Archive for the ‘Unpleasant Crap’ Category

Dance for your fruit cups children….dance!!

In North Korea, schoolchildren are required to perform complex song and dance routines in praise of their “dear leader.” Fortunately here in America we don’t make our kids do that kind of stuff. No, our kids just have to sing and dance in praise of corporations.  I just read that back in December, Dole ran a video contest in which schools were supposed to organize “flash mob” performances about healthy lifestyles (and their products, of course).  This is from a press release put out by the sponsor:

Dole created the DOLE Fruit Flash Mob Video Contest to encourage students to make healthy meal choices as part of a healthy lifestyle. The contest incorporated fruit and fruit themes into the contemporary and fun entertainment of a flash mob performance (a spontaneous song and dance that erupts in an unsuspecting crowd). Contest rules required that both school foodservice staff and students participate in the video on location in school’s cafeteria/dining room.

The winners of the contest were determined by Dole.  Here’s the video they picked.  Skip to the middle for the singing and dancing action.
FIRST PLACE WINNER.  PRIZE:  $1,000 and 10 cases of fruit cups.

Maybe I’m too uptight but to me, that seemed kind of creepy.  For christsakes, a cafeteria full of kids had to get up and dance and sing for a thousand bucks and a few cases of fruit cups???  How much time and energy did they all have to put into learning that routine?  Yeah sure, the kids probably had fun but as an outside observer, this just feels wrong.  Do we really live in a country where little kids have to perform in mini-Hunger Games just to get some free fruit from a company that has revenues of about 7 Billion dollars a year? If Dole wanted to encourage kids to eat better, couldn’t they just GIVE AWAY a few dozen cases of fruit cups?  What good does it do to make little kids sing and dance and compete for such a meager prize?  Oh right….this flash mob video contest was about publicity and not about getting kids to eat better.  I’m guessing Dole will get a lot more than $1,000 of free advertising out of this whole thing.

And that’s the problem with contests like this.  Kids should NOT be participating in these types of contests because video contests are just another form of advertising.  Except in video contests, the kids actually become part of the ads.  I’m going to guess that the school didn’t get all the kids’ parents to sign consent and release forms. So most parents probably didn’t understand that their kids were going to be in a viral video promoting Dole. If I had kids and I found out that their school was making them participate in something like this I’d totally flip out.  I’ll say it as plainly as I can:  CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE CORPORATE SHILLS. 

But hey, maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe next year Dole should run a contest where schools get one case of fruit cups for every student that agrees to wear a Dole t-shirt for a month straight.  The kids would get something to eat and Dole would get a bunch of tiny, walking billboards!  It’d be a win-win!

One Million votes cast in the Street King video contest

Fiddy's giving you the stink eye

My friends all know that I’m a video contest nut so every so often someone will hear about a contest and send me a link. A few weeks ago, I got a message from a friend telling me that 50 Cent was holding a video contest on facebook to promote some crappy energy drink company that he owns (what is it with celebrities starting energy product companies??) and that I should enter and try and win the $10,000 prize. So I checked out the rules and man….was I turned off by what I read. I’ve come to accept the fact that most big-money video contests involve public voting, but for some insane reason, people were allowed to vote up to 10 TIMES A DAY for the same video. So instead of begging friends for just one vote, contestants were expected to beg their friends to vote for them 10 times a day, every day for weeks. And to make matters even worse, the voting was happening during the submission period. That means that anyone who entered in the first few days would have an enormous advantage over everyone else in the contest. In fact, when I first learned about this contest I looked at some of the “most popular” submissions and some videos already had thousands and thousands of votes.

When all was said and done, 300 videos were submitted but over ONE MILLION votes were cast! According to my calculator, that’s 3,333 votes per entry. A million votes in a contest with a $10,000 prize is freaking ridiculous. Luckily, I didn’t waste my time and enter this train wreck of a contest. But I still feel bad for the 300 suckers that wasted their time (and their family and friends’ time) trying to win 50 Cent’s ten grand. My friend who told me about this contest is a pretty smart guy but even he didn’t bother to look into HOW a person was supposed to win the grand prize. Like most of the people who probably entered, he just heard that 50 Cent was holding a big video contest and got excited. So the lesson for today is look before you leap. I bet most of the people who entered the Street Kings contest shot entries and THEN read the fine print that explained what they needed to do to win.

