Did a poorly-designed Facebook app almost ruin this year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest?

Facebook: Ruining every nice thing on the Internet since 2004

Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl contest might just be the biggest and most successful promotion in the history of advertising.  There have been seven different installments of The Crash and until now, each one has been bigger and better than the last.  But this year something strange happened; for the first time ever the Crash saw a drop in the number of ads that were submitted.   Doritos received about 2,800 entries last fall and although that’s an amazing figure, in 2011 the company received more than 6,000 entries.  The terms of the contest changed very little and there is still a million dollars at stake…so what could have caused a 50% drop in the number of videos that were submitted?  What the heck happened to this year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest!?

Facebook.  Facebook is what happened.

The first six installments of The Crash were all hosted on the dedicated website, Crashthesuperbowl.com.  The site was brilliantly designed and it was the perfect home for the contest.  It was fun, user-friendly and it always worked just the way it was supposed to.  Crashthesuperbowl.com became an important part of the contest and I think it really helped generate a lot of excitement among the fans.  There was a huge and pretty active forum that filmmakers could use to ask questions so it felt very live and interactive. The site also had some nice privacy protections.  If you wanted to upload an entry or rate or comment on other people’s submissions you had to create a username and register an account.  Your profile and contact info were hidden from the public so no one knew who the heck ChipMonster23 or OrangeDustAddict were in he real world.  This did lead to a little trolling but a few rotten apples posting dumb comments on popular videos didn’t do much harm.

By far the the greatest feature of the old Crashthesuperbowl.com was the site’s video gallery.  IT WAS PHENOMENAL. When you went to the gallery you would see thumbnails for about 200 entries. If you scrolled left or right, more thumbnails would automatically load. So even if there were 6,000 submissions, you could scan through all of them by just pushing your cursor to the right. Here’s what the old gallery looked like:

RIP: Crashthesuperbowl.com

I think this video gallery was one of the biggest reasons the contest got so huge.  FritoLay made it incredibly easy for users to watch lots and lots of entries.  You could skim though the gallery and click on any random video that caught your eye.  So people who were thinking about entering the contest could sit down and check out the competition with ease.  And here’s the thing about the Crash the Super Bowl contest; maybe 90% of the entries are pretty terrible!  I know that might sound harsh but it’s true.  The vast majority of submissions are made by amateur filmmakers who don’t really understand how to craft a tight, funny, clever, 30 second commercial.  So if you were thinking of entering and if you watched a few dozen (or a few hundred) entries you would catch on to this fact pretty quickly.  And this would lead to a crucial realization:  I CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT!  The video gallery made it look like any half-decent ad that didn’t have any glaring technical problems would be a serious contender. And that perception probably inspired thousands of filmmakers to go out and shoot their own submissions.

So Crashthesuperbowl.com was awesome.  But it did lack one key feature; it wasn’t very SOCIAL.  All of those ratings and comments and shares were TRAPPED inside the Crash the Super Bowl website.  So I’m guessing that some very clever person at FritoLay or Goodby, Silverstein & partners (that ad agency that helps run the Crash) realized that if the contest was moved to Facebook, literally MILLIONS of people would be exposed to activty related to the contest.

And that’s how everything got all f#&%ed up.  Last fall FritoLay decided that it was time to cash in on all those ratings and uploads and comments so they mothballed their amazing website and turned their entire multimillion dollar ad contest into a lousy facebook app.  Suddenly the contest went from being a fun, user-friendly experience to a big ass annoying, privacy killing social media monstrosity.  I want you to scroll up and look at that screen grab of the old CTSB video gallery.  Then scroll down and look at the new FACEBOOK video gallery:

The CTSB Facebook app

See that WATCH MORE ADS button?  I think that little button nearly ruined the 2013 Crash the Super Bowl contest.  On the old site you could skim through hundreds of ads in a matter of seconds.  But the new facebook app would only show you 12 ENTRIES AT A TIME.  If you wanted to see more thumbnails you had to click the button and wait a few seconds(!) for 12 more to load.  It was incredibly annoying.  Every year I try and watch as many Crash the Super Bowl entries as possible.  I used to go though the gallery and click on any ad that happened to catch my eye.  But not this year.  This year I tried to watch some entries but I quickly got frustrated and gave up.  And you know what?  Not being able to watch tons of other entries totally killed my enthusiasm for this contest.  I tried shooting a submission of my own but when I ran into a problem I just said “screw it” and gave up.  I just didn’t care this year and I know it’s because I wasn’t able to get psyched up and inspired by other people’s entries.

