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Posts Tagged ‘2011’

Doritos’ 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2007 Crash the Super Bowl Finalists

Today is Monday, October 8th which means the 2012-2013 Crash the Super Bowl contest is officially open and accepting entries.  As of right you have just 40 days to shoot, edit and upload your Doritos commercials.  I’m sure that most of you are already working on your ideas but before you start filming, you should take some time to do a little research.  If you want to win the Crash the Super Bowl contest you need to understand what types of ads make the finals.  Doritos used to have all the past Crash the Super Bowl winners posted to a single youtube channel but for some dumb reason, those official videos have all been taken down.  So if you want to see all the winning ads you’re going to have to hunt for them all over youtube.  Or you could just scroll down because I did the hunting for you!  Links to every Doritos finalist from the past 6 years are below. I would have just embedded the videos but 30 embedded youtube videos in one post pretty much would crash my site.  So each ad is represented by a screenshot.  To watch the actual commercials, click on the images:

2011-2012 Doritos Finalists:

Man’s Best Friend by Jonathan Friedman of Virginia Beach, VA.
-Aired During the Super Bowl.  WINNER: Million dollar USA Today ad meter bonus

Man’s Best Friend

Sling Baby by Kevin T. Willson of Los Angeles, CA.
-Aired During the Super Bowl.  WINNER: Million dollar Facebook ad meter bonus

Sling Baby

Bird of Prey by Joby Harris of Los Angeles, CA.

Bird of Prey

Dog Park by Tyler Dixon of Liegh, UT.

Dog Park

Hot Wild Girls by Brad Scott of Denver, CO.

Hot Wild Girls


2010-2011 Doritos Finalists:

Pug Attack by JR Burningham of Burbank, CA.
-Aired during the Super Bowl. WINNER:  Million dollar USA Today ad meter bonus.

Pug Attack

The Best Part by Tyler Dixon of Lehi, Utah.
-Aired during the Super Bowl.

The Best Part

Adam and Eve by Stephen Schuster of Topanga, CA.

Adam and Eve

Birthday Wish by Heather Kasprzak of Los Angeles, CA.

Birthday Wish

House Sitting by Tynesha Williams of Santa Monica, CA.
-Aired during the Super Bowl. WINNER: $400,000 ad meter bonus

House Sitting

2009-2010 Finalists:

Underdog by William Kyle Gerardi of Cary, NC.
-Aired during the Super Bowl. WINNER: $600,000 Ad Meter bonus.


Snack Attack Samurai by Ben Krueger of Minneapolis, MN.
-Aired during the Super Bowl.

Snack Attack Samurai

The Smackout by Brendan Hayward of Santa Monica, CA.

The Smackout

Casket by Kevin Wilson of Whittier, CA.
-Aired during the Super Bowl.


House Rules by Joelle De Jesus of Los Angeles, CA.
-Aired during the Super Bowl.

House Rules

Kids These Days by Nick Dimondi of Cary, NC.

Kids These Days


2008-2009 Finalists:

Free Doritos by Joe Herbert of Batesville, IN.
-Aired during the Super Bowl. WINNER:  Million dollar USA Today Ad meter bonus.

Free Doritos

New Flavor Pitch by Oren Brimer of New York, NY.

New Flavor Pitch

Power of the Crunch by Eric Heimbold of Venice, CA.
-Also aired During the Super bowl.

The Power of the Crunch

The Chase by Chris Roberts of Burbank, CA.

The Chase

Too Delicious by Michael Goubeaux of Los Angeles, CA.

Too Delicious


— 2007-2008:  No Commercial contest —


2006-2007 Finalists:

1.  Live the Flavor by Five Points Productions of Cary, NC.
-WINNER:  Aired during the Super Bowl.

Live the Flavor

Check Out Girl by Kristin C. Dehnert of Los Angeles, CA.
-Also aired during the 2007 Super Bowl.

Checkout Girl

 Mouse Trap by Billy Federighi of Beverly Hills, CA.
-Aired the next year during the 2008 Super Bowl.


Chip Lover’s Dream by Jared Cicon of Claremont, CA.

A Chip Lover’s Dream

Duct Tape by Joe Herbert of Batesville, IN.

Duct Tape


A brief history of the Crash the Super Bowl contest

Flashback: Logo from the first installment of the CTSB contest

Did you know that there’s no wikipedia entry for Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl contest?  Is that weird or what?  Everything has a Wikipedia entry.  For God’s Sake, the Nickelodeon show “Hey Dude” which ran from 1989 to 1991 has a massive Wikipedia page complete with episode guides. (I clicked the “Random Article” button on Wikipedia and the Hey Dude entry was the first one to pop up)  Over the last two and half year’s I’ve written dozens of articles about “The Crash” and I’ve had to spend a lot of time searching the web for information.  It would be really helpful if some nerd out there would just compile a bunch of facts about the contest and post them online.

Oh wait….I guess if anyone is nerdy enough to do something like that it’s me.  It took me a lot of googling but I’ve found a ton of data about The Crash and I will list it all in this single post.  This is going to be just basic stuff like who made the finals, who won, how many entries where received, etc.  Please be aware that if you are actually interested in this type of data that pretty much means you are as big of a nerd as I am.

Let’s start with the number of entries the contest has received over the years.  Most of these numbers come from old articles or press releases that were put out by Fritolay:



2006/2007 Installment: 1,065 Doritos entries.

2007/2008: No commercial contest that season.

2008/2009 Installment: 1961 Doritos Entries.

2009/2010 Installment: 4023 Doritos Entries

2010/2011 Installment: 4,260 Doritos Entries.

2011/2012 Installment: 6,100 Doritos Entries.

Note: In 2010, Pepsi Max was also part of the Crash the Super Bowl contest. Pepsi Max received 1,460 submissions. But the Pepsi Max “Crash” was pretty much a totally different contest run by a different company and a different set of judges. So for the rest of this article I’m just going to focus on the Doritos contest. And now, time for a graph:

Hey, those points look like doritos!

Pretty amazing, huh? This contest has just grown like crazy over the years. Bet you’re kicking yourself right now for not entering back in 2006. So it looks like the number of submissions doubled after the 2008/2009 Crash the Super Bowl contest. But why? Probably because the winner of the 2009 contest, scored the #1 spot on the USA Today ad meter poll and the guys who made the ad, Joe and Dave Herbert won a million bucks.  After people saw that it was possible for an “average joe” to win the million dollar bonus the contest just blew up.

But this raw data doesn’t tell the whole story. If you’ve entered past installments of the CTSB contest you know that every year, Doritos gets HUNDREDS of duplicate entries. I think the rules say that you can submit up to 10 versions of your commercial. And some people just uploaded their video 10 times. Some probably did it because they were unsure if the initial upload worked. But I think others used to do it just because they thought maybe it would improve their chances.

The repeat entries used to be really annoying. It seemed like for every 100 submissions I watched, at least 20 would be repeats. But fortunately, this year Doritos finally took measures to keep the duplicates out of the video gallery. I’d estimate that only 5% of this season’s submissions were repeats.  So just for the fun of it let’s adjust the numbers to account for all the duplicates. I’ll deduct 20% from each total except for 2011. For this year’s total I’ll only deduct 5%.



2006/2007 Installment: 852 Unique Doritos entries.

2008/2009 Installment: 1569 Unique Doritos Entries.

2009/2010 Installment: 3,220 Unique Doritos Entries.

2010/2011 Installment: 3,408 Unique Doritos Entries.

2011/2012 Installment: 5,795 Unique Doritos Entries.

Now let’s do a little light math. Each year, Doritos picks 5 finalists. (Except in the 09-10 contest when they picked 6 finalists)  So it’s easy to calculate a contestant’s chance of making the finals.



2006/2007 Installment: 1 in 170.

2008/2009 Installment: 1 in 313.

2009/2010 Installment: 1 in 536.

2010/2011 Installment: 1 in 681.

