One of the Super Bowl’s longest running ad campaigns is about to come to an end.
For almost a decade, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay has taken the work of amateur filmmakers and given it one of the biggest audiences available, the millions of people who tune in to see the NFL’s annual championship game. When the snack-maker first conceived of its “Crash The Super Bowl” contest for Super Bowl XLI in February of 2007, the idea was almost unheard of: How could some hobbyist use their own equipment and come up with a commercial that would be as compelling as the stuff produced by blue-chip marketers like Bud Light or Coca-Cola?
The idea has defied expectations, with Doritos ads made in the contest placing high in USA Today’s annual rankings of Super Bowl commercials. Now the company is doing something else unexpected: Moving away from the promotion, after one last blast.
“When ‘Crash the Super Bowl’ first began in 2006, the concept really was ahead of its time. Social media was in its infancy with Facebook mostly limited to college campuses and Twitter and YouTube just getting their start. It was a bit of a gamble to put the brand’s biggest advertising moment in the hands of our fans, but our fans quickly proved it was a winning idea,” said Ram Krishnan, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Frito-Lay North America, in a response sent via email. “So after what will be 10 years, we felt the time was right to find that next great program that would challenge our fans in new and exciting ways. As far as what comes next, we’re still going through our planning process and will have more to share soon.”
The Doritos’ effort lent credence to the world of amateur video, which is no longer viewed with the skepticism that greeted in a decade ago. When the first amateur Doritos ads hit the Super Bowl in 2007, they were joined by similar efforts by the NFL and General Motors, and seen as something of a gimmick, part of an attempt to harness something known then as “user-generated content” that had gotten some traction has young consumers monkeyed around on YouTube or MySpace. These days, entrepreneurs armed with mini-cams and smartphones record their antics for new services like Vine, Periscope and Meerkat as a matter of course, and the Doritos “Crash” films may have lost some of their revolutionary sheen.
The company wants its spicy, cheesy chip to leave a distinct aftertaste, however. For its final contest, the finalist ad that receives the most votes from consumers, will win an opportunity to collaborate with director Zack Snyder, who is overseeing the much-anticipated super hero drama, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” expected to hit theaters March 25, 2016. There’s also a million-dollar grand prize.
“I love the idea that they don’t have a focus group or a committee or whatever,” said Snyder in a brief interview Thursday morning. “They shot it , and it turns out they are right – their idea is the idea, in the Super Bowl.”
Past “Crash” winners have typically featured clumsy guys navigating through oddball situations, like a 2015 effort depicting a man a in the middle seat of an airplane trying to woo a cute woman, only to learn she has a baby in tow. In 2014, a less-than-perceptive dude is conned out of his Doritos by a young kid offering a ride in a time machine made out of a cardboard box. The first Doritos finalist in 2007, showed a guy finding potential love at first sight when a young women runs to his aid after he gets into a car accident but is saved when a container of Doritos serves as an airbag in the nick of time.