Doritos – The VCK Reviews – ‘UNDERDOG’ by Five Point Productions

2 of 6

This review of ‘UNDERDOG’ by jwsvoboda, is the 2nd of six issued by the VCK for the six finalists in the 2009-2010 Crash The Superbowl Doritos commercial contest. You may page backwards or forwards through any of the six sequential
blog posts to read any/all of the reviews.

The Video                                                       The Rating
1. “Kids These Days…………………………………………8.2
2. “Underdog……………………………………………………8.0
3. “The Smackout……………………………………………..7.5
4. “Casket………………………………………………………….7.7
5. “Snack Attack Samurai ……………………………….7.0
6. “House Rules ………………………………………………4.9

UNDERDOG‘ by jwsvoboda
aka Five Point Producitons

This is the second spot from Five Point Productions out of Cary, North Carolina. The first spot is ‘Kids these days’. I have heard a lot of nay-saying from peers suggesting these guys probably worked some back room deal with Doritos in order to score twice in the same contest. I guarantee you these accusations are false. I know for a surety that Rudy Wilson (Doritos Brand Manager / Frito Lays North America) was taken completely by surprise by the occurrence. R. Wison and crew would never knowingly award two slots to the same creative team regardless of the quality of the commercials. It just doesn’t mash with the math of the marketing machine.

Explanation: With the media giving a lot less love to Doritos than they did in the heady early days of the program, (2006-2007), Doritos depends more than ever before on these finalists to get the word out during the frenetic soul-selling social networking campaign period. Additionally, Doritos hopes to get (buzz) from any willing press outlet that might consider one of these finalists a nice human interest story. Because Doritos awarded two slots to the same creative group, they now essentially have only five campaign teams instead of the six they anticipated. So please, anyone who says Doritos did this intentionally doesn’t know how the game is played. Rest assured, that the Doritoland publicity machine is not happy….but this fodder is for a different post, that I promise to write in the not-to-distant future. Currently I will get on with the business at hand….my review work. You guys are slave drivers.

The detractors can say what they like about Five Point Productions, but these boys are undeniable dialed in to the kind of content that Doritos digs…and have been finalists on arguably the biggest stage the contest genre has to offer….THREE times now. Wow!!! Look, I do admire their accomplishment, and hey, they did everything right, but trust me when I say my admiration won’t cloud the my judgement when it comes time to review. Let’s go.

The Review

CASTING/ACTING: The ‘bench dude’ is awesome. He def. comes off as being hatable but has just enough charm to keep you interested. His acting of course is great, but the director knew he could pull this off and that is why the CD deserves kudos. The dog work is phenomenal. Don’t know where/how you had the dog paws made but they are the best use of a prop I have seen in the gallery. It is no wonder Doritos was impressed. I think the hind legs were the real dog legs but the fact that I am guessing is a testament to the pre-production work that went into this spot. The dog had some excellent training and was manipulated stellarly through the shooting. Not a hint of coaching or coaxing. Excellent.

SOUND DESIGN: Every time there needed to be an audible from the dog it was there, and it was the appropriate audible for each action. I have foleyed animal sounds before in other projects and know first hand how difficult it is to get the right sounds without using hot pokers and water-boards. Great work.

LIGHTING: Okay, so the shadows fall a little differently throughout this spot indicating that some of the shots were filmed hours apart from each other and/or on different days, but what was critical was the lighting on the establishing shot, and these guys nailed it. The wide angle E.S. has a nice 1-2 hours before sunset quality and definitely takes the viewer to a serene place that contrasts nicely with the dual cruelty that is about to happen. This stage incorporates one of the required elements to generate laughter referred to in Gurdjieff’s Philosophy of Nature, and gets to the heart of great comedy ‘set-up’. The viewer is directed to expect something and then delivered something altogether different.

DIRECTING/DP: No flaws. Camera angles are interesting. The sequence of shots lead the viewer along to a logical conclusion. There is no struggle by the viewer to follow the story. No shot was missing that begged explanation. Even in professionally produced spots on national television there are frequent occasions when a dialogue or reaction begs an additional clip that never materializes. Here, there were no missing links. The use of depth of field was intense and played an appropriate role in the story telling. It was so pronounced in fact, (albeit in an aesthetic way) that it came dangerously close to being an unwelcome visitor, but luckily didn’t quite overstay it’s welcome (something I may touch on in the CON).