2011/2012 Installment: 1 in 1,159.

Anyone who has watched a few random CTSB entries knows that most of the submissions Doritos receives every year just aren’t that great.  But there’s no possible way to estimate what a filmmaker’s odds are if he makes a GOOD submission.  So I won’t even try.  Let’s move on to a list of who has won the contest over the years.  I’ll include the Pepsi Max Crash the Super Bowl finalists just for the heck of it.  You can find all of these commercials on the official .

2007, 2009, 2010, 2011 AND 2012 CRASH THE SUPER BOWL FINALISTS:

2006-2007 Finalists:

1.  Live the Flavor by Five Points Productions of Cary, NC.
-WINNER:  Aired during the Super Bowl.

2.  Check Out Girl by Kristin C. Dehnert of Los Angeles, CA.
-Also aired during the 2007 Super Bowl.

3.  Mouse Trap by Billy Federighi of Beverly Hills, CA.
-Aired during the 2008 Super Bowl.

4.  Chip Lover’s Dream by Jared Cicon of Claremont, CA.

3.  Duct Tape by Joe Herbert of Batesville, IN.


2007-2008:  No Commercial contest


2008-2009 Finalists:

1. Free Doritos by Joe Herbert of Batesville, IN.
-Aired during the Super Bowl. WINNER:  Million dollar bonus.

2. New Flavor Pitch by Oren Brimer of New York, NY.

3. Power of the Crunch by Eric Heimbold of Venice, CA.
-Also aired During the Super bowl.

4. The Chase by Chris Roberts of Burbank, CA.

5. Too Delicious by Michael Goubeaux of Los Angeles, CA.


2009-2010 Finalists:

1. Snack Attack Samurai by Ben Krueger of Minneapolis, MN.
-Aired during the Super Bowl.

2. The Smackout by Brendan Hayward of Santa Monica, CA.

3. Casket by Kevin Wilson of Whittier, CA.
-Aired during the Super Bowl.

4. House Rules by Joelle De Jesus of Los Angeles, CA.
-Aired during the Super Bowl.

5. Underdog by Five Points Productions of Cary, NC.
-Aired during the Super Bowl. WINNER: $600,000 Bonus.

6. Kids These Days by Nick Dimondi of Cary, NC


2010-2011 Doritos Finalists:

1.  Adam and Eve by Stephen Schuster of Topanga, CA.

2.  Best Part by Tyler Dixon of Lehi, Utah.
-Aired during the Super Bowl.

3.  Birthday Wish by Heather Kasprzak of Los Angeles, CA.

4.  House Sitting by Tynesha Williams of Santa Monica, CA.
-Aired during the Super Bowl.

5.  Pug Attack by JR Burningham of Burbank, CA.
-Aired during the Super Bowl. WINNER:  Million dollar Bonus.


2010-11 Pepsi Max Finalists:

1.  Elevator Girl by Michael Doneger of Los Angeles, CA

2.  First Date by Nick Simotas of Anaheim, CA.
-Aired during the Super Bowl.

3.  Love Hurts by Brad Bosley of Los Angeles, CA.
-Aired during the Super Bowl. WINNER: $400,000 Bonus.

4.  Torpedo Cooler by Brendan Hayward of Santa Monica, CA
-Aired during the Super Bowl.

5.  Zero Calories? Psshh by Brandy Gill of Orlando, FL


2011-12 Doritos Finalists:

1.  Bird of Prey by Joby Harris of Los Angeles, CA.

2.  Dog Park by Tyler Dixon of Liegh, UT.

3.  Hot Wild Girls by Brad Scott of Denver, CO.

4.  Man’s Best Friend by Jonathan Friedman of Virginia Beach, VA.

5.  Sling Baby by Kevin T. Willson of Los Angeles, CA.
And finally, since all the news articles and press releases I read always said where the finalists came from, let’s do a  breakdown of the states that gave us Crash the Super Bowl finalists:
The 31 Crash the Superbowl commercials came from directors in the following states:

California:  19 commercials

North Carolina:  3 commercials

Utah:  2 commercial

Indiana: 2 commercials

Florida:  1 commercial

New York:  1 commercial

Minnesota:  1 commercial

Colorado:  1 commercial

Virginia:  1 commercial
It should be no surprise that a lot of the winning commercials came from California since so many filmmakers live in the LA area.  But what is surprising is that a number of people have made the finals more than once.  The 3 North Carolina ads all came from a team known as Five-Points Productions, the 2 commercials from Indiana were both made by the famous Herbert Brothers, the 2 ads from Utah were directed by a filmmaker named Tyler Dixon and 4 of the California commercials (plus 1 of the Utah commercials) were made by a group of friends that all attended the same Church in Los Angeles.

I know that a lot of Crash the Super Bowl finalists (past and present) read this site. So if anyone sees any errors in this post, please let me know!

A Crash the Super Bowl Bummer: Three of the five 2012 finalists were made by past winners


Last night, just after midnight Doritos revealed the 5 finalists in the 2011/2012 installment of the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  And the results are simply disgusting….but not because the winning ads are terrible.  Actually, all 5 of Doritos’ picks are well made and kind of amusing.  No, the thing that’s filled me with disgust is WHO made the finals this year.  You see, THREE of the FIVE winning ads were made my people who wrote, directed or produced previous Crash the Super Bowl finalist spots.  But that’s not all…those three teams are actually all part of a single group of filmmakers from the LA area.  But that’s not all either!  One of this year’s winning commercials was directed by one 2011 Doritos finalist and produced by a different 2011 Doritos finalist; basically two of last year’s winners decided to join forces this year.  So long story short, these results tell us that if you want to win the Crash the Super Bowl contest all you have to do is win the Crash the Super Bowl contest and then enter again the next year.

For the record, the names of the entries that made the Top 5 this year are Sling Baby, Bird of Prey, Hot Wild Girls, Dog Park and Man’s Best Friend.  Now please bare with me while I attempt to break down the finalist family tree:

SLING BABY:  This spot was directed by a filmmaker named Kevin T. Willson.  Amazingly, Willson has now made the Crash the Super Bowl finals THREE YEARS IN A ROW now.  In 2010 he directed an ad entitled and in 2011 he directed one entitled .  Both entries made the Doritos finals and Casket aired during the Super Bowl.  According to the website, Vote4slingbaby.com, many crew members worked on all three of Willson’s ads. But I only learned about the overlapping crew thanks to google.  The Sling Baby site seems to go out of it’s way to avoid mentioning the fact that this team has won this contest twice before.  In fact, the “About Us” section states “Sling Baby is home-made by a group of good friends.”  Of course the website also lists the names of about 40 crew people including two ADs, a stunt coordinator and an entertainment attorney….not too shabby for a “homemade” commercial.  One more interesting fact; Sling Baby actually features the same child actor that starred in Birthday Wish.  I’m guessing all of Fritolay’s judges have working eyeballs so they must have realized there was probably a connection between the two spots. But if using the same child actor was too subtle, Sling Baby was submitted under the username “KevinTW.”  Even I realized that KevinTW had to be the guy who made Casket and Birthday Wish.  It was so obvious that it almost seemed like the director wanted the judges to know it was his spot.

BIRD OF PREY:  Kevin Willson’s Casket ad was apparently a very large production and an entire team of filmmakers from Los Angeles all worked on it together.  And it seems many of the cast and crew go to a “megachurch” in LA known as Mosaic. From what I’ve read it’s kind of famous for being popular with aspiring actors and filmmakers.  (The head of the church, pastor Erwin McManus was actually the “executive producer” of Casket.)  I guess Wilson’s success inspired his Casket teammates to try and win the Doritos contest themselves.  The result is Bird of Prey.  The spot was written and directed by one of the writers/crew members of Casket, Joby Harris.  After doing some googling it looks like several people who helped created Bird of Prey are part of the “Mosaic Church” team.   Most notably, the stunt coordinator did the stunts for Casket AND Sling Baby.  To top it off, Bird of Prey even features the same actor that starred in Casket, David Schultz.  In Casket he played the man in the titular Casket and in Bird of Prey he’s the guy who thinks he’s a bird.  Again, assuming that the Doritos judges have memories and eyeballs they had to have recognized the lead actor and known the spot had some kind of connection to CasketUPDATE: In a video posted on the CTSB site, the director of Bird of Prey explains that he was only able to make this ad because he recived a $10,000 gift from someone from his church.

