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Posts Tagged ‘Doritos’

Will press coverage help your chances in the Crash the Super Bowl contest?



I have a Google News alert set for the phase “Crash the Super Bowl” and those alerts have been blowing up my inbox all month.  A few news sites covered FritoLay’s final call for entries but most of the stories I’ve seen came from local news outlets and were about people who entered the contest.  And if you read these articles or watch these segments, it’s pretty obvious that the featured actors or filmmakers are the ones who contacted the media and pitched their story.  Here are a few samples of what I’m talking about:

Hanford Sentinel:  Local filmmaker competing in commercial contest for Doritos

Salt Lake City Tribune:  Utah commercial shows what really goes on during sexy time

The Sheboygan Press:  North High student is All In on commercial

Vicksburg Exponent Telegram:  Bridgeport native submitting video for Doritos contest

FOX-Kansas City:  Area filmmaker attempts to have his commercial air during super bowl

NBC-Lexington KY:  Doritos smoothie could put grad student in National Spotlight

NBC-Atlanta:  Doritos ad with Atlanta ties among most viewed in Super Bowl contest

Those stories are just the tip of the iceberg.  Every year I see a few articles about local Crash the Super Bowl contestants but I’ve never seen 3 or 4 articles a day before.  These stories are weirdly fascinating because most of the featured filmmakers clearly have no idea how the Crash the Super Bowl contest actually works.  Most of them are trying to get some press coverage because they think that extra views and votes will help them make the finals.    (Just for the record:  Views and votes have ZERO impact in the first stage of the Crash the Super Bowl contest)  Here’s are a few paragraphs from the Hanford Sentinel story.  I’ll highlight important passages in orange.

HANFORD — A local filmmaker is competing for a chance to have his video be the next Doritos spot that will air live during the most watched sporting event in the United States.

Joshua C——-, owner and founder of R——–, a local film production company, has submitted his 30-second video “Bad Dog” in the annual Doritos “Crash The Super Bowl” commercial contest.

For the competition, contestants submit short video spots, judges select semi-finalists and then the world is allowed to vote for their favorite from the pool of finalists. The winner gets to have his video air live during the football game, wins $1 million cash, a trip to watch the Super Bowl and a trip to New York for a behind-the-scenes tour of the next “Avengers” movie, “Age of Ultron.”

But, for now, Cordero has to make it through the first phase of the contest.

“I’m still waiting to hear if I’m even a semi-finalist,” he said. “They will let me know on Dec. 11.”

He said that in order to move on, the judges will pick the semi-finalists based on certain criteria. One of those criteria is video views and ratings.

“I need my supporters to go to Doritos.com, watch and rate the video,” he said. “The more views and ratings it gets the more likely I might become a semi-finalist.”

Cordero then explained that on Jan. 4, voting will open to the public and his fans can vote for his video once every day until the contest ends, and if his video gets the most votes, he will win.

It’s clear this filmmaker never bothered to look at the official rules.  It’s also clear that this guy thinks he’s a lock for the Top 5.  He’s already planing his strategy for when he makes the finals!  I could be a dick and post his entry but I won’t.  His video did make me chuckle but as you can probably guess, there’s pretty much zero chance the judges will pick his entry.

As I said, most of the stories that wind up in my in-box are pretty similar to that article.  The featured director asks people to help him win by watching his (not very good) commercial and rating it five-stars.  In many cases, the filmmakers have high hopes and are confident that they’re going to make the finals because their ad is already one of the Top-Rated or Most-Viewed submissions.

This type of self-promotion might sound harmless but these articles could actually lead to some unforeseen, negative consequences.  For one thing, some a-hole blogger could post a link to your story and say snarky things about it.  But worse than that, press coverage might cause your cast and crew and family and friends to really get their hopes up.  Your teammates may think “Hey, if NBC Atlanta bothered to send a TV crew to cover our efforts, we must really have a shot at winning!“  But NBC Atlanta (and really any news outlet in the world) is always on the look out for fun, easy stories.  So the TV crew isn’t showing up because your entry is amazing; the TV crew shows up because you’re a local and your story comes with some amusing, pre-shot visuals.

