Man, people will believe anything they read on the Internet. For the second time this month the blogosphere and the mainstream media falsely reported that some random Crash the Super Bowl entries were Doritos’ OFFICIAL 2011 Super Bowl commercials. Last time it was the Pepsi-and-Doritos-communion-themed entry “Feed Your Flock” that inspired Catholics to boycott and petition Fritolay until the company agreed not to air the spot on TV. (the entry didn’t even make the Crash the Super Bowl finals and had no chance of making it to air) This time it was a pair of gay-themed ads called “Told You So” and “The Sauna.” Just for the record, these entries did not make Doritos’ list of Top 5 finalists and have zero shot at airing during the big game. Here they are:
It’s not 100% clear why the media thought these ads were bound for the Super Bowl. But it seems like the rumor started after the videos were posted on The Advocate’s website. Here’s a bit of the story they ran last monday:
DORITOS GOING GAY FOR THE SUPER BOWL?
By Advocate Editors
A bag of Doritos brings two nearly naked men in a sauna closer together in one of two gay-themed ads the company may air during the Super Bowl.
You can read the rest of the short article here. The author goes on to say that “It has yet to be confirmed whether these two ads will run.” Remember back in the old days of like, 10 years ago when reporters actually had to have confirmation that a story was true before their editor would sign off on it? If the author of this piece didn’t have all the facts, why not make a call or two before hitting the “Publish” button? Or if they didn’t have 10 minutes to waste on the phone, why didn’t the try googling the phrase “Dortios 2011 Super Bowl commercials?” After all the “I’m Feeling Lucky” result is www.crashthesuperbowl.com and the first thing you see when you follow that link is Pepsi and Doritos’ official list of the 10 ads that might actually air on Super Sunday.
So is lazy reporting really this common in the world of online media? It seems to be because rather than try and find out if this story was accurate, other reporters and bloggers jumped on it right away. Here’s how Entertainment Weekly’s website covered the story.
DORITOS MAY AIR GAY-THEMED ADS FOR THE SUPER BOWL. CONTROVERSY AWAITS.
You know, it’s been too long — seven years, to be exact — since we’ve had some sexy controversy at the Super Bowl. But it looks like we’re headed that way again this year: According to the Advocate, Doritos plans to air two gay-themed ads during the biggest television event of the year. In one spot (both are embedded after the jump), a man licks his lips watching his supposedly gay neighbors eat Doritos; in the other, a man appears to be reaching for another’s nether regions in a sauna, before it’s revealed that he’s actually reaching for a bag of chips placed in an inconvenient location. It’s not clear whether or not these ads will really run during the big game — Frito-Lay, the PepsiCo division that manufactures Doritos, has yet to respond to EW’s request for comment.
The full article is here. This story was posted to EW’s website at 7Pm last monday; just a few hours after The Advocate’s post went up. So I gotta wonder, how long did the author wait for Doritos to respond to her request for a comment? Did the article really have to go up IMMEDIATELY? What’s really weird is that the EW writer actually goes on to mention Doritos’ problem with the communion-themed ad “Feed Your Flock.” How could she be aware of that controversy and not realize that maybe these two ads were also non-winning Crash the Super Bowl entries?
While looking into this false story and the “Feed Your Flock” controversy I learned a lot about how a story mutates as it jumps from one media outlet to another. Sure, The Advocate and Entertainment Weekly and Gawker all mention that there is no confirmation that “The Sauna” and “Told You So” were for sure going to air during the big game. But later stories I’ve seen dropped that disclaimer and state rumors as fact. (sample #1, sample #2, sample #3 to cite just a few) I have to think it’s because the authors of the second round of stories must have thought “Hey, Gakwer and EW and The Advocate are famous so they wouldn’t publish something that wasn’t true so there’s no need for me to take 5 minutes and do a google search to confirm this info!”
The truth then really starts to take a beating when people start tweeting the story and posting it to their facebook pages because all they do is post a link to the videos and say something like this…
viewsofbrandon:The Super Bowl going gay, thanks to a few commercial choice by Doritos! Check both out here! http://ow.ly/1s0cq7 & http://ow.ly/1s0cpQ
KINGBEAN14 BEAN: Doritos got some gay ass super bowl commercials coming out
JamesPLCross: Gay-Themed Super Bowl Ads! For Doritos: wp.me/pIfvI-yE mmm, you like that?
WiLD941: Bring on the complaint calls! DORITOS is planning to run two GAY-themed ads during the Super Bowl!
Those are just a few of the countless tweets I found related to this story. As you can see, when you’re limited to just 140 characters, there’s no room for disclaimers or warnings that the info hasn’t been verified. But once the story hit the tweet-o-sphere, the two fake super bowl ads went viral. Both “The Sauna” and “Told You So” have view counts of over 550,000 EACH.
And maybe those massive view counts are the reason this whole thing happened. To be fair to The Advocate and the other sites that first covered this story, it seems like someone actually went out of their way to make it seem like “The Sauna” and “Told You So” were Doritos’ official 2011 Super Bowl. Sixty-five of this year’s 5,600 Crash the Super Bowl entries, including the two ads in question, were posted to a youtube channel called . The channel is (badly) dressed up to make it appear to be an official, Fritolay-run youtube channel. And all the videos uploaded by 2011DoritoCommercial have names like “Told You So – 2011 Doritos Superbowl Commercial Ad.“ Obviously, Doritos isn’t going to be airing 65 commercials on Super Bowl Sunday but if you were forwarded a link to one specific video and if you didn’t look at the channel page, I can see how you could be fooled into thinking the ad you were watching was somehow sanctioned by Fritolay.
So who created this misleading youtube channel and why? Doritos is apparently looking into that mystery right now. GLAAD’s website actually bothered to contact Doritos before running a story about the gay-themed ads. They got a response from Frito-Lay Director of Public Relations Chris Kuechenmeister right away. So they set the record straight just a day after the “controversy” began. (You can read the article here.) Here’s a few snips:
The company behind Doritos says it is not promoting a pair of consumer-created gay-themed ads, and is looking into whether it can have removed from an unofficial YouTube page.
[Kuechenmeister] said that the contest’s judges sought to “identify spots that were appropriate for everyone” and “observe a level of respect for everybody.” Even though the spots do not appear on the contest’s official YouTube page and the company has no direct ability to remove them, Kuechenmeister said he would be raising the issue with the company’s legal team.
I bet Fritolay has a pretty good shot at getting the 2011Doritocommercial channel pulled from youtube. For one thing, the channel owners are using pepsi max and doritos images and that confuses viewers about the legitimacy of the page. But on top of that, a few days ago the idiots running 2011Doritocommercial also uploaded copies of all of the REAL 2011 Crash the Super Bowl finalists to their channel. Not only is that a violation of youtube’s Terms of Service, now it REALLY looks like the page is associated with Fritolay.
One final note…while looking into this story I noticed a few comments that pointed out that “The Sauna” seems to be a blatant rip-off of this Swedish Newspaper ad. As you can see, it aired in the US on one of those “Most Outrageous TV Moments!” shows.
And wow…I guess the makers of “The Sauna” weren’t the only ones who saw that show. Here’s another 2011 CTSB entry with the exact same plot. It’s even called “The Sauna.“ So two teams of filmmakers seem to have copied the same commercial! I guess they thought they were being slick by ripping off an ad that aired in Sweden. Feh. Let this entire post be a warning to you about the evils of lazy writing and recycling other people’s ideas. Maybe you can get away with it but it’s a lot more likely that you’ll get caught and wind up looking like an asshole.