DOG PARK:  Now here’s where things get really weird.  Dog Park was directed by a filmmaker from Utah named Tyler Dixon.  Dixon created the (very funny) ad which made the Doritos finals last year.  (Remember, it was the one were a McLovin lookalike licked cheese off his co-worker’s fingers?)  But Dog Park was produced by a producer from LA named Heather Kasprzak.  Kasprzak is also part of the Mosaic church team and she produced Birthday Wish which Kevin Willson (Casket, Sling Baby) directed.  Technically, she was one of the five finalists last year since that ad was submitted under her name.  I’m guessing that Wilson didn’t enter Birthday Wish under his own name because he thought it might hurt his chances since he had already been to the finals.  But anyway…do you get what happened here?  The producer of Birthday Wish obviously met the director of The Best Part at the Super bowl last year.  At some point they decided to team up and now both of them get to go back to the Super Bowl for the 2nd year in a row.  That’s seriously kind of bogus.  And like Sling Baby, it seems like the director of Dog Park wanted the judges to know who made this ad.  It was submitted under the username “TylerDixon.”  (Though I’m kind of being a dick right now I do respect that these guys put their name on their ads.  If it was intentional there was a real chance the plan could have backfired.)

So it’s all a little too incestuous, isn’t it?  I’m disappointed that these three entries made the finals this year because it proves that the Crash the Super Bowl contest is totally and completely broken.  This year, Fritolay recived a whopping 6,100 entries.  That means the odds of making the final five are 1 in 1,220.  So, how in the world is it possible that 3 of the 5 teams of finalists all know each other, go to the same church in LA and  have won the contest before??  There are only three explanations:

1.  The wining teams just happen to be made of up of some of the greatest commercial writers/directors/actors in the country.

2.  The Hollywood Branch of Mosaic Church in LA has pleased God so much that he keeps bestowing his blessings (in the form of cash and trips to the Super Bowl) on its parishioners.

3.  Being a finalist in the Crash the Super Bowl contest one year gives a filmmaker a tremendous advantage the next year.

Obviously (and hopefully) the answer to this mystery is Explanation #3.  Over the years, there have been a number of people who have been able to make the Top 5 more than once.  Off the top of my head I can think of 4 times it’s happened and that’s not counting Kevin Wilson who will now be taking his third trip to the Super Bowl.  So WHY does being a finalist one year give you such a huge edge over the competition the next year?  Here are a few possible reasons:

1.  MONEY:  The biggest and most obvious factor is money.  That’s all there is to it.  Of the 6,100 entries Doritos received this year, I would guess that only about 60 submissions cost more than $1,000 to produce.  Real “Average Joes” can’t afford to gamble more than a few hundred dollars on their videos.  And really, I’m guessing most CTSB submissions cost under $50 to make. So if you spend enough money and if you use the right camera (Doritos loves ads that are shot with RED cameras) then you pretty much are automatically a serious contender for the Top 5.

But Sling Baby, Bird of Prey and Dog Park all must have cost a small fortune to produce.  All three seem to have been shot with the aforementioned RED cameras which cost well over $1,000 a day to rent.  (I bet all 3 ads were even shot with the same exact camera.)  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the three finalist ads in question probably each cost $3,000 to $6,000 to make.  Like I said, a broke-ass filmmaker in Des Moines can’t afford to spend that much cash on a “spec” commercial.  But you know who can?  Someone who won a $25,000 finalist prize in the previous installment of The Crash.  Former finalists have a huge advantage because they are able to invest their winnings into new entries.  It’s a hell of  a smart investment.  Former finalists understand that they will have an edge over the competition (for the reasons I’m listing now) in this particular contest.  Spending $5,000 of their prize money from last year is a no-brainer if it means that they might have a shot at winning a million bucks this year.  These people are not the greatest commercial directors in the country.  It’s just that low budgets inhibit the creativity of a filmmaker.  There is no cheap way to make an ad like Sling Baby or Dog Park.  As I said, it took about 40 people to make Sling Baby.  The thing that separates the repeat winners from the Average Joes is cold, hard cash and the willingness to spend it.  If you picked a few contestants at random and gave them $5,000 to spend I bet you’d get at least a few commercials that were funnier and more clever than Sling Baby, Bird of Prey or Dog Park.

2.  INSIDE INFORMATION.  Former finalists understand the Crash the Super Bowl contest in a way that most contestants can’t imagine.  They basically get to spend several days partying with other winners and the contest judges at the Super Bowl.  It’s an amazing opportunity to pick the brains of professional ad executives and the people in charge of the contest.  Finalists get to see how the contest works from the inside.  I think the reason so many finalist enter this contest year after year is because they understand that Doritos needs to pick professional looking ads that will look good playing on an HD TV on Super Bowl sunday.  So finalists know that if they spend enough money they can maybe just BUY a spot in the finals.  It’s sad but true.  And 99% of the people who enter this contest don’t know that.  They just think that if they shoot a hilarious ad with their flip camera they have a fair and square shot of making the finals….but they don’t.

3.  SPECIAL ACCESS TO RESOURCES AND TALENT:  Once a filmmaker makes the CTSB finals they automatically earn a ton of street cred with other filmmakers.  If you made a commercial that aired during goddamn Super Bowl you better believe that a lot of doors are going to fly open the next time you need help on a big shoot.  Seriously, what actor or crew member wouldn’t want to work on the CTSB entry of a person who already won the CTSB contest?  And can anyone honestly say that the team that made Dog Park didn’t have an unfair advantage here?  Dog Park would never have been made if the producer and the director didn’t meet at the Super Bowl last year.  Is it really fair that winners are allowed to join forces, pool their winnings and form a super-team?

4.  PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE JUDGES:  As I mentioned, when you win the Crash the Super Bowl contest you basically get to spend a week at the Super Bowl with the people who run the contest.  You go to dinner with them every night, you go to big parties with them, hell, you get drunk in a skybox at the Super Bowl with them.  The reps from Fritolay and Goodby/Silverstein (The ad firm that manages the contest) get to know the finalists very well.  Is it really that hard to imagine that some judges might have a soft spot for some of the previous finalists?  This year, Kevin Wilson (to his credit) submitted Sling Baby under his own name.  So the judges knew who made that spot.  Wilson made the finals in 2010 and 2011 but he never never won one of the big USA Today Ad Meter bonuses.  Is it possible that his friends at Fritolay decided to give him one more shot at the gold medal?  We outsiders don’t know how close the contestants and the judges get.  Do they stay in touch?  Could a previous finalist e-mail someone at Fritolay and say “Hey buddy, I entered the contest again this year and I thought you’d get a kick out of my submissions!”

Whatever the explanation may be, it is now impossible to deny that past finalists have a massive and unfair advantage over the rest of the filmmakers in the competition.  It’s ridiculous that literally one small group of filmmakers from one church in LA get so much out of the contest and tens of thousands of filmmakers from the rest of the country get so little.  Actually, the people who are going to get screwed the hardest are the two 2012 finalists that made the Top 5 for the first time this year.  Because the makers of Sling Baby, Bird of Prey and Dog Park all know each other and go to the same church, they can conspire to make sure that one of the “Mosaic” entries gets enough votes to air during the big game.  At the very least, the past finalists already know how to run an online campaign to get votes.  Their friends already know “the drill” and they can use all the same resources that they developed last year.