STORY:The writing here is tight. Similar to “Kids these Days”, you have an ‘underdog’ story. In “Kids these days” you had a senior citizen in a walker. Here in UNDERDOG, you have a lovable well behaved little doggie as the….underdog. Everyone roots for the ‘underdog’. 99.99999999 percent of people in the universe consider themselves underdogs, so it is a smart theme to write a story around…..even Hitler considered himself an ‘underdog’ and that was right after invading France and conquering Europe….sorry, I digress. Point is, I hope the reader/creative absorbs how critical it is to start with a story that has legs before commencing pre-production. In this case, UNDERDOG had four of them.


SIGHT GAG: There is not a lot to hate in this spot. Yeah, there were minor issues like overuse of depth of field (most video guys are OD’ing on that particular P.V. these days), and the lighting/shadow issue that was actually worked around in a decent manner but the most glaring issue for me was the duplicated sight gag.

As a viewer I am watching the action with much interest and just before we go to logo over black slug, we laugh because the dude has just been zapped by our hero the underdog. Excellent. Then…., right after the the logo with black slug we see the bench dude laying there and……he gets zapped again by our hero the underdog……..and yes we do laugh again….but just not as hard this time. The dog with his head in the bag of Doritos is not enough of a ‘twist’ to warrant trying to get away with telling the same joke twice. No professional comedian(en) would dare try it in a stand up act, nor is it accepted protocol in national commercial advertising. It is def. the kind of thing that will kill Clio chances even if the spot scores well in the USA Today poll. Although, it would have been ridiculously difficult to pull off, here is the type of twist that would have made this a shoe-in for #1 USA Today poll and a Clio award to boot:

When we cut back to the live action post-logo, we see the dog (replete with Ray Bans) sitting as a human would on the bench with the Doritos bag in his lap. He is eating the Doritos and oblivious to the dude writhing in pain on the ground. The dog is looking off into the horizon , basking in the glow of the sunset. When the dude reaches up towards the bench to take some Doritos, the dog (still ignoring the human) non-chalantly barks, never taking his eyes off the sunset. The human does his writhe and wriggle thing, and everyone laughs again just as hard….and tells their work-mate about it the next morning. This would have been the type of ‘twist’ that would justify executing the same sight gag twice.

I know that this might not be the best or only plausible ending to this story, and admittedly I only spent five minutes conjuring it up. My point though, and the main reason the VCK blog exists, is that with a collaboration session or two, of an hour or so in length, this ending sight gag could have been improved to the extent that it sealed the deal. Peer review and collaboration with a wide variety of demographic peers is key to consistent and repetitive creative success.

VCK Rating – 8.0

Please go to the next blog for review number 3 of 6:

The Smackout‘ by BHAYWARD


10 responses to “Doritos – The VCK Reviews – ‘UNDERDOG’ by Five Point Productions

  1. dude,
    cant you just join the rest of us on the bitter train, and say that all 6 blow!! come on.

    • Sir David Dude,
      No I can’t. If you think all six of these spots are on an even keel, you are less of a judge of content than I gave you credit for. I’ll review each individual project according to it’s strengths and weaknesses. If you can hold your boots on for the next few days you will probably get the pound of flesh you are looking for, but I am treating these creatives the same way I would had your entry ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ been chosen with them.
      I think you know how hard I plan on my work from pre-production to submission…just as hard as you do. Had I been fortunate enough to have one of my spots in the field and everyone said they were all ‘CRAP’, I would be pretty disappointed right about now. Yeah, there are a few glaring question marks, but 3 or 4 of these are solid efforts. Each effort is individual and should be given that distinction. I definitely think there are problems with the field, but it is more with the judges than the creators. Those who show they worked hard (animated a dog, hired 50 extras to fill a cathedral like church etc., Do flawless ‘flying through the air’ stunt work) will get kudos for accomplishing tasks you and I both know are quite difficult to pull off and marrying them with a comedic script to boot. These accomplishments deserve praise.