So if you keep telling people that views and votes will help you win, and if your local paper backs up that idea (few reporters are going to bother checking the rules to see if you know what you’re talking about) then your friends are going to be in for a huge let down.  After everyone finds out that your incredibly “popular” entry didn’t even make the semi-finals, you’re going to be receiving a lot of messages from people asking the same thing: “Dude, what happened?  We were on TV!  We were  the #2 most viewed entry out of like 5,000 videos!  How could we not win!??!”

Now having said all that, as long as you have your facts straight, a story in the Salt Lake City Tribune or the Vicksburg Telegram won’t really have any impact on your chances of making the finals.  A story won’t help, but it also won’t hurt.  So if you want to use the Crash the Super Bowl contest as an excuse to bulk up your production company’s press packet, I say go ahead and contact a local reporter.


The Crash the Super Bowl deadline is here. Time to tweet me your entries!


It’s 5:30PM (CST) on Sunday, November 24th.  For weeks and weeks I’ve been trying to come up with a funny (and cheap) idea for the Crash the Super Bowl contest.  About 5 minutes ago I finally had a flash of inspiration.  A funny, weird and affordable idea for a Doritos commercial just popped in to my head and it’s so simple and goofy it might actually have a shot at winning this contest.

Too bad the Crash the Super Bowl deadline is 6 1/2 hours away.  If I had just 3 extra days I could have shot my new, super hilarious idea.  Oh well….I guess maybe I can be the first person to submit an entry next year!

Based on the gigantic spike in traffic VCN has seen in the last few days it looks like a lot of you guys did manage to shoot and submit Doritos commercials this year.  If you did enter the CTSB contest, I want to see your work!  Every year I invite VCN fans to share their links in the comment section of my end-of-the-crash post.  I even offer to write mini-reviews of every ad that is posted.

But this year I’m going to do things a little differently.  If you’d like to get some extra views or votes, you’re welcome to post your link in the comment section below.  BUT…this year I’ll only be doing reviews on Twitter.  Last year I wrote reviews for more than 100 fan-made ads.  I crafted some pretty beefy reviews and it took up a crazy amount of time.  So the Twitter reviews will force me to keep my thoughts to 140 characters or less.  (though if I have something crucial to say I might cheat and reply twice.)  So if you’d like a review this year, here’s what you do:

  • Step 1:  If you don’t already, follow me on Twitter: 
  • Step 2:  Tweet me your link.  Your tweet has got to be public though.  I can’t do any reviews via DM.
  • Step 3:  Be patient!  It might take me a day or two to check out your video.
  • Step 4:  Don’t get pissed at me if I don’t like your video!  I only have 140 characters so I’m not going to sugarcoat my thoughts.  I’m not going to act like a jerk or anything but if your actors weren’t good or if your story made no sense or if your ad just isn’t good enough to air on TV, I’m going to say so.  Please don’t take my comments personally.  I’m just giving you my objective opinion.

Having said that, I hope I see a lot of awesome videos this year.  In a few weeks I will go though my tweets again and I’ll post my Top 5 favorite submitted Crash the Super Bowl ads.  So start sending those entries everybody!  Don’t forget to follow me before you tweet at me.  I promise I’ll follow you back-sies.   And like I said, if you want to post a link to your video in the comment section below, go for it.  If you do post your link here, I’ll reply with a link to my twitter review.  Oh wait….now that I think about it, I suppose not everyone in the world has a twitter account.  So you non-twitterers can just leave a comment and ask for a review on the blog.  Good luck everybody!


The 2014 Crash the Super Bowl contest is now accepting entries!

On Tuesday afternoon, the 2013-2014 installment of the Crash the Super Bowl contest officially started accepting entries.  As of right now you have 44 days to shoot and submit your Doritos commercials.  It looks like some filmmakers actually shot their entries before the contest even began because there are already 30 ads in the video gallery.  And speaking of the video gallery, Doritos has remodeled and resurrected the classic, scroll-able, video wall.  Last year it was a real hassle to watch multiple CTSB entries because the videos were all hosted on a sluggish facebook page.  But the new gallery is slick, fancy and fun.


