Will views and votes help you make the Crash the Super Bowl finals?

Crash the Super Bowl season (much like the Christmas season) seems to get longer every year.  It’s already November 3rd but the Doritos deadline is still 11 days away.  The season may be longer this time but the contest is progressing as it always does.  Every year in late October/early November I start seeing news stories like this:

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Click this image to watch the news story

I’ll probably get a dozen google alerts for stories like that this month.  For reasons I’ve never fully understood, some filmmakers try and get “press” for their Crash the Super Bowl ads.  I think these stories happen because a lot of people don’t understand how the Crash the Super Bowl contest actually works.  The local news segments usually end with a “call to action” from the anchor; he or she will say something like “and if you want to help these young filmmakers make it to the finals you can head to Crashthesuperbowl.com and watch their entry and rate it five stars.”

Those calls to action always bug me because they show that the filmmakers (and the journalists who wrote the story) were too lazy to read the CTSB rules:  Here are the judging criteria for this year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest:

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Notice that it doesn’t say anything about views or ratings?  I suppose Point #3 could be interpreted to mean views and votes but that interpretation would be wrong.  (Frito-Lay uses focus group testing to determine an ad’s public appeal)  For the record, views, votes and ratings do not “count” and they will NOT help a CTSB entry make it to the finals.  In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret; the CTSB judges don’t watch the entries on the contest website!  So they have no idea how many views or votes an entry has.

But like I said, that piece of info isn’t public knowledge.  The folks at Frito-Lay fully realize that hundreds of filmmakers desperately try and get views and 5-star ratings every year but no one from the company ever tries to correct the misunderstanding.  And I think that’s because Frito-Lay wants people to be confused.  Consider this: if views and ratings are meaningless, why does the website keep track of them?  The team that built crashthesuperbowl.doritos.com must have realized that if they put a star-rating option, and if they ranked videos by views and votes, a lot of people would assume that views and votes mattered.  And when a filmmaker shares his entry on facebook (or on the Channel 2 news) they are giving Doritos free exposure.  A crappy, homemade Doritos commercial is still a Doritos commercial.  Maybe your Aunt Linda will remember your ad the next time she’s at the grocery store and the memory will inspire her to pick up a bag of Cool Ranch.

So if you’ve been worrying about your ad’s score or view count you can relax.  Those metrics are totally and completely meaningless.  Voting only matters after the finalists have been announced in January.  If you need more proof just watch some of the Highest Rated and Most Viewed entries on the Crash the Super Bowl site.  Do you really think any of those commercials deserve to air during the Super Bowl?

5 unwritten rules of the Crash the Super Bowl contest

It seems like the vast majority of people who enter the Crash the Super Bowl contest never bother to read the rules.  Over the past 6 years I’ve watched thousands of homemade Doritos ads and I’m constantly amazed by the flagrant rule violations I see.

But the official rules aren’t the only criteria you need to worry about.  You also need to comply with the un-written rules of the contest.  For instance, “sexy” Super Bowl ads have really fallen out of fashion.  The CTSB rules don’t explicitly say that your entry should be PG-rated but it’s been 6 years since Doritos picked a finalist that included a scantily clad character.  Technically you CAN feature a little sexual content or innuendo in your video but history shows us that an entry like this will have almost zero chance of making it to the finals:



That wasn’t the slickest or wittiest CTSB ad I’ve ever seen but I gotta admit, it make me laugh.  But entries need to be funny AND good for all ages.  Here now are 4 more common Crash the Super Bowl mistakes that you should avoid this year:

Cultural Insensitivity:  The rules state that entries “must not contain defamatory statements or messages (including but not limited to words, images, or symbols) that are widely considered offensive to individuals of a certain race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or socioeconomic or other group.”   So entries that are straight-up racist will be disqualified.  But you also need to worry about creating something that might offend people in more subtle ways.  Everyone knows that blackface is wrong but it’s always a bad idea to cast actors of one race or culture to play characters from a different race or culture.  This entry will demonstrate what I’m talking about:




The director of this ad cast a group of blonde white kids to play a tribe of spear-wielding savages.  The kids’ costumes resemble the clothing and facepaint that some tribes of the Amazon use.  (The aerial shot of the jungle even looks like the Amazon.)  The people who created this entry would probably argue that this story takes place in a fantasy world and that the kids do not represent any real life people.  But the winner of this contest doesn’t get an extra 60 seconds of air time to explain his concept.  So before you shoot an idea you need to ask yourself “could this commercial offended anyone, anywhere in the entire world?”  I know that might sound extreme but you’re not making a short film here; you’re making a TV commercial.  If you want to get edgy or push boundaries you should entry SXSW, not the CTSB contest.

BLOOD!!  BLOOD EVERYWHERE!!:  I would estimate that Doritos will receive at least 200 zombie-themed commercials this year.  But entries like this one will quietly be disqualified because they’re too gory to air…


That wasn’t exactly a masterpiece but I wanted to feature this ad for a reason.  Teenager filmmakers usually try and come up with an idea that will be cheap to make and that can feature all of their friends.  And that’s why Doritos gets dozens and dozens of zombie videos every year.  But most teenagers aren’t highly-skilled make up artists so when they want to dress up like zombies they just put on some old clothes and slather themselves in halloween make up and fake blood.

But here’s the problem, you can’t really show blood in TV commercials anymore.  Even movie trailers have to desaturate blood so that it looks like brown gravy.  So even though the rules don’t mention blood, the judges know that the network can’t air a bloody commercial during the Super Bowl.