But the crappy video gallery wasn’t the app’s only problem.  The Crash the Super Bowl app was also a vicious privacy killer.  In fact, it might be the most invasive and dangerous contest app I’ve ever seen.  Contestants had to submit their entries under their real names and their names would automatically appear next to their videos.  Those names were clickable and they linked to the director’s facebook page.  So if you had a popular video, a million strangers could easily see anything you had ever publicly posted on facebook.  Oh and guess what, if you listed the names of your crew members their names would also appear next to your video and their names were clickable too.  Here, check out this shot of one the 5 finalist ads:

Every one of the names under the comment box is clickable.  Out of the 925,970 people that have watched this video, I wonder how many of them clicked on those links just for the hell of it.  I looked at one of the producer’s profiles and in 60 seconds I knew where she lives, what she looks like, where she works, where she went to school, who her boyfriend is, and how old she is.  It’s absurd that contestants and their crew members have to be exposed like this.  But the contestants aren’t the only one’s who need to worry.  You can also check out the facebook page of anyone who comments on any entry.  Most of the finalists and their crew probably realized that they should set their facebook pages to ultra-private mode but do all these people who have been leaving comments know that hundreds of thousands of strangers can see their personal info in just one click?

But wait, there’s more!  I haven’t even gotten to the WORST thing about this app; it is just a gigantic, spam-spewing monster!  Every single time a facebook user votes for an entry or leaves a comment, a message like this pops up in their friends’ news feeds:

I took this screenshot after I voted for a friend’s entry in the Nacho Average Awards phase of the contest. (If you’re not familiar with “The Nachos” they were kind of an honorable mention prize and the filmmakers that got the most vote won a year’s supply of Doritos.)  I voted for that entry every day and every freaking day my friends would have to see that alert.   The same thing happens when you vote for a finalist commercial.  I’ve been voting for the finalist “Goat 4 Sale” all month.  Here’s what would appear on my timeline every time I voted:

I’ve used a lot of contest apps before and normally I would just delete that piece of activity and the post would disappear.  But deleting that post doesn’t actually remove it from your news feed.  So for days I thought I was removing the post but my friends were still seeing it.  When I accepted the app it actually asked “Who can see posts this app makes on your facebook timeline?”  I thought I selected the “ONLY ME” option but when I checked later it was set to “FRIENDS.”  I don’t know if I just screwed up or if something was wrong with the app but I’ll tell you this, whenever I accept an app I ALWAYS set it to “ONLY ME.”  But really, isn’t it dumb that I even have to care about this kind of stuff?  Can’t I just cast a vote and be on my way?  Isn’t enough that I’m voluntarily watching a commercial?  Does FritoLay really need to commercialize my commercial-watching?

I know that PR teams and ad agencies are being told that they need to “make things more social” by big wigs who have no idea what that actually means.  But how does any of this junk actually help sell Doritos?  Does anyone at FritoLay really believe that my Uncle Tony is going to go out and buy a bag of Cool Ranch chips because he saw a brief mention of Doritos in his facebook news feed?  I mean seriously…..the Crash the Super Bowl ads that win this contest are going to be broadcast during the Super Bowl which means they’ll be seen by 100 million people.  Isn’t that enough exposure??  Does FritoLay really need to shove their content into the eyeballs of my 262 facebook friends?

That daily dose of spam was really annoying and if I wasn’t a giant video contest nerd I wouldn’t have wasted my time changing the app’s settings.  I just would have stopped voting after a day or two.  So I think the contest’s crappy facebook app hurt the number of entries that were received this year and it also probably reduced the number of votes that were cast.  I really hope that the Crash the Super Bowl contest comes back next year but I also hope that the folks at FritoLay realize that a bunch of meaningless “likes” and “shares” aren’t worth the damage they’re doing to their brand.  Moving The Crash the Facebook made the biggest user-generated ad contest in history feel small….and that’s a damn shame.
 

