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:
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:
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.