Click to check out the gallery

This year Doritos made another change to the contest; ALL SUBMISSIONS ARE BEING UPLOADED TO YOUTUBE!  If you’ve ever tried to upload a CTSB entry at the last minute, you’ll understand why this is a big deal.  You can even submit videos that are hosted on your own youtube channel!  The old CTSB servers would sometimes have problems in the final hours of the contest because hundreds of people were trying to upload videos at the same time.  But now if you enter 20 minutes before the deadline you don’t have to worry that the uploader might crash on you.

Crashthesuperbowl.com is gone so if you want to read the official rules and the contest FAQs, you’l have to head to https://www.doritos.com.  If you do decide to enter the Crash this year, be sure to tweet me a link to your entry () and I promise I’ll reply with a 140 character review!


The Crash the Super Bowl contest is back and this year it’s going global!


Later this afternoon, Frito-Lay will officially announce the return of the Crash the Super Bowl contest!  This morning’s edition of the USA Today teased some of the details but a few other news outlets got lazy and just straight-up posted Frito-Lay’s full press release early.  It sounds like the people in charge of this contest actually listened to their fans (and maybe this blog) because they’ve made some phenomenal changes this year.  You can read the official press release here but I’ll list the most important details:

  • The contest will begin accepting fan-made Doritos commercials on October 8th, 2013.  The deadline for submissions is November 24th, 2013.
  • FACEBOOK IS NOT A PART OF THE CONTEST THIS YEAR:  Last year Frito-Lay ran the entire Crash the Super Bowl contest through an annoying and poorly-designed Facebook app.  This year the Crash is back where it belongs on it’s own, dedicated website.
  • A panel of judges that includes “executives from the Doritos brand, advertising professionals and the legendary Stan Lee of Pow! Entertainment” will select a slate of 5 finalists.
  • Two of these finalists will air during the Super Bowl XLVIII.  One will be selected by a panel of judges from Doritos and the other will be chosen through an online, public vote.
  • THE AD METER CONTEST HAS BEEN RETIRED:  For the first time ever, the winner of the Crash the Super Bowl contest is guaranteed to win a cash prize of One Million Dollars!  If you win the online vote, you “win” the Crash the Super Bowl contest and you get the million bucks.  There will be no bonuses for scoring well on the USA Today Ad Meter.  Also for the first time ever, the second place winner is guaranteed a prize of $50,000.
  • The two filmmakers that win 1st and 2nd place will also get the chance to “become part of the Marvel family” and work on the set of Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.
  • All five finalists will win a trip to fabulous Rutherford, New Jersey in February so they can watch the Super Bowl from Doritos’ private skybox.  The three finalists who do not win one of the big prizes will receive $25,000 just for making the top 5.
  • THE CRASH ISN’T JUST FOR AMERICANS ANYMORE:  This might be the biggest change of all.  For the first time in the history of the Crash the Super Bowl contest, Doritos will be accepting entries from filmmakers outside of the United States.  If you live in one of the 46 countries around the world where Doritos are sold, you are eligible to enter the 2013-2014 installment of the Crash the Super Bowl contest.

Some fans are probably going to be annoyed by the “global” angle of this year’s contest simply because it means there will be more competition.  But the Crash was getting stale and I think an international infusion of styles and talent is just want this competition needs right now.  It will be sort of cool to see what kind of ads people in Romania and Peru and South Africa create.  No word yet on whether or not submissions will need to be in English.

All in all, I think this is going to maybe be the best Crash Super Bowl contest ever.  Last year’s installment was sort of a disaster for two big reasons; #1: The CTSB Facebook app was an ugly, spammy, hassle.  #2:  The winners of the contest got robbed because of changes USA Today made to their ad meter.  You can read about these problems in detail in these two VCN articles;  Did a poorly-designed facebook app almost ruin this year’s crash the super bowl contest? and Why didn’t Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl ads do better on this year’s USA Today Ad meter?  But basically, the facebook app tracked user’s data and clogged their friend’s feeds with updates every time they voted for an entry.  And USA Today turned their highly-respected, long running Ad Meter poll into a bogus, online-only poll that anyone could access.  One of the 2013 CTSB winners, Goat 4 Sale actually won 1st place on Nielson’s ad meter but the commercial didn’t crack USA Today’s top five.  The ads that did score high on the USA Today poll mostly sucked and it seemed like maybe certain companies took some steps (cheated) to make sure their commercials would do well in the poll.  If the USA Today ad meter had been run the way it had been run for decades, the director of Goat 4 Sale probably would have won one of Frito-Lay’s big bonus prizes.