VCN interview with Ben Callner, Crash the Super Bowl finalist and creator of “Goat 4 Sale”

2013 Crash the Super Bowl finalist, Goat 4 Sale

You’d think that after 7 installments the Crash the Super Bowl contest would start to feel a little stale.  But this year Doritos managed to pick an ad for the finals that just happens to be the funniest Crash the Super bowl entry ever.  Goat 4 Sale is simply a PERFECT commercial and viewers on the web have already fallen in love with it.  The ad has been getting a ton of praise in the media and it’s also walloping all the other finalists in the unofficial view count race on facebook.  (More views means more votes.)  So it seems very, very likely that this ad is going straight to the super bowl and if it does air I think it’s going to score the number one spot on the USA Today ad meter in a walk.  And if that happens, the ad’s director Ben Callner will win a million dollar bonus from FritoLay plus Michael Bay will offer him a sweet job on the new Transformers movie.  So who is Ben Callner?  Let’s find out!  Ben was good enough to give VCN some of his time and answer a few questions about his quest to get to the Super Bowl.

VCN:  So Ben, tell me about yourself.  Where are you from?  How old are you?  What do you do for a living?

BEN:  I’m 28 years old and from Marietta, GA – a suburb of Atlanta.  I went to Georgia Tech, where I graduated with a degree in Science, Technology, and Culture… It’s sort of a degree in sociology with an emphasis on, well, science and technology.

During college, I was fortunate enough to get an internship at an Atlanta production company called Pogo Pictures.

One slower day, I showed the owner (and my eventual mentor, Steve Colby) some silly short films I had made with college buddies for a student film festival called Campus Movie Fest.  He didn’t seem impressed.  But when I graduated, I got a call from Steve asking if I could help him start an online division of Pogo.

From there, a friendship formed.  And eventually, even though I wasn’t on salary, I sort of just kept showing up and throwing out ideas.  One day my persistence wore off on him and he took me under his wing… He continues to joke that he didn’t really have a choice.

After 6 or so years of working in the local film industry (mostly as a production assistant with the occasional job as a camera operator) and with the mentoring of Steve and the ever-useful advice of my brother and uncle (both producers), I’m currently fortunate enough to say that I am a freelance commercial director in the Atlanta area.

And luckily, thanks to family and friends and a girlfriend who loves to stay in at night as much as I do, I’ve been able to keep my living expenses way down.  It’s an incredibly competitive industry, and I honestly don’t think I could continue to “chase the dream” if it weren’t for the generosity and understanding of both my family and my girlfriend’s family… Heck, I live in the basement of my girlfriend’s parent’s house, and they actually genuinely like that I’m there!  Have you ever heard of such a thing?

VCN:  Have you ever entered the Crash the Super Bowl contest before?

BEN:  I entered a couple of years ago.  It was about a guy who returns home to his apartment and finds three masked burglars robbing his apartment.  After a brief stare down, the homeowner suddenly screams and in a desperate attempt to silence the victim, one of the robbers shoves a Dorito in his mouth.  At which point, the homeowner suddenly forgets what’s happening and chews happily.

Ha! I just realized that both entries have a scream in it…  I must think high-pitched screams are really funny.  Who knew?

VCN:   Have you ever entered any other video contests before?

I competed a long time ago for a Verizon VCast competition (I can’t remember the name of it exactly), and also an Aquafresh commercial contest.  I didn’t have much success with either of those but they were a lot of fun.

The last competition I entered was the Georgia Lottery Powerball commercial contest, which I actually won!  That was sort of what motivated Pogo to finally take me in off the streets.

VCN:  Where did the idea for Goat 4 Sale come from?

BEN:  Steve came in one day and said something like, “You know my goat eating food and crunching is really funny.”  And then he just left.  Steve is a quirky guy (heck, he has goats and he lives in the city), so when he said this, I didn’t think too much of it.  But then he said it again and again and finally followed it with, “We should make a Doritos commercial.”  It was seriously as direct as that.

