Come Monday morning, we'll get hit with the latest barrage of news stories about how an everyday consumer showed up Madison Avenue with a popular Super Bowl spot. And just like last year and the year before that, the news media will mostly fail to report that the winners of these contests are often professional filmmakers who could have just as easily been the ones hired by ad agencies to create the spots in the first place. See last year's New York Times coverage as just one example of this failure. And this year's USA Today announcement about the Ad Meter winners is another.
I don't blame the brands for the confusion - they open up these contests to all comers, and it stands to reason that the really good entries would win.
But maybe it's time the news media should, perhaps, stop framing these promotions as if it means a ticket to the big time for anyone with a Handicam and Hollywood dreams.
Let's take Doritos annual "Crash The Super Bowl" user-gen contest (which is run by agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners). Past winners like "Live the Flavor" (guy crashes car while eying attractive girl), "Checkout Girl" (cashier and customer raucously bond over Doritos flavors) and "Free Doritos" (co-workers toss a crystal ball into vending machine in order to score some free Doritos, then run into trouble when one of them accidentally throws the ball into their boss's nether regions) all come from professionals - not everyday consumers.
"Live the Flavor" came from Dale Backus and Wes Philips, professional videographers with their own commercial production company. "Checkout Girl" came from Kristin Dehnert, who is an award-winning filmmaker. And Joe and Dave Herbert, the guys behind "Free Doritos" are award-winning videographers with their own independent film studio, called Transit Films, which offers advertising and animation services, among other things. As a result, their entries look great. They're well shot, well cast and well produced. Doritos' own ad agency couldn't have done better.
And that's a conceit that won't wash with consumers for long.
As I recently told National Public Radio, "It's ironic, because the people who actually end up winning these things are the people who could probably build careers in advertising, if they aren't already."
That's not to say the winners have done anything wrong, or that the spots aren't grassroots efforts. Last year's "Underdog," from Joshua Svoboda, who just happens to have been, yes, a creative director at a production company called 5 Point Productions (something the New York Times failed to point out in a story on the spot), reportedly cost only $200 to shoot.
And this year's winners, JD Burningham (described only as a 'part-time web designer by USA Today) and Tess Ortbals - who are actually award-winning filmmakers who run their own commercial production company - only spent about $500.
It's just that the money spent is spent, one could argue, by pros, not just some Schmo shooting a spot in the backyard.
After their big win with "Free Doritos," I talked to the Herbert Brothers about how they created their Ad Meter-topping spot. It's a fun, inspiring conversation - these are great guys who did a phenomenal job. And we hear their perspective on just how consumer-created "consumer-created" really is and what it means for the future of advertising.
It's an refreshing story, one the news media should spotlight - instead of framing these kinds of contests as citizen marketers making hay at Madison Avenue's expense.