But apparently those problems are in the past.  I’m genuinely impressed that the folks in charge of this contest recognized that certain aspects were unfair to contestants and then to action to fix those issues.  Doritos got a massive amount of free, social media exposure when they ran the contest on facebook last year.  So it must have been tough for them to move the contest back to a dedicated website.  I also think it was a stroke of genius to involve Stan Lee in this year’s Crash.  Last year’s celebrity judge was Michael Bay.  Let’s be honest, Michael Bay f*cking sucks.  Nobody likes Michael Bay and his movies are total garbage.  One of the 2013 winners actually won a job working on the set of Transformers 4.  It was a great opportunity but I sort of feel sorry for that guy because he’s probably spent the last 5 months sucking up to Michael Bay and pretending like he’s proud to bring another Transformers movie into the world.  But Stan Lee is different.  Stan Lee is an icon.  People freaking love Stan Lee and the Marvel movies have all been pretty great.  So a chance to “join the Marvel family” is a seriously awesome prize.

Frito-Lay’s official announcement will probably happen around noon EST today.  I’ll update this post with a link to coverage of the announcement when it’s available.  In the mean time, here’s a link to the new Crash the Super Bowl website:  The rules aren’t live yet but a teaser video is already up: 


Doritos says their Crash the Super Bowl facebook app was actually a huge success

Call me crazy but I think Frito-Lay’s PR department might have pitched a story idea to AdWeek as a response to an article I wrote just before the Super Bowl.  On January 29th I posted this friendly critique of Doritos’ new Crash the Super Bowl facebook app: Did a poorly-designed Facebook app almost ruin this year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest?

Here’s the TL;DR version of that article: Doritos’ new CTSB app suuuucked.  Only 12 videos would load at a time so watching multiple entries was a complete hassle.  (The old CSTB video galley was incredibly user-friendly.  It was hosted on a dedicated website and hundreds of video thumbnails would load at a time.)  The facebook app was also a spammy privacy killer.  If you allowed the app, your facebook friends were bombarded with updates about your CTSB activities.  I thought that I had selected the “Only Me” option but Doritos kept posting junk about me and I didn’t even realize it.

The was the first year that FritoLay ran The Crash on facebook.  Coincidentally, it was also the first year that FritoLay saw a decrease in the number of entries they received.  The 2011-2012 installment of the CTSB contest netted about 6,000 submissions.  I did a quick and dirty count and this year it looks like fewer than 3,000 entries were uploaded.  The prizes and rules were about the same so I blamed this 50% drop in participation on the crappy facebook app.  Since fans weren’t able to watch a ton of low-quality entries, they weren’t inspired to go out and shoot better commercials of their own.

About a week after I posted my story, AdWeek ran their own article about the Crash the Super Bowl facebook app:  Frito-Lay Likes the Data From Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl: Facebook-anchored effort hits 100 million views  Have you ever read an article that breaks down the performance data of a Facebook app?  Yeah, me either.  I don’t think anyone at AdWeek would notice or care that The Crash had moved to Facebook.  So someone on FritoLay’s PR team probably contacted a journalist-friend and pitched a positive story about the app to counter the bad press they had received (i.e., that brilliant a-hole Beardy’s story on VideoContestNews.com).

Here are the first few paragraphs of the AdWeek story:

Doritos’ decision to move its seventh annual “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign to Facebook proved to be a winner. The Frito-Lay brand—which had anchored the effort on a microsite in years past—drew nearly 100 million views for the five finalist videos in the user-generated contest, breaking its record.

“Almost every single metric of the program exceeded what we achieved during the last six years,” Ram Krishnan, vp of marketing at Frito-Lay, told Adweek. Krishnan said Facebook’s social nature helped the videos go viral. “That’s the whole reason why we switched,” he said. “People like to talk about the videos, and that reaches their circle of friends.”

What’s more, visits to its Facebook app page were up 100 percent compared to last year on the microsite, said Dena von Werssowetz, Frito-Lay marketing manager. Doritos’ Facebook fans increased substantially, von Werssowetz suggested, eclipsing the 4 million mark for the first time on the social site.