      You read this blog post completely I suspect. After doing so, I don’t see where you could accuse me of sucking up to Doritos. I have a level of integrity to uphold here and I will do so regardless of the angry mob. Five months from now I need the review to be as relevant as the day I gave it and not tempered by momentary anger.

      I’ll say it. I am very disappointed with some of Doritos choices. I personally believe that any of my three spots is superior comedy and branding to 1/3 of the bracket, but this doesn’t mean all of the finalists suck or are to blame for anything.

      You are a regular contributor here to the VCK. I love your input. I hope you stick around. This anger will pass, and when it does, the quality levels of the different finalists will become clearer to you. As an artist and creative we need to achieve this clarity, or other issues in our life will regularly cloud our objective judgement moving forward.

      The VCK

      • I think the PV’s are fine on most of the six finalists, Acting, Lighting, Editing, Sound all fine (Not EPIC like some of the Heavy Hitters that didn’t make it, but still fine). For me though it comes down to the “Laugh out loud” moment, and I compare all these finalists to last years “Snow Globe” and “Doritos Beer”.

        For me none of these six give the big “LOL” moment like last years, it’s more like “chuckle or giggle” out loud, that doesn’t mean they suck, it just means that the bar was set really high last year.

        In fact, the PV’s of most of the six are eqaul or better than “Snow globe” but the gag in “Snow Globe” is so much more powerful than these.

        I keep saying “Most” because I believe there is one video in the finalists that really does not belong in there at all, I’ll be nice though and not say which.;)

        • Hey Danny,
          I think you made a pretty accurate summation of judging. You should start a blog…..seriously. I know I would subscribe.
          I will be reviewing the video to which you refer to as soon as I can and I will give it fair one. It doesn’t follow though that it will be a glowing one.
          the VCK

  2. Underdog is actually my personal favorite of the 6. And based on how the Ad meter works, I think it has the best chance of scoring a Top 3 spot. As soon as those fake paws take off that Bark collar, participants in the poll will spin their dials to “like” and once the dog pops up behind the guy, those “likes” will become “loves.”

    What amazes me is just the other day you posted about Canon 5D Mark II. Turns out both the 5 Points spots were shot with them. This year, 2 superbowl commercials might wind up having been shot on consumer “still” cameras. I think “Smackout” was also filmed with a Canon 5D.

    As for your entries, I think you are correct. The little Dutch boy entry was in my unofficial Top 10 and I would rather have seen make the top 6 before 3 or maybe even 4 of the selected entries.

    • Hey Dan,
      RE: Canon 5D.
      When you think about it, it is a perfect fit for commercial work. Especially for ‘Kids these days’ where there is no dialogue and you foley later. Most commercials are so short in nature that ADR is not nearly as tedious as short films or features. With the exodus to the 5D and 7D within the industry we will be hard pressed to call them ‘consumer’ for very much longer. Yeah, it is really leveling the playing field. I feel sort of bad for the developers of the RED. I thought for sure they would get a good ten year run out of their product, but here were are, only two years down the road and already whizzing past it.

      Thanks for coming to the kingdom. Be sure to have the wenches fix you some grub & grog in the royal banquet hall before you journey out. Don’t be a stranger.

      The VCK
      BTW, thanks for the judos on ‘A Dutch Treat’.

  3. Honestly, all the gags fell flat for me. I don’t think a single Doritos spot made me laugh (and I eat Doritos).

    That dog one felt like that bad Jeff Goldblum movie “Cats and Dogs.” The Doritos ninja one was….was….what? And frankly, I can’t even remember the rest of ’em.. Some kind of taser joke?

    I guess getting electrocuted is the trendy now? What happened to smart humor and witty dialogue?

    BUT, I never entered the contest, so I guess I don’t really have any right to judge the entries.. Congrats to the winners.

    PS: (The real winner is VDSLRs)

    • Hey jjgross, you are right about Canon coming out on top in the whole exercise. As far as the contest content to the freelance community, the most recent blog post sums up the sentiments of the VCK. You should give it a read.

  4. heyy its your cousin sam in wisconsin. congratulations on your commercial and lets just say all the kids at my school were talking about it.

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