Here’s the video that wound up receiving the most votes. It’s actually pretty decent. I’m guessing the guy who made this knew exactly what he was getting into when he decided to shoot a submission:

First Place Winner. Prize: $5,000 & trip to NYC to meet Mr. Cent:

Like I said, that was pretty good. But I’ve certainly never seen so much gun play in a video contest entry before. A lot of contests straight up prohibit the depiction of firearms or realistic violence but this contest was sponsored by 50 Cent’s company so I guess Fiddy obviously doesn’t really mind if people associate him or his “brand” with firearms.

Sheets Energy Strips cheaps out, gets a TV commercial for free


I don’t know much about basketball but I have picked up on the fact that Lebron James is considered to be one of the biggest jerks in the NBA.  Well now it seems like he’s trying to become known as one of the biggest jerks in advertising.  Last fall, Adweek ripped apart the ad campaign for a company that James represents and co-founded; Sheets Energy Strips.  The site called their “I Take a Sheet…” campaign  “the low point in 2011 advertising.“  If you’re not familiar with Sheets they are these little strips that you pop in your mouth.   They’re just like those breathe strip things but these are filled with caffeine.  The whole ad campaign for Sheets is based on an weird, poop-centric puns.  Millions of people around the country have had crap like this forced into their brain over the last few months…..

Get it? It's a pun on "taking a shit!"

If forcing people at bus stops to picture middle aged ladies taking dumps on the floor of a library wasn’t bad enough, the geniuses at Sheets decided to expand their campaign with a new national TV commercial.  But I guess that the 15 million dollars Lebron made last year (just from playing for the Heat) wasn’t enough to actually pay for an ad.  So the Sheets team decided to exploit desperate filmmakers by holding an idiotic video contest.  People were supposed to shoot 30 second commercials for Sheets and then get all their friends to vote for their entry.  The ads that had the most facebook likes would go on to the finals and then Lebron and a few other celebrity judges (if you consider a guy named “PitBull” a celebrity) would choose the winner.  The winning ad would then play on TV and in movie theaters nationwide.

Normally, a “low budget” TV commercial will cost tens of thousands of dollars produce.  And decent ads can sometimes even cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make.  Just think about it….the sponsor has to pay SAG wages, they have to hold auditions, hire hair and make up people, get permits, rent equipment, hire a director that’s in the DGA and pay a small army of tech people to shoot and edit the thing.  So getting a commercial from a video contest can save a company a small fortune.  Even if they put up a prize of say $10,000, that’s nothing compared to what it would cost to fund a “professional” spot.

But the people Sheets didn’t think an “amateur” ad was worth even a measly grand.  That’s right….there was no cash prize in this contest.  Sheets wanted filmmakers to produce a TV quality commercial for them and then get everyone they know to like Sheets’ facebook page and vote for their entry and then sign the rights away so Sheets could use their work for ZERO dollars.  The fact that the commercial would air on TV was supposed to be enough of an honor, I suppose.  Oh, but at least the six finalists each won a pair of headphones.  That seems totally fair, right?

The Sheets commercial contest ended last week and here’s the ad that the judges picked as the winner.  I watched some of the other and this was really the only finalist that was even commercial-like, if ya know what I mean.  One of the 6 finalist ads was like 34 seconds long.  So pretty much this was the only viable, air-able entry I saw.

Sheets Contest Winner.  Prize:  Jack Sheet:

I think it’s absolutely awesome when companies “crowdsource” their ads but every once in a while you get some shitty company like Sheets that just wants to use filmmakers so they can get something for nothing.  Folks seriously, if you ever see a video contest where the sponsors are offering a prize of zero dollars, don’t enter.  If they think your work is literally worthless, don’t give it to them.  I know that it might be cool to see your commercial air on TV but it probably won’t help your career in the long run.  No potential employer is going to be impressed with the fact that you won a video some prize-less video contest because you were able to get the most facebook votes.

Sling Baby “Wins” Facebook ad meter poll and a million bucks thanks to unsportsmanlike conduct

I call Shenanigans! Sling Baby's "head of social media" calls on fans to attack their competition.

On Tuesday night, filmmaker and three-time Crash the Super Bowl finalist Kevin T. Willson became the fourth person ever to win the million dollar ad meter bonus in Doritos’ annual commercial contest.  But unlike the other three times directors have won that honor, Willson’s victory isn’t anything worth celebrating.  In fact, the way he “won” his bonus money is so shameful I think his win might wind up being a black mark on the reputation of the entire field of “crowdsourced” advertising.