Her brand ran the full gamut of Facebook ads—Reach Block, Marketplace, Sponsored Stories and Promoted Posts—to drive interest in the “Crash” initiative. (A spend figure wasn’t disclosed.) Around 3,500 videos were submitted from Oct. 8 through Nov. 16, 2012, via the brand’s Facebook app.

Her brand ran the full gamut of Facebook ads—Reach Block, Marketplace, Sponsored Stories and Promoted Posts—to drive interest in the “Crash” initiative. (A spend figure wasn’t disclosed.) Around 3,500 videos were submitted from Oct. 8 through Nov. 16, 2012, via the brand’s Facebook app.

I’m pretty sure this article was the first time that FritoLay revealed how many entries were submitted this year.  Like I said, I did a quick count and I only saw about 2,800 videos; and that’s the number I published in my original article.  3,500 just sounds way too high and I have a feeling that Doritos may have tweaked their finally tally a bit.  Maybe the official figure includes duplicate entries that didn’t appear in the facebook gallery…or maybe I’m just bad at counting, I don’t know.

So anyway, the new CTSB facebook app didn’t suck….at least from a marketing standpoint.  It did what it was supposed to do; it generated tons and tons and tons of free publicity for Doritos.  100 million views sounds like a ridiculously amazing accomplishment but these “views” aren’t really VIEWS.  They are impressions.  If you voted for one of the Crash the Super Bowl finalists, your facebook friends would see an alert in their news feed.  If one of your friends scrolled past that alert,  that counted as a “view.”  So I’m guessing that most of these views were just junk traffic.   But even if it wasn’t, a ton of free hits isn’t worth it if you annoy and inconvenience your target audience.  The goal of the CTSB contest is to find great Doritos commercials.  Are 100 million, 2-second long casual facebook views really worth it if the contest also experiences a 45% to 60% drop in the number of entries that are uploaded?

The AdWeek article is short and worth a read.  But you’re probably feelin’ lazy today so I’ll just copy and paste one more bit of interesting info:

And it sounds likely that Doritos will run the “Crash” initiative again next year. “This is the best amplification of our brand narrative,” Klein said. “We just continue to be blown away by the creativity of Doritos fans.”

FritoLay probably wouldn’t let AdWeek run this line if they had any doubt about the future of the contest.  So I think there almost certainly will be a 2013-2014 installment of the Crash the Super Bowl contest.

Big Winners: The SmallHD Story

Here’s an interesting short(ish) documentary about a team of friends from North Carolina who have managed to win Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl contest twice.  Actually, these guys have made the finals three times in total and they even got into the Top 5 twice in one year! Their ad, wound up being ranked the #2 commercial of the 2010 Super Bowl so they won a bonus of $600,000.  I personally would have re-invested that money in lottery tickets but N.C. crew used their winnings to expand their field monitor company, SmallHD.


Goat 4 Sale wins the Nielson Super Bowl Ad Survey


Just before the Super Bowl I proclaimed that if the Crash the Super Bowl ad didn’t win 1st place in the USA Today Ad Meter poll, I’d eat a tin can.  Well, Goat 4 Sale did air during the game but it came in 7th.  I was going to keep my word and eat a tin can but my doctor gave me a note saying I didn’t have to do it because I guess eating metal will kill you.  Apparently it will also kill a goat.  My doctor explained that goats got the reputation as can-eaters because they are sometimes seen eating the paper labels off of old cans.  So my doctor gave me a Campbell’s soup label and he made me eat it in front of him.  My doctor’s a dick.

As I explained in my previous post, the results of this year’s ad meter totally took me by surprise.  I knew that USA Today was going to “open it up to the public” but I could have sworn that they were also doing their traditional focus group thing.  But nope, public votes alone determined the results of this year’s poll.  And that pretty much explains why the results of this year’s poll were so ridiculous.  I’m positive that if USA Today had done focus group testing like they used to, at least one Doritos filmmaker would have made the Top 3.  Actually, if the ad meter hadn’t changed this year I’m pretty sure the results would have been pretty similar to Nielson’s Super Bowl ad survey.  Nielson released the results of that poll the other day and Goat 4 Sale was ranked the #1 most liked commercial of the game as well as the #1 most memorable commercial of the game.  Here’s Nielson’s full top 10:


This list makes a lot more sense than USA Today’s top 10.  Goat 4 Sale totally blew away the competition.  Here’s how Nielson got these numbers:

All Super Bowl ads were ranked on likability. The Likability Index was calculated by taking the likability score (percent of viewers who liked the ad) and indexing versus the mean likability score of all 2013 Super Bowl ads. For example, with a Likability Index of 221, the Doritos ad has proven to be 2.21 times as likable as the average 2013 Super Bowl ad.