So this is really a sad state of affairs.  Normally, we have one big rule here at VCN;  DON’T HATE THE PLAYER, HATE THE GAME.  You can scream all you want about how stupid the judges of a video contest are but you can’t blame a filmmaker for winning.  However in this case I think one 2012 finalist should have retired from competing with “amateurs” by now.  It seems borderline unethical to continue to enter every year when you have an unnatural and inappropriate advantage.  Just because you can win doesn’t mean you should try.  At some point you should step aside and let others get a crack at what is billed as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.  One of the big points of this contest its that it is supposed to help launch a filmmaker’s career.  It was never meant to BE a filmmaker’s carer.

But for the most part, the blame here falls on the shoulders of the judges at Fritolay and the consultants at Goodby, Silversein and Partners.  There were plenty of entries that were just as good or better than Sling Baby, Dog Park and Bird of Prey.  Why not spread the wealth around a little?  Picking the 3 ads that were made by people the judges know casts a disturbing pall over the whole contest.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say The Crash was somehow rigged but you gotta admit, this is some seriously fishy business.  Insiders have a much, much, much better chance of winning than outsiders do and that just comes off as kind of suspicious. I did mention that the odds of making the finals this year were 1 in 1,220, right?

In my last post I said I would review all 5 finalist ads as soon as they were posted.  But this stuff with the repeat finalists caught me off guard.  The two videos that were made by first time finalists are actually the best in the bunch.  (watch them here)  But they also look “homemade” (which I prefer) when compared to a super shiny and expensive ad like Dog Park.  Oh yeah…I forgot about the dogs.  Turns out if you didn’t put a dog or a baby in your entry you had no chance of winning this year.  I’ll do reviews of each winning ad in a few days.  Plus I’ll also announce which ad I personally will be voting for.  In the mean time, please feel free to share your own opinions in the comment section.


UPDATE:  This article seems to have gotten a lot of attention and it looks like we might set a one-day traffic record today.  A lot of people have been leaving comments and I really appreciate everything everyone has been saying.  It’s nice to know that I’m not crazy and that other people agree that something is wrong if the same exact people win this contest year after year.  But a few people are misinterpreting this point of this article so I want to make two clarifications:

CLARIFICATION #1:  I am absolutely, positively 100% NOT saying that professionals should be prohibited from entering the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  That would be insane.  I am also not saying Doritos shouldn’t pick commercials that look professional.  All 5 winning ads will eventually air on TV so they MUST be TV quality.  And I in no way feel that t is unfair for people spend a lot of money on their entries.  People who spend more money are taking a big gamble and I admire their dedication.  I have entered the CTSB contest 3 years in a row and one reason I get excited about The Crash is because every year I try and step up my game.  The first HD contest entry I ever shot was for this contest and this year I think my submission was one of the most professional looking videos I’ve ever done.  I personally feel that I am a much better, stronger and more professional filmmaker because every year I challenge myself by entering the Crash the Super Bowl contest.

So my beef is not with the pros who enter this contest.  My beef is with THE SYSTEM that allows the same handful of friends from Southern California to win this contest year after year after year.  Former finalist simply have some kind of advantage,  Think of it this way; For 28 years, from 1980 until 2008 America had either someone named “Bush” or “Clinton” serving in the white  house.  If Hillary Clinton had won the presidency 4 years ago, the order of the presidents for the last 24 years would have been Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton.  So ask yourself this question:  Are the Bushes and the Clinton’s the greatest politicians of the modern era?  Or is it more likely that being an incumbent (or being related to a former president) gives one a serious advantage in presidential politics?  What I’m saying is that “politics” may be part of Fritolay’s decision process and that gives former finalists a major leg up on the competition.

CLARIFICATION #2:  No where in this article have I said that I think that past winners of the Crash the Super Bowl contest should be prohibited from entering again.  That would be very difficult to police since people can just enter under a friends name.  But there is no question that Doritos needs to fix this contest so that it more open to the rest of the public. Maybe fritolay should just ASK finalists to take a year off after they make the Top 5.  It would be like an honor-system thing.  But I should note that one former winner of the CTSB contest actually left a comment to this post and implied that he and his family are no longer eligible to enter this contest….probably because he already won the top prize of one million dollars. So apparently, Fritolay has no problem with forcing some contestants to “retire” after winning.

UPDATE #2: Actually, I’m not going to review all 5 winning ads this year. Readers have really been leaving some insightful comments and I want to explore some of the issues they have been bring up. So watch for new posts about the CTSB contest next week.

The 2012 Crash the Super Bowl Contenders!

This fall I sent a ridiculous goal for myself; I wanted to try and watch every, single Crash the Super Bowl entry and create a list of the best submissions.  But this year Doritos received a record number of videos.  In all, about 5,000 ads are on display in the contest gallery.  If one person were to sit and watch every one of those 30 second spots it would take them almost 42 man-hours to get through them all.  That’s a hell of a lot of zombies and crotch shots for one person to endure!

I tried to “watch” about 100 entries a day but I’ve been crazy busy lately and I just had to throw in the towel after about 4,000 videos.  And I put “watch” in quotation marks because I didn’t actually watch all of those entries all the way to the end.  In fact, I would estimate that I only watched 10% of those ads all the way through.  Why? Because to be frank, you can tell if a submission has a shot at winning after just the first few seconds.  If an entry has terrible sound and bad picture and features people drinking beer or wearing t-shirts with recognizable trademarks on them then that entry is simply un-airable.  So I skipped past most of the entries after about 3 or 4 seconds.

However, even though I only made it through about 70 or 80% of the submissions I think I was able to find most of the best entries in the contest.  For the videos I couldn’t get to, I scrolled through the video gallery and stopped to check out the ads that had high-quality looking thumbnails.  That might sound like a weird strategy but try it; you’ll find that if an entry’s thumbnail image looks good, the ad itself is probably decent.  But I also owe a huge thanks to all of our readers who submitted their links or who sent me tips about great entries. I bet half of this “best of” list came from reader suggestions.

So how did I determine whether or not an entry was a contender?  First, I eliminated every entry that had the following problems:

1.  Un-fixable trademark or copyright violations

2.  Un-fixable rule violations.

3.  Offensive of disgusting content.

4.  An idea that has already been done to death.

5.  Very low production values.

Though Doritos has claimed that production quality doesn’t matter to them…it does.  In 5 years, Doritos has never picked a finalist that had bad lighting, video or sound.  So I would say that production values are a HUGE (but unofficial) factor in picking the Top 5.  Every year Fritolay’s judges pick some not-so-funny but gorgeous looking, (relatively) big budget submissions.  But they have never picked a hilarious but kind of crappy looking video for the finals.  In fact, I’d estimate that at least 60% of all the past CSTB final ads were either shot on actual film or with high-end RED cameras.  And this year I bet at least 3 of the 5 finalists will be shot with REDs.

So anyway, those were the problems I looked for.  If a video didn’t have any of those issues, and if I was able to get through the whole video without being bored or turned off, here are the 4 questions I asked myself:

1.  Based on how the Ad Meter works, does this spot have a chance at scoring well?

2.  If people saw this ad on tv, would they like it enough to want to see it again later online?

3.  Based on past finalist selections, does this video fit the tone and style of the videos that the judges at Fritolay seem to like?

4.  Is it funny, memorable or special?

And that left me with a list of about 50 videos.  Then I whittled that number down to this list of 25 ads.  No wait…actually I’m going to share 26 videos.  Why 26?  Because one of these videos in my submission!  I’ll just mix it in with the rest and you guys can consider it like a little Easter egg.  If you can guess which one is mine, post your pick in a comment!  Seriously though, I’m very proud of my team’s entry and I swear, if I hadn’t made it I would still include it in this list.  But of course, my entry would obviously suit my own sense of humor since I wrote the thing.

Finally, there’s one other point I feel the need to make.  Because this is a list of ads that I think have a shot at making the Final 5, there are a few videos here that I personally freaking HATE.  But as I said, Doritos seems to really prefer gorgeous-looking ads so there are a few amazing looking but un-funny videos on this list.

