When I read that a company named Vegan Smart was running a video contest with a $10,000 grand prize I briefly considered pretending to be vegan just so I could enter. But I’m not enough of a sociopath to do something so weirdly unethical so I didn’t participate. And now that the contest is over I’m actually glad I didn’t shoot an entry because the competition here was tough. The winners were determined by votes alone and those types of contests can be brutal. I followed the voting for a while and a few entries bounced in and out of the top slot. But in the end, the winner was a filmmaker named Josh Garcia. –
Josh creates youtube videos about related to the environment and conservation. When he was lobbying for votes in the Vegan Smart Contest, Josh promised his fans that all his winnings would go towards veganism and the “conservation of our beautiful planet.”
Now that he’s the official winner, I checked with Josh and asked what he was going to do with the ten grand he won. He said he plans to use the money to create a new video that explains the importance of “low impact plant based nutrition.” If you’d like to see the video that Josh makes with his winnings you can subscribe to his youtube channel.
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:
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: –
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?
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:
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!
FritoLay has decided to use a tiny crowdsourced ad contest to promote a gigantic crowdsouced ad contest. Over on the company’s new Legion of the Bold platform, Doritos fans are being asked to create “movie posters” for any of the consumer-made commercials that made this year’s Crash the Super Bowl Semi-Finals. Here’s the relevant copypasta:
Attention Movie Buffs! We’re looking for bold Doritos® movie poster ads that will turn heads and spark excitement to vote on the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl finalists. Crash the Super Bowl is an annual online commercial competition run by Doritos, where fans get to create, vote on, and pick our next Super Bowl commercial—the biggest of big leagues. Each year at least one fan-made commercial is guaranteed to air during the Super Bowl. This year, two ads will air, and one finalist will win a dream job at Universal Pictures and a million dollars. Cha. Ching.
Want in on the action? On December 1st our twenty-nine semi-finalists were announced. Pick a semi-finalist ad and come up with a Hollywood-worthy movie poster for that ad. If that ad is selected as one of the ten finalists in the contest, your poster could be used during the voting phase of our Crash the Super Bowl promotion! Fame and glory, thy name is Doritos.
Ten poster-makers will win $200 each. No that is not a typo. The biggest prize you can win in this contest is 200 bucks. I have no idea why FritoLay would offer millions of dollars in prizes for the Crash the Super Bowl contest and then cheap out when it comes to promoting the CTSB finalists. How many people are really going to spend an hour or two creating a 24 x 36 inch. 300dpi, CMYK poster in exchange for the opportunity to maybe win $200? Hmmm, actually, that’s a good question. I wonder if they’ll even get 10 entries. Hey, maybe I’ll slap a couple submissions together tonight! They’ll probably suck but if less than 10 people enter I’ll be guaranteed to make a couple hundred bucks. If you want to enter too, you better hurry; the deadline is December 16th at 11:59PM. Details here: https://www.doritoslegionofthebold.com/assignments/6