NEW YORK - For its Super Bowl ad this year, Frito-Lay is putting a musical spin on last year's successful Doritos promotion using consumers' homemade videos for its commercials.
The chipmaker will devote 60 seconds of Super Bowl advertising time - worth more than $5 million - to a consumer's original song that is the winner in an online contest. Unlike like last year's competition, where the video had to be a do-it-yourself Doritos commercial, the tunes don't have to be about any Frito-Lay brand.
"This gives consumers a stage to voice their creativity on the biggest stage possible," says Ann Mukherjee, vice president of marketing for Frito-Lay, North America. "Consumers who are loyal to a brand know the best way to express what a brand is about."
Frito-Lay's latest "Crash the Super Bowl" contest goes live online starting Oct. 25. Entrants must submit an audio-video clip of their original song in the "Crash" area at snackstrongproductions.com - a "Second Life"-inspired Web environment where consumers also can suggest new Doritos flavors, play games and other activities.
Frito-Lay and ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners will create a music video of the winning song, and air it in the first quarter of the Super Bowl on Fox on Feb. 3. The company also is negotiating for a recording deal for the winning song.
While the song can be about love rather than Doritos, it must be an original composition. The other absolute is that the winning contestant cannot already have a contract with a music company.
More than 1,000 videos were entered last year in the make-your-own-Doritos-ad competition. Two winning ads aired during the game, and the amateur work held its own against high-budget professional work on TV's biggest and most expensive commercial stage. One of the ads - made for just $12 - came in fourth in USA TODAY's exclusive Ad Meter real-time rating of Super Bowl ad popularity. In the commercial, a young couple connects over a series of mishaps around eating Doritos.
These consumer-centric promotions mark a departure from traditional Super Bowl ad-making. Advertisers usually plan Super Bowl commercials months in advance, then test and retest them with focus groups of consumers and hone them to the last possible moment before handing them over to the network for game day broadcast.
But Frito-Lay has no plans to go back to that system anytime soon.
"This has become a little bit of institution," says Jeff Goodby, a veteran Super Bowl ad maker and co-chairman of Goodby. "People will look forward to it again. That's the way Super Bowl works. You don't do it just once. They've got a theme, and people will be looking and waiting for it."
For this year's competition, a panel of five judges, including Frito-Lay executives, will choose 10 semi-finalists in December. Consumer voting at the Web site will narrow the field to three finalists in January, then pick a winner from them two weeks before the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, once the list is down to three, Frito-Lay and Goodby will create music videos of all three, so the winning ad is ready when voting ends.
The consumer contest enables Frito-Lay to leverage a Super Bowl ad buy into a three-month online interaction with consumers. The video contest showed consumers will visit and revisit the contest site, and not just to watch the potential winners. As with the auditions for "American Idol's" show, there is also a fascination with really bad performances.
"People will go online, look at the entries, look at themselves and talk it about long before the Super Bowl," says Goodby.
Advertising professor and Super Bowl ad expert Tom Cline of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., says the do-it-yourself promotion is a good hook for younger consumers - Doritos' prime snack eaters.
"It's a little splash of reality TV," says Cline. "This generation loves reality TV. I think Doritos knows what it's doing here."
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