I wasn’t sure how “funny” his goats could actually be so we Googled “goats eating chips” and “goats screaming” and couldn’t stop laughing.  And then after an uncountable amount of bad ideas, it all eventually clicked into place during one all-night writing session.  My girlfriend actually jokes that she went to bed and nothing was done, and then when she woke up, it was pretty much all laid out.

But without a doubt, I would have never thought of using a goat (or even competing in the contest) if Steve hadn’t have said, “My goats eating and crunching is really funny… We should do a Doritos commercial.”

VCN:  How was the ad created?

BEN:  We shot it on the Canon 5D Mark III, and it was pretty much all local crew that volunteered their time.  The support was unbelievable!

My mom and dad were on set as well.  My mom serving as “script supervisor” and my dad as “craft services.”  They do that a lot, and I absolutely love it!

I storyboarded the script and made an animatic, just to make sure we could tell everything in 30 seconds.  It was a really bad animatic but it helped.

Moose (the goat) was pretty crazy at first.  But it became apparent that Moose was sort of mimicking our behavior.  So if everyone was nervous and running around and people were stressed and really trying to make the shot work, it wouldn’t.  But if we went to Moose and just petted him, and everyone settled in, and we sort of channeled our inner hippie, it seemed to work.  That sounds silly but it really was true.

And one of our most valuable tools was Kudzu, Moose’s goat brother.  We used Kudzu a ton off-camera to help with Moose’s eye line, and even the screaming scene.  For that, we put Kudzu on a sturdy shelf behind camera and essentially just let the two “talk” to one another.

But just in case Moose wouldn’t cooperate, before the shoot day we came up with “backup plans.”  For instance, for the scream shot, if Moose didn’t scream or open his mouth to the point where we could dub in a scream, we were going to simply snap zoom in on his face.  I figured in sound design that could still seem “vengeful.”  Thank goodness it didn’t come to that.

VCN:  I saw that the budget for your entry was $5,000.  Is that right?  What did you spend your money on?  Did you put up the money yourself or did you have investors?

BEN:  It’s crazy how fast everything adds up, even when asking for favors.  Luckily, Pogo Pictures believed in the concept and agreed to provide a budget.

I cashed in on favors and Pogo utilized relationships with local crew and post-production houses.

All that said, we spent most of our money on Doritos (150 bags), some equipment (we were able to get a TON donated), food/craft services, and spec rates for our 15 person crew (including my parents).

Ben visits Doritos’ PR HQ in LA

VCN:  How and when did you find out that you made the finals?  Were you allowed to tell anyone the good news?

I found out in mid December.

I got a call from Doritos saying that their legal department needed to “talk.”  They said they just wanted to make sure I was still in the running and asked if I could jump on a conference call later that afternoon.  I was freaking out!  I wasn’t sure what was the matter.  Did we do something wrong?  I called my brother.  I called my uncle.  I called Steve.  We couldn’t figure it out.

Finally, the time came when the “legal team” was supposed to call me and nothing happened.  I started freaking out even more!  Why haven’t they called?  It’s been two hours?

Then I got an email asking if I could jump on the call at 9pm.  I agreed.  When 9pm came around, a man called and asked for me.

I said, “This is Ben” and then the man said, “This is Michael Bay.”  I said, “No it’s not.”

Anyway, Doritos got me really good.  I ended up repeating “Michael Bay” for way too much… so much so that I even apologized for saying his name so many times.  He was really cool about it all.

It was a crazy experience to say the least!

VCN:  All of the finalists had to head to Texas to do some PR stuff before the results were announce (that’s correct, right?)  What was that trip like?  Did you get to meet the other finalists?

BEN:  That is correct.  But instead of Texas I flew into LA, where Doritos’ PR company is located.

The trip was amazing!  I literally couldn’t believe what was happening.  I was, and still am, on some sort of adrenaline rush… I’m so excited I can’t sleep!

And I did get to meet the other finalists.  Everybody is seriously so genuine and nice.  Before meeting everybody, I was a little nervous that there might be some underlying tension.  But luckily, there was none of that, just pure gratitude and elation.

VCN:  What are you doing to try and get people to vote for Goat 4 Sale?

BEN:  I’m honestly living on Facebook: “liking” every activity, friending whoever I can friend, and replying/sending messages like crazy.  I broke a blood vessel in my left eye because I was staring at my monitor too intensely.