As I explained in my last post, this year USA Today ran TWO versions of their annual Super Bowl ad meter poll.  The traditional poll got its scores from viewers in private focus groups and the results were released on Sunday night.  This year, USA Today’s focus groups declared the Crash the Super Bowl entry “” to be the best commercial of the game.  (A great call, BTW)  As is tradition, Doritos will award a bonus of one million dollars to the creator of Man’s Best Friend for pulling off such an amazing feat.

But USA Today’s second ad meter poll was touted as a chance for “the public” to rank the commercials of Super Bowl 46.  The poll was run online and voting was open to anyone with a facebook page.  Voters were able to score a video on a scale of one to five stars.  Way back when the 2011/2012 installment of the CTSB contest was launched, Doritos said that they would be giving out bonus prizes to any CTSB ad that landed in the top three of either USA Today ad meter poll.  (one million dollars for first, $600K for second, $400K for third)  Voting in the online ad meter ended last night and when all was said and done, Kevin Willson’s Crash the Super Bowl ad, “Sling Baby,” managed to come out on top.

So this year, Fritolay gets to boast that Doritos commercials took the #1 spot in both of USA Today’s ad meter polls.  But the new facebook ad meter poll is set up and run in such a way that virtually guarantees that a Crash the Super Bowl ad will land “in the money.”  The other 55 ads in the poll have nothing to gain financially by doing well so only the Sling Baby team seriously FOUGHT for first place.  So I think fritolay knew a Doritos ad would probably win the facebook poll all along.  However, I don’t think they ever could have guessed that the final score would be so lopsided that the results would make the entire facebook ad meter look like an unfair, illegitimate joke.  Check this out; here’s a shot of the Facebook ad meter scores as they were just a few hours after the Super Bowl ended:

Online ad meter standings: Sunday Night

On Sunday night, the CTSB commercial that won the traditional ad meter was also winning the online poll.  Actually, the top 5 ads on this poll are just a jumbled version of the results of the traditional ad meter.  So before the Sling Baby crew started voting, the facebook poll was actually a pretty fair indicator of how “the public” felt about the ads that aired during the big game.  But here’s what the scores looked like by Monday afternoon.


Sing Baby had shot into first place but that was no surprise. However, the plummeting scores of the other videos in the top five were a little suspicious. As for the Kia commercial, it featured Motley Crue and it turns out the band kept and to vote for their ad. So that’s why that spot jumped into the Top 5. I guess the Sling Baby team didn’t appreciate that someone else was trying to win the ad meter poll. Here’s how the rankings looked at 1:15 on Tuesday afternoon:


The Kia ad had been slapped down hard. Just 20 minutes after I took that screen shot I checked the rankings again. The Kia ad’s score was down to 4.22 and it had fallen out of the top 5.  So the only commercial that seemed to actually be trying to beat Sling Baby was mysteriously crushed in the voting over night.

Here now are the final scores of USA Today’s Facebook Ad Meter Poll:


When voting started, Sling Baby was in a three way tie for first place with Man’s Best Friend and Bud Light’s Weego.  But after two days of voting, Sling Baby wound up absolutely slaughtering the competition.  Though I use the word “competition” lightly.  I did see a few casual requests for votes from some of the other competitors, but I think most companies realized that an online ad meter was sort of meaningless.  For the Sling Baby team, winning a 56-way contest that almost no one else was really trying to win should have been a piece of cake.  And Doritos even helped their cause.  After Man’s Best Friend won the big ad meter contest on sunday, Doritos started encouraging their fans to head to the online poll and vote for Kevin Willson’s Sling Baby.  I think it’s insanely, amazingly awesome that the folks at Fritolay want to give one of their CTSB winners a million dollars.  Sure, it’s good publicity for them but still, it was a really gracious move.  With Doritos’ support, Kevin Willson and his teammates could have scored a spot in the Top 3 without breaking a sweat.  But unfortunately, winning $600,000 or $400,000 fair and square apparently wasn’t good enough for these folks.  I kept track of the ad meter for the last three days and it seems that Sling Baby won because a small army of supporters sabotaged the scores of the other ads in the poll by maliciously rating them 1 star out of a possible 5.

If you look at Sling Baby’s official facebook page, you’ll only see a few subtle hints that the team wanted people to down-vote the other ads in the poll.  Here’s one example I saw:

Screenshot of the "Vote For Sling Baby" facebook page

Just for the record, Willson’s “User Generated ad” was created by a team of more than 40 pro and semi-pro filmmakers and cost almost $3,000 to produce. But anyway, as you can see, whoever was running that facebook page was really pushing the idea that their team had to beat Budweiser, M&Ms, Kia, etc.  And one fan even flat out said he was rating the other videos one-star.  And yet, no one spoke up and said “Hey man, we don’t want to win that way.  Please only give honest scores.