Overloading your ad: Writing a tight, funny, exciting, interesting story that’s only 30 seconds long is really freakin’ hard.  A lot of CTSB filmmakers try and jam way too much stuff into their entries; and by “stuff” I mean story, characters, jokes and action.  These overloaded ads zip by way too fast and leave the viewer dizzy and confused.  Here’s an entry with a funny premise but it’s so busy and overwhelming that it should come with a seizure warning.



A professional editor probably would have cut out the first 6 seconds of this ad so that the later shots could have some time to breath.  If you feel like your entry might be too busy, show it to some friends and ask if it went by too fast.  If it’s too fast for your friends, it’s too fast for TV.

Dipping Doritos:  Ok, this final mistake is a little more obscure but I do see it a few times a year.  Apparently there are actually people out there who don’t understand how to eat Doritos because some Crash the Super Bowl ads include jokes about dip…..



For the love of God people, you don’t dip Doritos!  Doritos are already delicious on their own!  The rules don’t say that you can’t dip  these chips but Frito-Lay would never air a commercial that advocated this type of snack abuse.

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.

Make Your Own: The Most Popular Crash the Super Bowl ad of 2012

A funny thing happened the week that Doritos announced their five picks for the Crash the Super Bowl finals.  As usual, a lot of media outlets and bloggers covered the contest and announced the start of the voting.  But instead of featuring one of the winning commercials in their stories, a lot of writers chose to embed a video that didn’t actually make the final five.  The ad is called “Make Your Own” and it is weirdly hilarious.  If you haven’t seen it, here it is:
 

 
The reason why all these news outlets decided to feature the same, non-winning video is kind of a mystery.  I remember that the official Crash the Super Bowl winners were already on youtube the day the results were announced so all those journalists could have just posted one of the official ads.  At first I thought maybe someone, somewhere had falsely reported that Make Your Own had made the top five and other writers had picked up the false lead.  But many of the articles I read actually lamented the fact that this spot didn’t make the finals.  A piece on the Huffington Post went so that Make Your Own “snubbed” despite being “brilliant.”

The entry went on to be featured on the front page of Yahoo, CBS This Morning, NBCsports.com, Mashable and a ton of other websites.  But things really got crazy when Make Your Own appeared on the front page of Reddit.  After that the video just went fully viral.  Today, Make Your Own has recived 2,378,000 views on youtube.  Here are the current stats for the five videos that actually did win the contest this year:
 

Man’s Best Friend:  199,903 views

Hot Wild Girls:  199,966 views

Bird of Prey: 200,486 views

Dog Park: 128,736 views

Sling Baby:  112,536 views

Combined total views:  841,627

 
So Make Your Own has a view count almost three times larger than all the finalist ads combined!  That is simply an amazing accomplishment and it’s certainly no fluke.  This is an awesome submission and I think it would have made a kick-ass finalist.  The hilarious dude playing the host is named Byron Brown.  The concept is great but I think it’s the Brown’s performance that added just a bit of insane magic to this ad.  The guys who actually made this entry are three friends from Austin TX; David Ward, Jack Dreesen and John Ramsey.  This is their third year entering the Crash the Super Bowl contest and this time around they shot 3 (very good) submissions.  You can seen all their various entries on Ward’s youtube channel.  Oh wait a second….as I’m writing this I just noticed these guys created one of my favorite Doritos submissions of last year’s contest!
 

 
Back to Make Your Own; because the ad has become so popular, the producers have been asking fans to tweet at Doritos and ask them to “reconsider” their entry.  Obviously it’s way too late for this ad to become a finalist but Doritos does love to pull surprises on Super Bowl night.  I think it would be freaking amazing if they actually decided to run this spot; if not during the superbowl then maybe at some later date.  After all, I think Doritos really owes these guys.  Look at all the free advertising they got out of this one entry that didn’t win a dime!  If Fritolay were paying one cent per view, they would owe the producers of Make Your Own more than $23,500!  if you’d like to join the campaign to get Doritos to air this ad, click here: http://clicktotweet.com/dlO2L

Five Crash the Superbowl finalist predictions

That's like 2 days from now!

On Thursday morning Fritolay is finally going to announce the 5 consumer-made Doritos commercials that will have a shot at airing during Super Bowl 46. According to USA Today, this time around, Doritos received a record 6,100 Crash the Superbowl entries!  You don’t have to be Rain Man to figure out that that 6,100 entries and only 5 finalist slots means that each submission has pretty much a 1 in 1,220 shot of making the next round.  So it’s pretty much impossible to guess which ads will wind up winning.  But I love a good challenge so just for the heck of it, I thought I’d take a shot and list five entries that I predict will make the Crash the Super Bowl finals this year.  Of course, if I get even just one of these guesses right I’ll feel pretty darn proud of myself.  Like I said…the odds are kind of ridiculous here.  But I actually suspect that 2 or maybe even 3 of these commercials will make the final five.

It should be noted that this short list doesn’t represent my personal favorite Crash the Superbowl entries.  These are the submissions that I think the judges at FritoLay are most likely to pick based on their past choices.  I’ll present my 5 choices without commentary.  To watch an ad, just click on the image:

Bird of Prey
Kitty Heist
Imaginary Fiend
My Friend Archie
Sling Baby

Actually, I have one more prediction I’d like to make; since there were 6,100 entries and since I apparently only watched about 60% of the submissions, I’m guessing that one or two finalists will be entries I’ve never even seen before.  If you have any predictions of your own, feel free to post your opinions in the comment section.   And be sure to stop here on Thursday morning to find out just how wrong or just how right my picks were.