And the other night, I was responding so fast that Facebook literally told me to slow down.  No joke, a window popped up telling me that if I didn’t slow down I would be kicked off.  It thought I was an automated bot!

VCN:  Who are you bringing to the super bowl? 

BEN:  My good friend and mentor, Steve Colby… not to mention co-writer/director, producer, and goat wrangler.

VCN:  I have a feeling that Goat 4 Sale will easily be the most popular CTSB ad of the super bowl.  If it is, would you take the job working with Michael Bay?

BEN:  I honestly think that the opportunity to work with Michael Bay would be an unforgettable experience!

VCN:  Thanks for your time Ben and good luck!

Remember folks, you can vote for Goat 4 Sale every day until January 29th.  Voting is done via facebook so if you have a facebook page you don’t even have to register an account.  Every time a Doritos ad wins the USA Today Ad Meter it pretty much guarantees that FritoLay will bring The Crash back again in the fall.  So you should vote for the commercial that has the best chance of winning the ad meter!  To vote, Goat 4 Sale, head here:

http://apps.facebook.com/crashthesuperbowl?page=finalists&video=3432

 

Dortios and Michael Bay reveal the details of the 2013 Crash the Super Bowl contest!

DORITOS: They’re exploding with flavor!

Dortios is scheduled to announce the details of the 2012-2013 Crash the Superbowl contest during a webcast on Crashthesuperbowl.com at 8PM EST on Wednesday, September 19th.  But a few hours ago, USA Today spoiled the surprise and blabbed about all the stuff that Doritos was going to reveal tomorrow night.  So…SPOILER ALERT:  If you want to wait another 20 hours to hear some specifics about this year’s contest, look away now!

Ok, nobody really wants to wait until the webcast, right?  Good.  Here are the basic facts about the 2013 Crash the Super Bowl contest:

1.  Doritos is the only brand involved in the contest this year.

2.  FIVE finalists will be selected in January.

3.  The public will vote and TWO winning ads will air during the Super Bowl.

4.  If your ad scores the #1 spot on the USA Today ad meter you win a million dollar bonus.

None of those facts are especially shocking.  All those things pretty much happen every year.  But there are two NEW pieces of big news to report:

1.  If you make the finals and if your ad is the highest ranked Doritos commercial of the game you’ll will win a chance to work with Michael Bay on the next Transformers movie. What kind of job you would have isn’t clear yet.  I doubt you’ll be a producer or anything but hopefully this will be an actual, meaty job where you can get real on-set experience.  It would really suck if the winner was just a glorified PA.  I think the dream position would be as a second unit director.  If the winner got to direct a few action shots they could get into the DGA and they’d have an instant career in the film industry.  That would be a hell of a good prize.

2.  This year Doritos is going to try and involve non-filmmakers in the contest.  They will be encouraging people to offer up their homes, pets etc. to producers who are shooting entries for the contest.  This will happen via a special section on Doritos’ facebook page.

That’s all the news I’ve got to report right as of 11:00PM on the 18th.  I will update this post after the webcast tomorrow night!

———–

POST-WEBCAST UPDATE:  It’s Wednesday night and I just watched the big CTSB webcast announcement.  Basically it was just a pre-recorded video that featured the guy in charge of the Crash, Jeff Klein and Michael Bay.  Bay took Klein on a little tour of his production offices and they talked a tiny bit about strategy.  I only learned one bit of new info from the video; Michael Bay will be one of the official Crash the Super Bowl judges this year.  Personally, I think that’s fantastic news.  I know that a lot of CTSB fans (myself included) are unhappy that the same people and ideas wind up winning this contest every year.  So maybe Bay will help Doritos make some bolder and more unique choices this time. The full webcast is now online and you can watch it here.

After the webcast ended, CrashtheSuperbowl.com disappeared!  It now looks like the entire contest WILL take place on facebook!  Yes, Crashthesuperbowl.com is dead and gone. Just a few minutes ago, Doritos changed their facebook page.  It now looks like this:

BOOM.