But that was how thing’s went down on Sling Baby’s official page.  Behind the scenes, the Sling Baby team felt free to get ruthless.  Based on what I have seen, it seems that some team members decided they could only win if they played dirty.  The creators of Sling Baby were incredibly organized and they even had someone managing their online campaigns.  That person’s name is Nate Daniels and the “About Us” section of lists him as being in charge of “Social Media.”  But apparently he also helped come up with the idea for the entry.  Daniels did an interview with something called the Lansing City Pulse in which he talked about his role on the team:

Daniels, who moved to Los Angeles, teamed up with the director of the ad, Kevin Wilson, to create the commercial. “I helped create the idea for ‘Sling Baby,’ and am in charge of the online campaign and the website,” Daniels said.

And here he is doing a TV interview with a Lansing, MI news station about Sling Baby’s quest to win the facebook ad meter.  So Daniels was a key member of the Sling Baby team.  He was literally the guy in charge of spreading the word about the ad and I assume that he was the head of the “online campaign” to get votes for the commercial.  At first Daniels simply asked people to vote for his team’s ad.  But as the Sling Baby slipped in the polls, he started to hint that people should give bad scores to the competition:


But soon enough, Daniels dropped the innuendo and just started instructing people to rate the competing ads “1 star.”  In an absolutely despicable move, he even told told people to give a bad score to the other Doritos commercial, Man’s Best Friend:


Daniels was by no means the only person using Facebook or Twitter to get Sling Baby fans to give bad scores to the other commercials in the ad meter. I found a bunch of other examples that I could post. But the people who made those requests weren’t in charge of Sling Baby’s social media campaigns so I’m not going to repost their comments.  I’m only sharing what Nate Daniels did because it was his job to promote Sling Baby online.

Now, if you’re thinking that perhaps this one team member went rogue and did all this without the OK of his teammates….well, take a look at this:


Jeff Edwards was the Executive Producer of Sling Baby.  Not only that, Edwards was Kevin Willson’s “plus one” for the trip to the Super Bowl.  So Edwards was practically a co-finalist.  He got a free trip to beautiful Indianapolis, he got to watch the Super Bowl from Fritolay’s private box and I’m going to guess that he stands to receive a huge slice of the million dollar ad meter prize.  So this guy should have known better than to publicly call on people to give bad scores to the Bud Light, Kia and Chrysler ads. As Captain Hook would say, that’s just bad form. Even Motley Crue didn’t tell people to down-vote the other videos and they are literally a motley crew!

Over the years I have been in a lot of video contests where votes determine the winners.  And I always make it a point to tell my family and friends NOT to down-vote the competition.  That just seems like a skeezy and unfair way to win a contest.  So it simply blows my mind that (as far as I saw) not one Sling Baby team member responded to Daniels or Edwards by saying, “Dude, chill out…we want to win fair and square.“  Though I didn’t see any evidence that Kevin Willson was asking people to sabotage the scores of the other videos in the contest, I think it’s incredibly unlikely that he didn’t know what his friends and teammates were up to.  And yet, it looks like he did nothing to stop these sad, unsportsmanlike tactics.

And that might be because he knew those tactics would work. Just look at how the scores for the other top videos tumbled during the voting.  Even Man’s Best Friend, the REAL best commercial of Super Bowl 46 went from first place to sixth place in just 48 hours.  That just shows you how effective “down-voting” can be.  Every high school graduate knows that you can get an A+ on every test but just one F per semester will wreck your final grade.  My point is that negative scores have a much bigger impact than positive scores do.  Let’s do some quick math:  Imagine a commercial on the ad meter had 10 votes of 4 stars each.  That would make their score 4.00.  If a person casts an 11th vote of 5 stars, the video’s score goes up to 4.09.  But if that person casts an 11th vote of 1 star, that video’s score plummets to 3.72.  Winning by down-voting the competition was probably easy but it was also certainly wrong.  But I guess the promise of a million god damn dollars can make people do some pretty crooked things.  To me it looks like some members of the Sling Baby team decided that it was their mission to make sure Willson’s commercial came in first by any means necessary.  And those folks straight up accomplished the hell out of that mission.

