March 20, 2007 10:04 AM PDT

Frito-Lay turns to Netizens for ad creation

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--Frito-Lay is letting Web surfers chip in on its commercials.

The snack maker--one of several major companies pushing the envelope for user-generated advertising--ran a contest to find the best consumer-created TV spot for its cheese-flavored Dorito brand that would run during the 2007 Super Bowl.

Instead of airing just the ad that received the most online votes, Frito-Lay ran a second ad that was hugely popular and funny, Doritos Marketing Director Jason McDonell said in a keynote on Monday at the Online Media, Marketing and Advertising (OMMA) conference here. Those two submissions, and three other top finalists, each won $10,000 and their ads aired on Comedy Central and MTV.

Frito-Lay received more than 1,000 submissions, its online gallery of submissions received 600 million views during Super Bowl week, and the contest was covered in numerous news reports, including TV news shows in which anchors munched on Doritos on the air. The campaign was so successful Frito-Lay plans to do more Web-based consumer-involved projects, including putting two new flavors on the market and letting people vote online for which should become the newest Dorito chip, according to McDonell.

"We really tried to build buzz and get people excited about the brand," he said. "We are ecstatic about the campaign. It says that embracing consumers and what they love about the brand and giving them the opportunity to express that" can pay off.

The winning commercial, "Live the Flavor," was produced for $2.79, shot two days before the deadline and submitted 30 minutes before the contest deadline, according to McDonell. The other ad shown during the Super Bowl, "Check Out Girl," received 850,000 views on YouTube the day after the game, McDonell said.

That second commercial quickly made minor celebrities of the two actors and is generating job offers for the director/writer.

"We felt like we had been on American Idol" after the commercial ran, said Kristin Dehnert, who worked as a freelance film location scout before she wrote and directed the Doritos commercial. "For me as an aspiring director it has opened a ton of doors."

Dehnert and actors George Reddick, who buys the Doritos in the TV spot, and Stephanie Lesh-Farrell, who plays the expressive and indulgent cashier, were the stars at the OMMA conference, too, as they were barraged with requests for interviews and business cards after the session.

"I've had a flurry of auditions," said Reddick, whose day job is an assistant film director. Lesh-Farrell, an improvisational comic, said she now gets much more attention in casting calls. "Now, (casting agents) actually look at me," she said in an interview.

Added Dehnert, "Doritos took a risk. With all this viral stuff I think the message is going to get muddled. But Doritos did what you should do, they went big and they took a risk. And they were hands off. They didn't touch an ounce of the creative."

Frito-Lay isn't the only company allowing consumers to "interact with the brand" on the Web. Among others, General Motors created a MyCadillac.com Web site where people can share stories about their cars, Todd Riley, vice president and digital director for GM Planworks, said during a panel discussion. And Chrysler launched a site last week devoted to its Jeep Patriot that will allow people to determine the story line of a film involving the vehicle, said Chuck Sullivan, group director at Organic, which is working on the site.

Jeep Patriot buyers "are younger, more online consumers (for whom) we didn't have a product in the Jeep portfolio they could afford," Sullivan said.

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