When you click on that Crash the Super Bowl tab it takes you to a “Get Started” page.  I’m sort of amazed that the contest is really going to be just a gigantic facebook app this year but I did totally call it!  It’s really a brilliant move on fritolay’s part.  For the next 4 months, millions of facebook feeds will be clogged with links to Crash the Super Bowl entries. When you upload your submission I bet all of your facebook friends will automatically see a link.  If an average of 5 people are involved with every CTSB submission and if they each have an average of 150 facebook friends and if 6,000 people enter the contest this year (same as last year) that means Crash the Superbowl entries will probably show up in the newsfeeds of about 4.5 million people!!!  The amount of free advertising Doritos will get out of this move boggles the mind!

The official rules are now live and on facebook.  Here are the key details you need to know:

1.  The contest opens on OCTOBER 8th.  The deadline for entries is NOVEMBER 16th.

2.  There will be a star-rating system “for entertainment purposes only.”

3.  A public vote will choose 1 of the 5 commercials that will air during the big game.

4.  A panel of judges will choose a second commercial to air too.

5.  The finalist prizes are the same as last year; $25,000 and a trip for 2 to the Super Bowl.

6.  The USA Today ad meter prizes are back too.  If your ad lands in the #1, #2 or #3 spot on the ad meter you’ll win a bonus of $1,000,000, $600,000, or $400,000.

7.  There is NO million dollar bonus for an ad that is ranked #1 on the FACEBOOK ad meter poll.  Doritos did this last year and the makers of the ad “Sling Baby” managed to win the online vote.  But they won because they had a small army of fans give bad scores to the other ads in the competition.  It was really uncool and I’m guessing that’s why the facebook vote got scrapped this year.  It was just too easy to manipulate the results.

8.  If you win and take the Transformers 4 gig you’ll get an extra $50,000.

You can read all the fine print for yourself here:  facebook.com/DoritosUSA

This year I’m going to attempt to watch as many CTSB entries as possible and then I’ll post my favorite entries.  If you shoot an ad, be sure to send me a link. GOOD LUCK, EVERYBODY!!

Voting begins in Sprint’s “Epic” video contest

Like I said a few posts back I haven’t entered a video contest that used public-votes to determine its winners in quite a while because those type of contests almost always devolve into chaos. And it’s also been a while since I did a post about another filmmaker’s attempts to win a vote-based contest.  But long-time VCN reader Tim O. sent me link to his entry in Sprint’s “Epic Contest” and it’s so good it deserves a plug.

The Epic Contest is actually using a vote-based contest model that I don’t mind so much; voters pick a bunch of finalists and then those finalists go on to be judged by the sponsor.  Well that’s the way it normally works.  In this case, 10 finalists are screened by Captain Explosion, AKA Michael Bay and he picks one, $25,000 winner.  Videos submitted to this contest where supposed to be epic in nature.  Here’s Tim O.’s entry.  To view it and vote for him, just click this image.

Click here to see a seriously epic contest entry

That was so tight it’s disgusting.  It looks like “Epic Fall” is one of the top rated videos at the moment and if it makes it to the top 10 I think Mr. Bay will be hard pressed to choose a better winner.  Plus it’s got smashing concrete and slow motion in it and that dude loves that shit.

The contest website records your IP address so you’re only able to vote once per day.  It’s a pretty effective system.  But apparently, this contest was beset by a lot of other problems.  A LOT of people assumed that “epic” was code for “violent” and went out and shot graphic action scenes.  But those folks all broke the #1 rule of video contest filmmaking; they didn’t read the rules before they started working on their entries.  The rules state that videos “must not depict any dangerous activities or situations.”  And here’s a bigger chunk of the rules:

“Submissions cannot communicate messages or images inconsistent with the positive images and/or goodwill to which Sponsor wishes to associate.  Sponsor, judges reserve the right, in their sole discretion, to disqualify any Submission that, in their sole opinion, refers, depicts or in any way reflects negatively upon the Sponsor, the Contest or any other person or entity, or does not comply with these requirements or these Official Rules”

So all the eager beavers out there that shot action-filled, Bad Boys-esque shoot ’em ups wound up having their videos disqualified.  At least you have the chance to learn from their mistakes.  Remember, always read the rules before you shoot.  I know most contest rules read like stereo instructions but you have to read them.  Because you can’t win a contest if you don’t make a legitimate entry, now can you?