Right about now you might be wondering, “What’s the big deal?  So these guys did what it took to win a million bucks…what do you care?  It’s not your money.”  Well the reason this is a big deal because the Sling Baby crew completely violated the spirit of this competition.  I could win a hundred yard dash if my friends ran onto the track and tackled all the other runners, but that wouldn’t prove that I was the fastest guy in the race.  And I sure as hell wouldn’t be proud if someone gave me a gold medal for my phony baloney victory.  The point of the ad meter poll is to be ranked the best because your commercial IS the best….not because you got a whole bunch of people to give bad scores to the other ads.  Not only is that unsportsmanlike, I think it borders on fraud.  If the Sling Baby team launched a coordinated effort to get hundreds of people to LIE so that they could win this contest then they could be facing some serious legal repercussions.  And yes, when those voters gave bad scores to all the other videos in the contest they were LYING….they were not scoring the other commercials honestly.  I think this whole debacle could and should be investigated by the legal departments of Fritolay, USA Today, Kia, Budweiser, M&Ms, etc, etc, etc.  But at the very least, the down-voting could result in Sling Baby being completely disqualified from the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  Here’s what the official rules of the contest say about unsportsmanlike conduct:

Sponsor reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual deemed to be (a) tampering or attempting to tamper with the entry process or the operation of the Contest or any Sponsor or Contest-related Web Site; (b) violating the Official Rules; (c) violating the Web Site terms of service, conditions of use and/or applicable general rules or guidelines; or (d) acting in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. This Contest is offered only in the United States and is governed by the laws of the state of Texas. All claims relating in any manner to this Contest or to any Submission must be resolved in the federal or state courts located in Collin County, Texas.

Now that I think about it, if key members of the Sling Baby team were willing to resort to such unscrupulous measures to win the million dollar ad meter prize, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suspect that maybe they did some unscrupulous things to get enough votes to ensure their ad would air during the Super Bowl.  Again, I think that’s something the big wigs at Fritolay can and should look into.

Finally, there is one more reason why all this matters:  Crowdsourcing, video contests and consumer generated ads already don’t get a lot of respect from the pros in the advertising world.  Every time a twenty dollar, homemade commercial like “Man’s Best Friend” beats Madison Avenue’s multi-million dollar commercials, the entire ad industry looks bad.  But Sling Baby’s “win” on the facebook ad meter gives the pros a reason to dismiss the accomplishments of crowdsourcers everywhere.  Sling Baby makes it look like we can only win when we’re playing with a stacked deck.  And even worse, the ridiculous results of the facebook ad meter make all of us look like greedy, vindictive cheaters.  Oh, but just for the record, down-voting the other ads technically wasn’t cheating since their were no rules and the ad meter wasn’t even an actual “contest.”  But if people were giving bad scores to the other commercials on the ad meter just to help Sling Baby win, that would be unethical.  And winning a million dollars unethically is nothing to be proud of.

Two final notes:  First, all the facebook screenshots that appear in this post come from public facebook pages that anyone can access. However, I didn’t think it would be necessary or appropriate to actually link to those pages. Second, the website also ran an online poll where the public could rate the commercials of Super Bowl 46.  There were no prizes or bragging rights at stake in that poll so no one tried to sway the outcome of that contest.  According to people of the Internet, the two best commercials of the game were Volkswagen’s Dog Strikes Back and Doritos’ Man’s Best Friend.  As for Sling Baby, it came in 6th.

Jolly Rancher launches a video contest with no rules

Yo, suck on these!

I try and follow what goes on over on pretty closely and over the last few months I’ve noticed an odd trend developing.  It seems like more and more companies are running video “assignments” on Poptent that are sort of like the first phase of a larger video contest.  The brand’s judges review all the Poptent submissions they receive and then they select several finalists.  These finalists each get paid a few thousand dollars so the brand can post their videos on their websites or facebook pages for a few weeks.  Once the finalist videos are posted, fans of the sponsor are invited to vote on their favorite “consumer made” ads and the video that gets the most votes wins a big, fat cash prize.  So basically, companies are using Poptent so they can have their cake and eat it too.  Since there is so much talent over on Poptent the brand is almost sure to get a ton of high-quality videos to choose from.  (Bonus: they also don’t need to worry about non-winners posting their embarrassing, low-quality or offensive videos elsewhere on the web.)  And then when they run the second phase of the contest they also get the social media exposure that comes with running an online vote.  When all is said and done, the brand gets high-quality content, the are technically no “losers” so the fans don’t feel like the sponsor wasted their time, the sponsor’s website or facebook page gets tons of traffic and the directors that made the finals get at least a little cash for their trouble.