And now, here is VCN’s list of the 2012 Crash the Superbowl Contenders!  All the entries will be listed in alphabetical order.  Click the images to view the entries.  Here we go!

A DAY AT THE ZOO:  This one is full of action, comedy and big wacky characters.  I’d call this one a sure thing but the costumes are TOO good.  I think the Zebra and the Lion are supposed to be the characters from the movie Madagascar.  If that’s the case this video could never get cleared to air.

A Day at the Zoo

BABY DORITOS: This one is just bonkers.  But I like it.  It probably is too crazy to make the final 5 though:

Baby Doritos

BAD MONSTER: This is one of my personal favorites.  It’s such a pure and simple idea that I can’t believe it’s never been done before.  But the Universal-style Frankenstein might also prevent this one from getting cleared for air.

Bad Monster

BIRD OF PREY: I’m not going to mince words; I despise this entry.  I’ve seen too many poor, dead birds that smashed into windows in my life to think this is funny.  But I think I hate this entry all the more because I know it will probably make the finals.  Sorry to get Shakespearean on you but this ad is full of sound and fury but signifies nothing.  It’s not funny but it LOOKS funny and it hits all the right beats.  But the comedy falls flat because there is simply no reason this goofy guy should be acting like a bird.  So it’s just crazniess for craziness’ sake.  One more issue:  The lead actor in this ad was also the lead in 2010 Crash the Super Bowl finalist ad, Casket. (He played the guy in the titular casket.)  Actually, I did some googling and Bird of Prey was made by the same LA Megachurch that created Casket.  Casting the same lead actor was a bad move; if Bird of Prey makes the finals it will look like that actor is some fritolay executive’s nephew of something.  If the Doritos judges pass on this ad I’ll be pretty darn proud of them.  They won’t though.  It will be in the finals.

Bird of Prey

BROKEN CAPE: This one’s just amusing and quirky.  It kind of reminded me of the simple “keep your hands of my momma, keep your hands off my doritos” ad from a few years ago.

Broken Cape

CALL OF THE SEA:  The judges in this contest love weird, random, quirky stuff and nothing is weirder or more random than a fisherman catching “the king of the sea.”  I originally considered this spot too strange to include on this list but about 10 minutes after I watched it I was compelled to go back and watch it again.  So it’s re-watch-ability sealed the deal for me.

Call of the sea

CAVES AND MONSTERS:  Brilliant.  Clearly a masterpiece that was created by some kind of video contest genius.  Doritos should just cancel the whole contest and send the director of this ad the million bucks…whoever he may be!  (Winky-face!!)

Caves and Monsters

DISTURBANCE:  I feel like 1 out of every 10 entries I watched this year was a parody of Paranormal Activity.  This is the only good one I saw.  Actually, I’d say this is one of my personal favorites.  The twist at the end is perfect.

DODGEBALL HUSTLE:  I think I had this day dream 100 times when I was a kid.

Dodgeball Hustle

DORITOS DAD:  This one isn’t too crazy or quirky but it’s funny and well made.  It could sneak into the Top 5.

Doritos Dad

DORITO TRIANGLE: This is hands down one of the slickest CTSB ads ever made.  I can’t imagine how much it cost or how much time went into creating this spot.  The funny thing is though that this ad probably can’t win!  It references a bunch of real people and I don’t think you can refer to people like Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa in a commercial without getting the consent of their estates.  Oh and also the ad isn’t too funny.  It’s sort of only impressive because it’s competing against a bunch of videos that were shot by teenagers with flip cameras.

Doritos Triangle

FOOD FIGHT BLITZ:  Every year Doritos gets a million food fight videos.  But this one was shot with a high-end camera and looks pretty slick.

Food Fight Blitz

GRAVITY:  This one looks great and it has a big, shocking, violent ending which is always a big plus.  But in this case, one of the people getting hurt was a woman.  And she gets smooshed pretty hard.  So I’m not sure if Doritos would take a gamble and pick any ad that showed violence happening to a woman.  When a dude gets hit in the nuts it’s funny but when a woman gets crushed and (presumably) killed in a commercial people are going to get upset.  To make things trickier, the editor inserted the famous “Wilhelm Scream” and I don’t think any unoriginal sound effects are allowed.  It’s also a real turn off that the makers of this ad already built a slick website asking people to “Vote for Gravity” if it makes the finals: 


HITCHHIKER: This was one of the very first great ads I saw this year.  I think this one is a MAJOR contender but there’s a chance that the surprise at the end has been over-exposed thanks to similar “shock” videos on the web.


HIPSTER KIDS: This one makes the list just because it’s a gorgeous, expensive looking ad that was probably made by some of NYU’s most promising film students.  It’s not funny though and hipsters and cute kids acting like adults both make my skin crawl.  So this one is a double-whammy for me but I can see how the judges could get blinded by the amazing cinematography and the little kids in funny costumes.

Hipster Kids

IMAGINARY FRIEND: Pretty good.  This one seems like it was made by some people who carefully studied what kind of ads usually make the finals.

Imaginary Friend

JURASSIC KARMA:  This one is cute and the ending did make me laugh out loud.  The CGI is amazing for a video contest but I’m thinking it might not be pro enough for the super bowl.

Jurassic Karma

KITTY HEIST:  This entry was directed by two-time Crash the Super Bowl finalist Kevin Wilson.  (He directed Casket in 2010 and Birthday Wish in 2011)  This one is obviously cute but the only reason this ad is any good is because the producers poured a bunch of money into this project.  In fact, the same thing could be said of Casket and Birthday wish.  All 3 ads were shot with RED cameras and were probably cost at least $3,000 each to make.  And that bothers me because it feels like this one filmmaker is able to just buy his way into the finals every year.  And the more he wins, the more money he has to spend on his entry next year.  This same director also submitted a second, very slick entry this year entitled Sling Baby but I think Kitty Heist has a much better chance of making the top 5.

Kitty Heist

MAKE THE MOST OF IT:  A few weeks ago I listed the “Top 5 most over-done Crash the Super Bowl ideas” and right at the top of my list was “Zombies.”  This year it felt like 5% of the submissions I watched had zombies in them.  I thought zombies in a CTSB entry would never seem fresh.  And then I saw this entry.  This one is absolutely perfect.  But it might be a little too edgy for the Super Bowl.  Not only is there a little gore, this spot acknowledges the existence of sex (gasp!)  The actors are fantastic and they really nail the excellent script.  If the Doritos judges feel like making one really ballsy pick this year, it will be this ad.

Make the Most of it

MAYBE NEXT YEAR: This is kind of a strange one but that baby cracks me up.  If this aired during the super bowl people would just stop talking/eating/whatever to stare at the giant baby face and the pretty cinematography..  But unlike a lot of slick looking ads, this entry actually has a strong “punchline.”

Maybe Next Year

MY FRIEND ARCHIE: Even by professional standards, the CGI in this video is pretty darn good.  And it also manages to be kind of funny.  But what matters in this contest is humor.  If Doritos wanted slick CGI, they could just pay ILM to make them the most kick ass robot dog ever.  Still, if this one makes the final 5 I won’t be totally shocked.

My Friend Archie

PAINT FIGHT:  I personally like ads that have lots of action and a very simple storyline.  Actually, the judges at fritolay seem to like that too.  This ad has both of those features.

Paint Fight

PINATA:  I have seen roughly 100 billion CTSB entries that feature a piñata that is either a bag of Doritos or is filled with dortios.  I don’t really like the concept but of all the piñata-themed ads I’ve seen, this one is the best.


SERIOUS PROBLEM:  I saw a bunch of pretty good ghost-themed ads this year.  Many of them had really great effects but not a lot of laughs.  But I thought this one was kind of neat.  It’s not super hilarious or anything but its good for a chuckle.  Plus I like that he ghost is a pilgrim for no good reason.

