a million bucks. Middle Seat was the best and most professional finalist this year so I have a feeling the judges picked that one. If I’m right, that means that When Pigs Fly will probably take home the grand prize.
UPDATE: Ha. Well I was wrong. “Middle Seat” won the million dollars!