So it’s an interesting contest model.  But it really only works if all phases of the contest are run well.  The people at poptent obviously know what they’re doing so Phase One is guaranteed to run pretty smoothly.  But these types of contest can easily crash and burn once the brand takes over and launches the contest phase.  Case in point: Jolly Rancher’s Crunch ‘N Chew video contest.  Late last year Hershey’s ran a Poptent video assignment for their new product, Crunch ‘N Chew Jolly Ranchers.  In total they recived 189 videos which is a hell of a lot of submissions for a Poptent contest.  On Monday the company announced that they had picked three finalists and each winning filmmaker would be getting $2,500.  Then all three videos were posted on Jolly Rancher’s website for a month-long public vote.  After 30 days, the video with the most votes will be purchased by Hershey’s for $7.500.  And the winning filmmaker will be paid an additional $10,000 so they can produce two sequels to their first video. Hershey’s built a beautiful and simple webpage for the contest.  You can see it and all three of the finalist videos by clicking on this image:

Click to check out the actual site

As you can see, one video has already managed to get over 3,000 votes in about 4 days!  (Note: I’m writing this on Thursday night and the voting began on Monday morning.)  The website says you can “vote once a day” but 3,245 votes in 4 days still equals 811 votes a day!  That’s insane.  Unless you’re an Internet superstar, you’re not going to be able to pull down numbers like that.  So where are all those votes coming from?  Well, I did a little test and if you want to vote multiple times in this contest all you have to do is clear your web browser’s history and refresh the page.  Yep, it’s that easy.  You can vote an infinite number of times that way.

So I’m going to guess that most of Video #2′s votes came from the same computer.  Last night at 12:45AM I took a screenshot of the contest site and video #2 had 2,258 votes.  Nine hours later I checked the site again and video #2 was up to 3,022 votes.  So that video gained 764 votes overnight.  Right now it is 9PM on thursday night.  Since 10AM video #2 has only gained 223 votes.  How does a video get 764 votes in the middle of the night but only 223 votes during the day?  The only answer that makes any sense is that somebody stayed up all night voting for the same video over and over.

So these guys are cheaters and they should be disqualified immediately….right?  Wrong.  As far as I’m concerned anyone who casts multiple votes in this contest isn’t doing a damn thing wrong.  If you cheat in a contest you should get disqualified.  But “cheating” is BREAKING THE RULES.  And guess what?

The Jolly Ranchers video contest has no rules.

Seriously.  I’m not trying to be hyperbolic.  There are literally no rules for this contest.  The finalists have received no instructions from the sponsor and there are no rules on the contest site.  And if there are no rules, how can you possibly cheat???  The website says that “You can vote once per day through February 15th!”  But a single, random sentence isn’t legally binding.  And the site certainly doesn’t say you “may not vote more than once per day.”  How are contestants supposed to know what is ok and what isn’t if the sponsor doesn’t bother to tell them?  If Hershey’s REALLY didn’t want people to vote more than once a day, why did they make it so easy to vote over and over?

So frankly, you can’t blame the repeat voters.  The blame here belongs to whoever set up the voting phase of this contest.  I’m simply amazed that someone built that site without realizing people could easily vote for themselves as many times as they wanted.  I mean for Christsakes, $17,500 is at stake.  It’s just human nature to want to do everything you can to win a prize like that.  In fact, I don’t believe that no one realized this would happen.  I’m going to guess that the poor web designer or IT guy who set up the contest site probably tried in vain to explain to the marketing folks running this project that it was going to devolve into a pointless vote-a-thon.  I’ve been a tech and I spent years working with people in marketing.  They seem to just have a biological aversion to hearing about technical problems.  They pretty much just plug their ears and don’t want to acknowledge that something could go wrong.  And if they have to choose between fixing an important technical issue or preserving their vision well…their vision wins out every time.  So some marking person somewhere probably got the idea in their head that voting in this contest should be as simple as possible.  And the vision of a one-click vote wound up trumping common sense.