Notes: The Top 10 lists are based on about 6,750 ad surveys of Super Bowl viewers; 67 unique national creative executions (excluding movie spots) during the game’s four quarters and halftime were considered for the list.

So in the USA Today poll, anybody from anywhere could vote on the ads.  They didn’t have to rate every commercial and a lot of people voted before the Doritos ads were even revealed.  In the Nielson survey, it sounds like the viewers were pre-screened and they had to vote on every single ad.  That’s the right way to do a poll like this.  Winning the Nielson survey is a major accomplishment and it’s a shame that there’s no bonus prize money for winning this poll.  Now that the old ad meter has been ruined, maybe next year FritoLay should dump USA Today and forge a new partnership with Nielson.

Why didn’t Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl ads do better on this year’s USA Today Ad meter?

Late last night, USA Today released the full results of the 2013 Super Bowl ad meter poll and there was great news for Doritos fans; The Crash the Super Bowl winners and were ranked the #1 and #2 :30 second commercials of the game!  Unfortunately, the ad meter poll included every commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, even the 2 minute long short film/ad things.  So Fashionista Daddy actually came in 4th and Goat 4 Sale came in 7th.  Here is the official Top 10 from USA Today:


Because neither Doritos commercial made the Top 3, the winning filmmakers won’t receive any bonus money from FritoLay.  And that is a goddamn shame.  The two guys who won the Crash the Super Bowl contest this year were completely and totally robbed.  If USA Today hadn’t changed their methods and wrecked their ad meter this year I am positive that at least one Doritos finalist would have won a six or seven figure bonus.

For 24 Super Bowls in a row, USA Today conducted their ad meter poll in exact same way.  Here’s how USA Today described the process:

It was pretty simple: We’d bring in 300 or so pre-screened viewers to watch the game at several locations. The panelists were enticed with a small payment, a giant theater-sized screen, a knob-turning device and thick sandwiches to record their impressions of the commercials from start to finish.  

“They were into both the game and the ads,” recalls editor Fred Meier, who helped honcho the project from the start. “We could tell from the crowd reaction how high an ad was going to score. And we never wanted to hear them guffawing late in the third or in the fourth quarter, which would mean a potential late new leader in the ad contest.”

So the old Ad Meter poll was a highly organized live event.  The USA Today team had people turn little dials to indicate how much they liked or disliked a commercial as it aired.  People watched the ads in real time and they only got to see them once.  They didn’t give each commercial an individual score.  Instead, a computer averaged out their dial activty.  So commercials that were exciting or funny from beginning to end always did very well.  FritoLay noticed that Crash the Super Bowl ads were actually scoring very high on the ad meter so in the fall of 2008 they offered some bonus prizes to any filmmaker who could crack the top 3.  1st place on the ad meter would get you a million dollar bonus, 2nd was good for $600K and 3rd got you $400K. Filmmakers studied the mechanics of the USA Today ad meter and they started crafting ads that would theoretically score very well in a dial-measured style focus group test.  And that plan actually paid off for a few lucky filmmakers.  At least one Crash the Super Bowl ad managed to make the Top 3 every year since 2009.  And Doritos commercials actually won the ad meter poll in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

But for the first time in 5 years, Doritos didn’t even crack the Top 3.  Actually, 2013 was a bad year for ALL the funny 30 second Super Bowl ads.  The top 10 was dominated by 60 and even 120 second(!) long sentimental or lighthearted  “cute” commercials about farmers and families that were narrated by Oprah and the ghost of Paul Harvey.

So what the heck happened?  Well it turns out that this year USA Today decided to throw their 25 year old ad meter experiment into the garbage and then they replaced the whole thing with a B.S. online poll.  Again, here’s a quote from the folks at USA Today:

In an attempt to make the Ad Meter more social, we partnered with Facebook last year, which worked out fine except it was a bit confusing to mix the panel reactions with the later Facebook results.