Serious Problem

SURPRISINGLY BIG TASTE:  This is one of the only entries that actually made me laugh out loud.  And it’s exciting too!  I think it’s one of the most suspenseful video contest entries I’ve ever seen. You are just sitting and waiting to see what kind of horrible fate befalls that Innocent little toddler.

Surprisingly Big Taste

TONGUE LOVE:  I’m going to call it:  Tongue Love is my favorite 2012 Crash the Super Bowl entry.  It’s simply ridiculous and awesome.  The guy in the video is amazing and the twist at the end is just icing on the cake.  I’m worried the tongue-humping might be a little too graphic for the judges though.  Plus I think that there might even be a rule that says that characters aren’t allowed to sing or rap over the provided music.

Tongue Love

Wow, what a perfect place to end the list!  Hey see what I mean about videos with good thumbnails?  Almost every one of these videos can be summed up with a single, iconic image.  So…that’s the list.  If you’re entry didn’t make it, please don’t take it personally.  There were at least 25 other strong submissions I considered for this article.  So just tell yourself that yours just barely missed the cut.  If I missed any really great spots, be sure to leave a comment and me know.  And if you think my list is full of shit you can let me know that too.

One final note:  Today is December 21st.  And aside from being my birthday (yes, for serious) it is also the day that Fritolay might be calling the potential finalists!  I have talked to a lot of former Crash the Super Bowl finalists and I always ask them “How and when did Doritos give you the good news?”  They always say the same thing; they got a call 2 or 3 days before Christmas eve.  So I hope you all charged your cell phones last night.  Good luck everybody!

We want to see your Crash the Super Bowl entries!

Time's up!

Well D (for Doritos) is finally here.  Right now it’s 4PM on November 21st which means you only have eight hours left to submit your 2011 Crash the Super Bowl entries.   And then tomorrow the wait begins!  I get a lot of e-mails this time of year and usually people want to know when Doritos will contact the finalists.  The official rules state that Doritos will notify the finalists within 6 weeks.  But 6 weeks from today happens to be Monday, January 2nd.  During the last installment of The Crash, the finalists were announced on January 3rd.  I’ve talked to a number of past finalists and it seems like Doritos usually calls the winners (yes, they’ll actually call you if you make the top 5) just before Christmas.  But the contest did start a little later than usual this year so what the heck do I know.

Right now, there are already more than 1,500 submissions posted in CTSB gallery.  But when the orange dust settles I bet there will be close to 2,800 entries.  That’s a lot less than in year’s past but the lower number is probably because this year, the contest moderators have been doing a great job of keeping people from uploading multiple entries.  In past installments, it seemed like every 10th video was a repeat.  I guess people uploaded the same videos over and over because they weren’t sure if their submissions went though.

But 2,800 submissions is still a crazy amount.   And guess what?  This year I have made it my mission to watch every, single CTSB entry!  If you watched 2,800 thirty-second commercials in a row, it would take you 23.33 hours to get through them all.  But to be honest, I’m not watching every entry from start to finish.  In fact, I usually click the “next” button on most entries after about 10 seconds.  You see, my goal is to find all the submissions that have a good chance of making it to the Top 5.  So if an entry has major technical problems that I suspect will keep it out of the running, I skip it.  And after like 15 seconds if I’m not hooked I usually move on to the next video.

This method saves me a lot of time but it isn’t exactly thorough.  Sometimes I get in the zone and I skip past videos before I really give them a chance.  So readers, I need your help.  If you see a really awesome Crash the Super Bowl entry, let me know!  And yes, you can send me your own submission if you think it’s especially great.  In about two weeks I will post a list of all my favorite 2011 CTSB submissions.  How long will the list be?  I have no idea!  Instead of doing like a “Top 50″ I’m just going to link to every ad that I think is good enough to win….and maybe I’ll throw a few personal favorites in there as well.

So if you have a great entry you want to show me, click the comment button and post the link.  Or you can e-mail me at .  As always, I’m happy to do a mini-review of every ad you guys send me.  I’ll try and be gentle but I’ll also be honest.  Just a couple rules; please, don’t ask me to critique an entry that you didn’t help create.  Also, I can only do public critiques.  So if you want me to give you notes on your submission, post it in the comments section rather than e-mailing it to me.  And finally, Full Disclosure: I did shoot a CTSB entry of my own but I will try and be objective and fair….even though my entry is easily the best this year!

Good luck everybody.  If you get a call from Doritos saying that you made the finals, be sure to let me know!  Yea sure, that would probably get you disqualified but I totally promise to keep your secret…

Sample Crash the Super Bowl release form

Just 6 days until the deadline, BTW

Here’s a nightmare scenario for you:  Imagine that you’ve spent hundreds of dollars and countless hours writing, shooting and editing the ultimate Doritos commercial.  Then after weeks of waiting and hoping you get the big call; you’re a finalist in the Crash the Super Bowl contest!  You’re going to receive $25,000 and a free trip to the Super Bowl!  But before the win is official, you have to get a big stack of paperwork taken care of.  You have to fill out tax forms and transfer your copyrights and of course, you need to get all of your actors to sign Fritolay’s official release forms.  But when you go to your actors and tell them the good news, they aren’t excited that the ad they were in might play on TV.   They just want to know how much of your prize money they’re going to be getting.  Suddenly the stranger you hired off of craigslist to say one line in your CTSB entry has your entire future in the palm of his hand.  If he doesn’t sign the releases, you don’t get to be a finalist.  Of course, there’s no way he won’t sign….but that signature is going to cost you.

That type of scenario is exactly why you need to get your actors and your crew members to sign agreements with you before you submit an entry to a big video contest.  Of course, the sponsor’s official releases will trump any release forms you concoct on your own.  But your goal should be to get your cast and crew to commit to a few key terms before you shoot.  So really, you should put the term “release form” out of your head.  Instead, what you need is a “Actor/Producer Agreement.”  (Or a Crew Member/Producer Agreement.)  This type of agreement is signed by both you and your actor.  It’s like a mini-contract that lays out what both of you are going to do.  Here are three crucial points the agreement needs to include:

  1. The actor must agree to sign all future releases and paperwork related to the project:
  2. You are the owner of the entry and all the audio and video created during the shoot.
  3. How much compensation an actor or crew member will receive if you win any prizes.

I’m shooting a Crash the Super Bowl entry of my own this week and in my actor/producer agreements, the actors will each be getting 5% of any “Cash Prizes” I might win.  It’s very important that you include a stipulation like that in your agreements because Fritolay gives the Crash the Super Bowl finalists a bunch of non-cash prizes.  But you can’t split a ticket to the Super Bowl so be careful about how you phrase things.  Also, 5% might not seem like a lot but it’s a pretty good payday for someone who only spent one afternoon working on your entry.  And 5% per crew member and actor can add up fast!  If anyone balks at the number, just be sure to mention that the top prize in this contest is a million bucks.  5% of a million dollars is 50 grand.  So like I said, 5% is pretty fair.

Unfortunately, Doritos doesn’t provide any release forms that you could have your actors sign before the shoot.  So you’re going to have to create your own actor/producer agreement.  Or you could just use the one that I use!  Below is a SAMPLE Crash the Super Bowl Actor/Producer agreement that I may or may not have created.  I don’t want to say who wrote this thing since it seems to contain bits and pieces of other agreements that are floating around the web.  Also, for legal purposes I have to advice you not to just use some bogus-ass agreement that you found on  the Internet!  If you really want to be protected you need to hire a lawyer to draw up a legit agreement for you.

So now that I think about it, let’s say that this particular agreement is for “Novelty Purposes Only.”  It’s just a funny sample for a non-existent Crash the Super Bowl entry named “Doritos: They’re Toasted!”  Like I said, you shouldn’t use this form but if you were going to you’d have to do a replace the fake producer’s name with your own.  Same goes for the title of the ad.  (Find and Replace in Word would do the trick.)  But again, don’t use this form and if you do, come crying to me if it winds up biting you in the ass.