But as I said, the voting period in this contest lasts until February 15th.  That’s a long ways away.  Hershey’s still has plenty of time to fix this.  Because there are no rules the sponsor has no grounds to disqualify anyone.  And really, they don’t even have cause to throw out any of the votes.  But what they can do is post some freaking RULES.  Then if people get caught breaking those rules the company will have grounds to disqualify them.  But really, I think the smart thing to do at this point is just cancel the vote and pick a winner.  And maybe they can give the non-winners a little extra cash to compensate for what they’ve had to go through this week.  Seriously, this is one of the biggest video contest debacles I’ve ever seen and I would be freaking out if I had to endure a month-long, phony voting process. Right now this is a voting contest, not a video contest and that just sucks.

THURSDAY NIGHT UPDATE:  I was going to wait until Friday morning to post this but I’ll publish it now.  It’s now a little after 12:45AM and Video #2 is now up to 3734 votes.  That means that video received 1,476 votes in the span of 24 hours.  And 480 votes came in between the hours of 9PM and 1AM tonight.  That’s twice the number of votes that video got all day on Thursday.  Again, it’s not really possible to cheat in a contest where there are no rules but someone does seem to be voting for one of the entries over and over.  So I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if anyone at Hershey’s cares enough to do anything about this.

MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE:  Unfortunately, Hershey’s hasn’t done a thing to try and stop this out of control contest.  In fact, they have let things get much, much worse.  Video #2 is now up to 10,134 votes.  That means they got about 6,000 votes in 4 days.  But now, the team who created Video #1 have also apparently decided to try and win this contest.  Yesterday Video #1 had about 1,000 votes.  Today they have 4,000 votes!  As I keep saying, this contest has no rules so none of this can count as cheating.  But I have to ask, what the hell does Hersey gain from running a joke of a contest like this?

TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE:  Someone who called himself “Jolly Fan” left a comment accusing me of being the creator of the video that has the least number of votes in this contest.  Just for the record, I am not.  I didn’t even enter the Jolly Rancher assignment.  Click the comments button to see “Jolly Fan’s” very un-friendly message.  If you read between the lines it seems pretty obvious that Jolly Fan is actually the creator of Video #2.

Woozol offers $1K prize for a national TV commercial

Woozol: Will pay you in pennies

The Penny Auction site is launching in October and because there are already like 50 Penny Auction sites on the web, the Woozol team apparently decided they better make a TV commercial.  But it turns out, making a TV commercial is really expensive!  So Woozol decided to “crowdsource” their commercial and let the aspiring ad makers out their handle the job. A lot of companies are doing that these days and I think that’s awesome.  But what’s not awesome is when a company like Woozol tries to take advantage of the people who enter their contest.  Woozol decided that a fair price for a crowdsourced commercial that was guaranteed to air on national TV is $1,000.

And if that minuscule prize wasn’t insulting enough, Woozol decided the best way to pick their first TV commercial was through a public vote.  And it was the worst kind of public vote too; it was run on facebook and people could vote every day.  That means that quality would have zero impact on deciding the winners.  Basically, Woozol ran a voting-contest, not a video contest.

So the company decided that a little extra social media exposure meant more to them then a quality commercial.  And can you guess what happened?  The contest was a complete and utter disaster.  They got so few entries that they had to extend the deadline.  And in the end, the entries they did receive were pretty much terrible.  None of them were TV-quality to say the least.  But the “public’ has spoken and here is the ad winning ad that Woozol promised they would air on TV:’s First Place Winner.  Prize:  $1,000 plus national airplay:

Ha!  That “TV commercial” was only 19 seconds long!  How did it even get accepted into the contest?  There is simply no way Woozol can run that on TV.  But national airplay was part of the guaranteed prize. This is from Woozol’s Facebook page:

New Website ** starts a $1,000 Video Contest to find a fantastic *TV Commercial.* Get your friends to vote because the one with the most votes wins the grand prize: *$1,000 and their commercial broadcast on national television!* Voting will begin on August 29th and run through September 9th, so be sure to get your submission in on time and tell your friends!

So it looks like the company is stuck airing that video. In fact, a rep from Woozol said that was one reason the cash prize was so low. They felt that the exposure was the most valuable part of the prize. So is Woozol really going to run a 19 second TV commercial or are they going to break their promise to air the winning video?

That question might be moot because surprise, surprise….it looks like there was probably a massive amount of cheating going on during the voting phase.  Other disgruntled contestants have been leaving comments on Woozol’s facebook page saying that they suspected the winners cheated.  Here’s what one contestant had to say:

Taras M:  This contest was so rigged! I am reading some of the comments on the 2nd Prize Video Winner. And somebody said they voted for him 80 times using an I.P. changer. This should not be allowed and he should be eliminated. I am also kind of surprised all three videos were very simple Windows Movie Maker type videos that takes 20 minutes to make. None of the hard working videos even got a spot.  I am not trying to claim a spot or anything, I just want to give my 2 cents and let you know that 2/3 Winners chosen used an internet source to amp up votes. I just think this is a very unfair advantage.