So this year (the 25th Annual Ad Meter!), we’ve gone totally digital, dropping the live panels and Facebook, and instead offering everyone in America the chance to sign up online and vote from their computers.

So basically the paper kept the name of the project and got rid of everything that cost them any money….and anything that gave the poll any credibility. Here are three big changes that wound up skewing the ad meter results in unexpected ways:

1.  Anybody could vote.  Instead of a few hundred participants watching each ad in a closed and controlled screening room, any random person with a web connection could vote and affect the outcome of the poll.  In total, about 7,000 people across the US voted for some or all of the ads in the poll.

2.  Viewers did not have to rate every commercial.  This was an enormous and very important change.  Voting in the online poll was actually launched BEFORE the game even started.  But the Doritos ads didn’t appear until after they aired because Doritos wanted to keep the winners a secret.  So if you voted early, you didn’t even see the Crash the Super Bowl ads.

3.  The ad meter voters were not pre-screened.  When a company wins the ad meter they get millions of dollars worth of free publicity since their commercial is shown over and over and over online and on the news.  So is it really so far-fetched to suspect that maybe some companies just hired people (or asked their employees) to give their Super Bowl commercial a high score?  As I said, only about 7,000 people voted in the online poll this year.  What if a giant billion-dollar, multinational corporation like Proctor and Gamble had sent a mass e-mail to all of their 129,000 employees asking them to sign up and vote for Tide’s Super Bowl commercial?  Even if only 500 people out of that 129,000 voted they would still have a massive impact on that commercial’s score.

4.  No more dials.  People at home don’t have dials hooked up to their computers.  So instead of rating an ad second-by-second, viewers gave each commercial an over all score on a scale of 1 to 10.  The old poll measured a participant’s instant and immediate reaction to an ad.  But the new poll gave people time to think about how much they liked each commercial.  I suspect this had an odd psychological affect on some people.  If I saw a commercial were a guy got hit in the balls I might chuckle…but then I’d feel kind of like a moron for laughing at something so low-brow.  So I suspect a lot of ad meter participants took a moment to decide how they should react to each ad rather than give an honest assessment of their actual reaction.  If Tide’s 60-second long “Miracle Stain” spot had run last year, I don’t think it would have come in 2nd on the ad meter.  That’s because it started off slowly and I think a lot of people would have been bored after 40 seconds.  But this year people watched the ad from start to finish before they made any judgments.  I think viewers decided it was cute and funny and that it was the “right kind” of ad.  I think this is the reason all these sentimental ads did so well last night.  It just felt good to give them high scores.  The commercials maybe weren’t entertaining but viewers subconsciously wanted to demonstrate that they had good taste.  So a wacky chip ad staring  a guy in a dress gets a 7 but an inspiring (but sort of confusing) Oprah-narrated ad about families deserved to get a 10 because that was a serious and maybe even an important commercial.

So the USA Today ad meter is dead and it’s never coming back.  Sure, the folks at USA Today are going to continue to parade around its corpse like it’s still real and relevant but it’s not.  In fact, USA Today apparently wants to bastardize their brand even further by running ad meter polls during other events like the Oscars. (The fact that companies don’t make special commercials for the Oscars or the All-Star game apparently doesn’t mater.)  So in the end, this just comes down to an issue of money and free publicity.  USA Today realized that the Ad Meter name was worth something so they’ve decided to make a couple bucks by running shitty online polls under the once respected Ad Meter banner.

I’m not really sure what all this means for the Crash the Super Bowl contest but I’ll be frank, I’m a little worried.  It will now be much, much harder for Dortios commercials to score a #1, #2 or #3 spot in the poll.  That means FritoLay will be getting a lot less exposure and free press out of The Crash.  I suspect that FritoLay will run the contest again next year but I also suspect they might change the terms a bit.  I really think it’s time for Doritos to start paying bonus prizes to the finalists if their ad makes it to air regardless of how they do on the ad meter.  They could still do the bonus ad meter prizes but if they guaranteed an extra $25,000 just for airing that’d be really nice.  I know that might sound like a lot of money but it’s chump change when you consider the fact that FritoLay has to pay at least  $3,000,000 to air one 30 second Super Bowl commercial.

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