Click here to download the DOC file:  CTSB-sample-agreement

Remember agreements like this one are signed by both the producer and the actor and each person gets a copy.  That way no one can argue that they didn’t have time to study the document carefully.  If anyone has any questions, concerns or feedback about the agreement, e-mail Dan at VideoContestNews.com.

The ridiculous tale of how I sort of won DoUpto.com’s video contest

A still from my semi-winning video

Every once in a while I will come across a video contest that I know I can win.  And that was the case with DoUpTo.com’s $15,000 Video Challenge.  Unlike most video contests, this one wasn’t about making a commercial or getting a bunch of votes.  This was strictly a challenge-based competition.  The contest would be broken up into two parts:  In round one, people had to shoot a funny video about a giraffe.  (The sponsor’s mascot is a giraffe)  The five contestants whose giraffe videos received the most views during the month of September would advance to the second round.  In round two, the finalists had 10 days to get video of DoUpTo.com’s logo as high as possible.  The person who got the logo highest would win $15,000.

And that was it.  After I read the rules I knew I could get enough views to get into the finals and I knew exactly how to get the sponsor’s logo higher than any one else.  There would be no luck this time around.  To win, it would only take skill and a lot of work.  That fifteen grand was as good as mine!

Or maybe not.  For some reason, fate decided to totally jerk me around and make this “sure thing” hilariously difficult to attain.  I mean, it got pretty freaking ridiculous.  My ingenious plan to get the company’s logo really, really high sort of led to a federal investigation and in the end, two other finalists did the exact same thing I did.  Here’s how it all went down….

Round one was easy.  I knew I could get a lot of views thanks to this website so I figured I would breeze into the Top 5.  I headed to brookfield zoo one afternoon, got some footage of the giraffes, dubbed in some wacky voices and boom…my first round entry was done.  Here it is.   I actually think it’s pretty damn funny:

I was so sure that I would make the finals that about two weeks before the view-count deadline I started preparing for Round Two.  DoUpTo’s website made it sound like they expected most of the finalists to take the logo to the top of a tall building or maybe a mountain.  So from the second I read the rules for this contest I knew how to win it.  I would send that f$%#ing logo space.  Well, “near space” actually.  Ever since I saw Toshiba’s “” commercial I have been waiting for an excuse to send a camera and a weather balloon into the upper atmosphere.  And now a $15,000 excuse had just fallen into my lap!

My friends thought I was nuts but I knew it would work.  A weather balloon can get about 100,000 feet above the earth before it pops.  I figured none of the other contestants would have the balls (or frankly the know-how) to try something like that. (Turns out I was right.)  So I spent weeks researching other people’s near-space launches before I started ordering the gear I would need.  Hey, did you know you could buy a freaking weather balloon on Amazon.com for only about 50 bucks!?  Turns out you can.  I also ordered one of those little GoPro cameras, a Spot personal GPS tracker, a heavy-duty mini-parachute and a small, think-walled cooler that is meant to store medicine.  I put everything together, added a couple of fins to keep the craft from spinning too much and my near-space ship was complete.  The pink and brown duct tape I used to seal the white Styrofoam box inspired me to dub my contraption the Neapolitan I.


I shoved a long dowel through the craft and attached the DoUpTo logo to the end of it.  Because I like to make things more difficult than they have to be, I also added a heavy-ass toy giraffe.  Sure, it totally screwed up the weight but the idea of sending a “giraffe” into space just seemed adorable to me.  In honor of a Chris Parnell’s character on 30 Rock, I named my giraffe astronaut Dr. Leo Spaceman.  If everything worked as planned, I’d wind up with footage of the logo and Dr. Spaceman floating 18 miles above the surface of the Earth.

To quote Dr. Spaceman, "Science is whatever we want it to be!"

Now it was time to go to space!  On a beautiful Saturday afternoon my friends and I trekked from the suburbs of Chicago to Hebron, Indiana.  The wind was so still that my projections said the craft would only travel about 20 miles away from the launch point.  But I didn’t want to risk having the thing land in the middle of Midway Airport or something so we tried to get as far away from Chicagoland as possible.

Not a bad way to spend an Autumn afternoon

The Amazon listing for the weather balloon I bought said it would take 50 cubic feet of helium to fill it.  So I rented a tank that held 50 cubic feet of helium.  But the listing was wrong.  That thing needed 100 Cubic feet to lift a 4 pound payload.  So one member of my team had to drive to the nearest Party City (which wasn’t near at all!) to get more helium.  This put us behind by about 2 hours.  The sun was starting to set but the balloon was half-filled so there was no turning back.  We launched at about 4:30PM.  Then we went to Hooters to wait for the thing to come back to Earth.

Turns out that waiting for your space balloon to return from the upper atmosphere is pretty stressful, especially if you’re going to lose out on winning $15K if the thing disappears.  I could barely enjoy my buffalo shrimp I was so nervous.  By 6:00PM it was really dark out which meant that we might not get much usable footage.  Other than that, everything seemed to be going to plan.  We were tracking the craft’s progress on my laptop (the waitresses were all impressed by our nerdy adventure) and I could see that the balloon traveled north for about 45 minutes and then it started zooming West.  That meant it had hit the jet stream!  And after 60 minutes, the GPS signal went dead.  That was actually a great sign because GPS trackers don’t work above 60,000 feet.  Weather balloons rise at a rate of 1,000 feet per minute so I expected we’d lose contact after an hour. 

An hour went by with no contact…and then two hours went by.  Something had to be wrong.  I was sure the craft was gone forever.  Just as we were about to get on the expressway and head back to Illinois, the signal returned!  That meant that the balloon had popped above 100,000 feet and now the parachute was bringing the payload back to Earth.

Just one problem; the payload was floating right towards Lake Michigan.  Every 10 minutes the GPS signal would update and the thing just kept going and going and going.  But finally, the signal stopped moving.  Amazingly, the craft landed just 1/2 mile short of the lake.  We could tell from the GPS tracker that the ship was in an industrial area near Gary, IN.  Now, if you’ve ever been to Gary, IN you know that it’s not really a place you want to visit on a saturday night.  After all, every few year Gary does manage to win the title of the “Murder Capital of the US.”  But we looked at satellite photos of the area and the GPS signal was coming from a desolate, industrial area.  We found the general region and started driving in circles.  It was like we were lost in the middle of some post apocalyptic industrial wasteland.  But then, a lucky break!  My cell phone rang.  I had put my number on the craft so I knew someone had found it….

And here’s where the story takes a mysterious turn.  I’m not allowed to tell you who called me or where they were calling from.  It turns out that my little craft had landed someplace bad….someplace VERY bad.  It landed on property that belonged to a large, multi-national corporation.  And large multi-national corporations don’t like it went some knucklehead drops a weird looking recording device in their backyard.  Even though my friend and I were right outside the front gates, they said they couldn’t just hand over the ship.  Instead, they were going to launch and investigation and call in the FAA.

Initially I was just bummed because the company’s investigation meant it would take a few days to get my equipment back.  But that turned out to be the least of my problems.  When Monday morning came I talked to the head of security at the plant and I learned some very scary things.  The anonymous corporation’s facilities on Lake Michigan are actually important enough that the government considers them to be a potential target for terrorist attacks.  They are protected by the Federal something-or-other act (my brain went numb when the term “homeland security” came up) and it is a federal crime to videotape inside the facility.  So, get the problem here?  My freaking ship had a video camera in it.  The camera’s battery should have been dead by the time the craft hit the ground.  But if it wasn’t….oh boy.  Technically I would have violated a federal anti-terrorism law.  Oh, and that wasn’t the only problem.  The whole area around the factory is restricted airspace!  Why is that airspace restricted?  Well, I can’t really tell you that either.  Let’s just say that there is something else right next to that factory and a random floating boxes are not welcome there.