So maybe Woozol will be able to weasel out of their obligations by voiding the contest becuase of cheating.  And by the way, as that commenter points out, there was a 2nd and 3rd place in this contest.  Second prize was $500 and Third prize was $250.  Just for the heck of it, Here’s the video that won 2nd place:’s Second Place Winner.  Prize:  $500:

Was that epic or what?  I think this entire story can be summed up in one line; YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

A weird Epilogue to the Jackson Hewitt contest

In late May I was contacted by a reader who had made the finals of Jackson Hewitt’s “Win Win with the Big Check” video contest.  He said that he and the other finalists had been waiting for weeks and weeks to find out who had won and he was worried that JH wasn’t going to pay out the promised prize of two, $10,000 checks.  Jackson Hewitt had recently declared bankruptcy and suddenly the rules for the contest disappeared from the web and the folks at JH stopped responding to the finalists’ calls and e-mail.  On May 30th I did a post about Jackson Hewitt’s failure to pick a winner in this contest.  One of the finalists sent the story to Jackson Hewitt and in just a few hours, the company announced the would reveal the winner on June 9th.  And that’s just what they did.  .

So all’s well that ends well, right?  Not exactly.  Last week, before the winners were announced I got some angry comments from someone who claimed to be one of the winners in this contest.  She told me the checks had been cashed and that I was just being “pissy” and a sore loser because I didn’t win.  Of course, I didn’t actually enter this contest so I had no stake in the outcome.  I was just reporting some Video Contest News.

When the results were announced, Jackson Hewitt posted of the winners receiving their checks.  I wanted to see if the name on one of the checks matched the person who sent me the angry comment.  It did, but when I zoomed in, I noticed something else:

The winners got their giant checks on May 20th.  That was 9 whole days before I did my post saying Jackson Hewitt had failed to pick a winner in this contest!  Man do I feel like a jerk!

But wait a minute…to get all those people together for the photo I bet the winners were notified sometime in mid-May. So why the heck did Jackson Hewitt keep the news secret for a whole month?  By delaying the announcement, Jackson Hewitt let the 19 other finalists think they still had a shot at winning for about 5 weeks!  That sucks, man!  Why did they let those people hold out hope for so long?  And when Jackson Hewitt announced they would reveal the winner on June 9th, they already knew who won.  So why did they have to wait until June 9th to make the announcement?

If I hadn’t done a post about it, I don’t think they ever would have announced that a winner had been chosen.  The only explanation I can think of is that Jackson Hewitt was trying to keep the results quiet because of their bankruptcy.  The winners recived their check on May 20th and on May 23rd Jackson Hewitt filed for Chapter 11 protection.  I guess you can’t announce both of those pieces of news on the same day.   Someone at the company must have realized that the people they owed money to might get upset if they discovered JH had enough cash to pay out contest prizes but not enough to pay their rent.  So that’s probably why they put off announcing the winner until June 9th.  They had to wait for some of the sting of the bankruptcy announcement to wear off.  I guess that’s understandable but the whole thing was handled pretty badly.  If you’re holding a video contest you should at least have the decency to tell the non-winners that a winner has been picked so they can get on with their lives.  But from what I’ve been told, Jackson Hewitt has still not bothered to let the other finalists know the contest is over!  I guess JH is just assuming they’ll find out the bad news next time they check the contest page for updates.  And that’s a really uncool move.  I’m sure things are pretty crazy over at Jackson Hewitt’s HQ these days but that’s no excuse not to treat their contestants with the respect they deserve.

UPDATE: A very astute reader suggested an explanation that should have been obvious to me; What if Jackson Hewitt just back-dated the giant check to 3 days before the company went bankrupt?  It just seems far-fetched that they’d pick a winner in early May and then wait a month before announcing the results.  The company declared bankruptcy on May 23rd and the checks say May 20th on them.  I just checked and may 23rd was a monday.  So those checks were dated to the last business day before JH went bankrupt.

No, Doritos is not “Going Gay” for the Super Bowl

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:


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 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.


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! &

KINGBEAN14 BEAN: Doritos got some gay ass super bowl commercials coming out

JamesPLCross: Gay-Themed Super Bowl Ads! For Doritos: 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.

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