Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Homegrown advertising: Beating the pros at their own game?

The festivities for Super Bowl Ex-El-aye-aye-aye (isn't the Roman empire dead?) have begun. The teams have imposed curfews on their players (as game prep or PR risk-management strategy I'm not sure). The city of Tampa is decked out to welcome its own sports-infused economic stimulus package...and all of America awaits the informal holiday that has become the Super Bowl...and no Super Bowl would be complete without at least a few memorable ads.

In the democratization of America's last bastion of collective advertising attention, Doritos returns with it's own version of the Super Bowl ad prize...Crash the Super Bowl.

This year's prize of $1 million goes to the winner if their advertisement finishes atop the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter. That's a lot of coin riding on a creative brief that's, well, brief:

"CREATIVE ASSIGNMENT: Here’s the deal. Think of an idea for a DORITOS® brand commercial. Not just any idea, but one worthy of being called the best of the Super Bowl. Maybe it’s an action-packed story about the first time you tried DORITOS® brand Tortilla Chips. Maybe it reveals what life is like for the spices on the surface of the chip. Anything. Make the video that would knock you out of your seat if you were watching the Super Bowl. Make it yours.

Shoot it. Submit it. Make it as one of five finalists and win $25,000. Then, if America votes it their favorite, your video will be aired as a DORITOS® commercial during Super Bowl XLIII. But that’s not all. If your ad gets the top spot on the USA TODAY Ad Meter, we’ll give you a $1,000,000 bonus. Sound good? We thought so. Criteria for the USA TODAY Ad Meter is determined solely by USA TODAY, which is not affiliated with this promotion in anyway."

So what?

Doritos isn't the only company to attempt to engage customers and unaffiliated creatives. Heinz Ketchup's TopThisTv, Miller's Life is What You Pour Into It competition, and others all cast a wide net in the style of America's Funniest Videos: you do the content, we'll pay for the traditional ad agency need apply. A key element of most of these approaches is that they involve some form of popularity contest (via voting).

Amateur advertising comports with at least one of our five themes for 2009: Testing in the real world.

How so? Amateur ad competitions give advertisers a low-cost way to develop, test and adapt ad concepts in the real world. And then, using engagement-via-voting (or lack of it), advertisers get to determine just what rings resonant with the marketplace...a focus group of self-identifying, self-selecting thousands...or millions?

The winners may not rise to the status of high art branding, but the continued devaluation of that approach to advertising may make the issue of no concern...either way, the advertisers running the competition don't have much loot at risk...and financial risk is certainly something to be managed diligently.

Questions in search of a point of view:

What, if any, risk to the brand exists in amateur ad competitions like Doritos'?

Steelers in a 20-point blowout?

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