So instead of winning $15,000 it was looking like I might wind up getting fined or worse.  The days rolled by and the deadline was getting closer and closer. The stress was eating me alive. I was waiting to hear if I was going to get fined, I was waiting to hear if was going to get charged with a crime, I was waiting to find out if I would get my equipment back and I was waiting to see if my camera recorded and usable footage. Finally, the security guys at the factory decided to let the FAA decide what my fate would be.  A team went to the factory, looked at my craft and knew right away what I was doing.  I had done my research before the launch and I knew that if the balloon’s payload weighed less than 6 pounds, FAA regulations wouldn’t apply.  My craft weighed 4 pounds so the FAA guys said the security guys should just let me have it.  As far as the law was concerned, my ship was basically a harmless toy.

So after days of waiting, I finally got my stuff back. The security guys at the factory were scary on the phone but super nice in person. They told me that I had been the talk of the plant all week. They returned the ship in mint condition.  It didn’t look like it had been to the upper atmosphere and back.  I cracked it open and was relived to discover that the camera did work and it did record some usable footage.  (It also stopped recording about thirty minutes before it hit the ground.)  So just before the Round Two deadline, I submitted this video as proof that I had gotten the DoUpTo logo at least 100,000 feet in the air:

After I submitted the video I was pretty goddamn proud of myself.  I had sent the logo to space and there was no way anyone else could top me!  It was a pretty sweet feeling.  And that feeling lasted for about two whole hours.  Now that the video was done I got back to my normal life.  For the first time in about two weeks, I logged into my youtube account and waiting for me was a big, fat bowl of bummer.  Check out the message that I had missed:


I understand you are a finalist in a video competition. (If this is incorrect, please forgive this email, and ignore it)

I could get your logo to between 100,000 ft to 115,000 ft above sea level (with the objective of getting it as high as possible). The cost would be $2000 (the price of one of our kits with the radios), which would go towards another kit for my students. The winds in Houston are great for a launch this weekend. I could launch as early as this weekend, but payment would have to be made before the flight via paypal. If the flight failed for some reason, I would give a full refund. 1080p video or 5MP still photos (or both) with whatever logo you want on the payload. We specialize in stabilized pictures and video (other people’s payloads spin wildly at altitude).


Best regards,

Benjamin Longmier, Ph.D.
Adjunct Faculty
Physics Department
University of Houston

I was crushed….not because I could have just hired someone to do a balloon launch but because I knew this opportunistic a-hole would have sent the same message to all of the finalists.  I’m guessing this Ben Longmier, guy tried to get into the finals but didn’t make it.  So he decided to try and make some money off of the desperate finalists.  ($2,000 up front for the launch is ridiculous!  I only spent about $600 in total)  I wanted to fly to Houston and whip this guy’s ass for butting into something that was none of his business.  It would turn out that Dr. Ben wound up costing me $10,000.  I contacted him and he confirmed that he did do a launch for another finalist.  Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, I quickly realized that Dr. Ben’s business, “Project Aether” is the one I bought my balloon from on Amazon.  So he’s the guy whose Amazon ad said the Balloon would take 50 cubic feet of Helium instead of 100!

I contacted the judges at DoUpTo and their responses were weird and cryptic.  The company is headquartered in Israel and English was a second language for everyone I talked too.   So it was kind of hard to deal with them.  I told them I knew that another contestant had hired a professional balloon guy to do a launch for them and I asked if there was a chance there would be a tie.  The guy I talked to kept giving me hints that the judges liked my video better and that I was the winner.  (lots of winky-smiley faces in his e-mails)  He said that if there was going to be a tie, the finalists would be notified ahead of time.  And then about a week and a half ago I got a weird phone call from a “journalist” who happened to have an Israeli accent.  He said he was working on a story about DoUpto.com and he wanted to come to my house and interview me about the contest.  And he was adamant that we meet at my house.  I’m not an idiot so I knew that I was about to get “surprised” with a giant, fake novelty check for $15,000.  I was a very happy boy for the next week.

And then, the big moment came.  Last Wednesday at about 9:00AM there was a knock at my door.  I opened it to find two Israeli men pointing video cameras at me.  One of them was doing a very bad job of hiding a big fake check.  I beamed as the guy explained that he was from DoUpTo.com and he was glad to inform me that I was “one of the winners of DoUpto.com’s video challenge.”  As he turned the giant check around, the smile fell right off my face.  Worst case scenario I thought there would be a tie between me and the guy who hired that jerk in Houston.  But the check was for $5,000.  Somehow the contest had ended in a three-way tie.

I must have looked pretty crushed because the DoUpto guys asked me to open the door again and look happier when I saw the check.  They eventually came in and we talked and they explained what happened.  Three finalists wound up sending the logo up on a weather balloon.  I did it and a 15 year old kid in Vancouver hired the physicist in Houston to do a launch for him.  But a third guy in Helsinki must have been inspired by Dr. Ben’s e-mail so he hired a team in the UK to do a launch for him.  Here are the other two winning videos.  First, here is the one that was filmed by the team in UK for the Helsinki guy:

And here is the one that Dr. Ben shot.  It’s the best looking video of the bunch.  Skip ahead to the 2:02 mark for some surprise cleavage:

$5,000 ain’t nothing to sneeze at and I’m really glad that I won something for my efforts.  But it does bum me out that two other finalists were basically able to just buy a piece of the grand prize.  Seriously, what kind of 15 year old has $2,000 to spend on a weather balloon launch?  But like I said, $5,000 is still pretty damn good.  Plus I had a crazy amount of fun!  Yeah it was stressful but I’m proud that I was able to pull it off.  And I am REALLY glad I’m not one of the unlucky finalists who didn’t win anything.  The other contestants spent serious cash trying to get the logo up high.  One girl hired someone to film the logo on Mount Everest for Christsakes.  And another guy jumped out of a plane from five kilometers up.  All of the finalists spent at least 2 months participating in this contest so I’m surprised doupto didn’t give everyone a little something as a thank you. You can see the valiant but futile efforts of the other finalists here:  http://doupto.com/15k-winners

Home Run Inn Pizza’s super creepy Halloween video contest winner


Well, tomorrow is Halloween so it’s only fitting that today I post the creepiest, most disturbing video to ever win a video contest.  I must warn you that once you see this video, you can never un-see it!  So prepare yourselves for the horror that is the grand prize winner of Home Run Inn Pizza’s Halloween Video Challenge!

Grand Prize Winner.  Prize: $2,500 and a Halloween Party Pack:

Yo, that is some seriously freaky s#$%! If you think I’m being sarcastic, I’m not. There is just something about that video that makes my skin crawl. I’m sure the person who made that video didn’t intend for it to be so disturbing but that’s how it turned out. That flat, emotionless, robotic narration coupled with that simple and repetitive animation is just kind of haunting. And those monsters are just creepy as hell. What is up with the brown Frankenstein!? And does Dracula have such a big, fat head?? And why the hell are all those monsters walking in place like that!?

As you can probably guess, Home Runn Inn picked the winners of this contest through a public vote. And when a company holds a public vote, that is the kind of winner you get. In fact, who wins is basically irrelevant. The whole contest is just an excuse to get people to “like” the sponsor’s page on facebook. Some day I hope a company has the nerve to skip the part where people have to create an entry and just run a straight-up voting contest. If your name gets the most votes, you win!

I actually entered the Home Run Inn contest this year and no joke, I am glad this video won. I was just hoping to land in the Top 15 so I could win a year’s supply of free pizza and a special Flip camera. (I did!) So I got what I wanted and as a bonus, HRI Pizza wound up with a winning video that is totally insane. As weird as it is, you do have to respect the amount of work that went in to that entry. It might not be super slick but it’s better than any kind of animation that I could do. Of course, I think it’s possible that all those monsters were stock characters. And they were probably already programed to “walk” and that’s why they walk in every shot, even when they’re not moving forward.

This contest got a whopping 68 entries and if you’d like to see them all, head here. Happy Halloween Everybody!

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