Doritos – The Campaign, The Leader Board, and The Minimum Wage

This time tree years ago, as a finalist in the Doritos contest, I was walking through our local mall handing out fliers. I visited barber shops and stood outside grocery stores passing out those same fliers. I visited every small business in my little southern California hamlet of Claremont that didn’t have a “NO SOLICITING’ sign on the door. I must have shaken hands with half the residents. Each of them recieved a flier. All told, I passed out 4,000 of them babies over the course of the two week campaign. I know the number, because it was my printer ink, hard stock paper and scissors that made them. By the time I was done campaigning, I could have run for mayor and won. Sadly, as a result of face to face campaigning, I came in dead last in the voting. No SuperBowl play for me, boohoo.

Boy was I a rookie back then. In this new, not so brave social networking world, I would come to learn that ‘social circles’ no longer meant people you actually meet and/or break bread with, share a bowling lane or invite to your child’s birthday party. No, social networking now means, cyber-acquaintances, many of whom you will never meet in your lifetime. The new ‘global village’.

I thought a ‘face to face’ campaign would be more solid than anything I could do on the internet. Mind you I still emailed voting links to my humble address book, but at that time I hadn’t nurtured any kind of massive on-line Social Network. In fact I had only bought my first ever computer just two years earlier. Yeah…I was an internet rookie and my kids saw a lot more of their dad back then, but that’s a story for a another blog post.

HISTORY: Back in 2006-2007, the contest was administrated on the now defunct ‘JumpCut’ site (Yahoo or Google bought it and summarily killed it – no funeral). On the site, a contestant could watch his view numbers in comparison to his competition as the campaign period progressed. During my campaign I noticed most everyones numbers except for mine and the Herbert Brothers were rising at a nice steady pace. (Like myself, the Herbert brothers were not quite as successful the first time around at ‘getting out the vote’). At one point I was being killed on the leader board 10 -1 on a daily basis. Technically, view numbers aren’t ‘voting’ numbers… but in reality, they are. If a competitors video gained 10,000 views over a period of time, let’s say that really meant that only 2,000 people voted for them……well if I receive only 2,000 views over the same period of time, should I be naive enough to believe that I also received 2,000 votes? In reality I received only about 200 votes (the same 10% ratio as my competitor). This was borne out in 2007, as the top two ‘viewed‘ videos, also ended up being the top two ‘voted‘ videos.

THE PRESENT: With this in mind let’s take a look at the this year’s leader board as of 11:21 AM, Thursday, January 14, 2010.

Currently (and this race is far from over), Casket, Kids These Days and Snack Attack Samurai, are in the lead. Now, admittedly, I failed to take note of how many views these spots had on January 4th. This would have been helpful to determine the ‘increase’. If anyone can send me a screen capture verifying some January 4th numbers I would appreciate it. In the absence of that though, in two weeks as the voting phase nears conclusion I will be able to predict with decent accuracy which three spots will prevail for SuperBowl play.

Last year, the view numbers were hid from the public/contestant. Not sure why. I have a feeling that Doritos learned from that mistake and went back to the original game plan of showing the views. Given that the majority of grass roots exposure (real marketing) is being done by these five finalists, Doritos has learned that it is important for the finalists to see when they are ‘falling behind’. In  this way, the whip is sufficiently cracked and the incentive to execute additional marketing occurs, with Doritos at the top of each campaign guidon blowing in the Facebook breeze. Smart of Doritos to double the campaign period from when I was a finalist. Now the contestants get to pester social contacts for a month instead of just two weeks. Can you say Nodoz?

Hey, this is smart and I would say maybe even…’fair’. I mean after all, these finalists received their $25,000.00 marching stipend, right? I am going to let you guys in on a little secret. With regard to these separate voting campaigns: Doritos could not reach as many consumers with nearly the same intensity for the $150,000.00 they shelled out for these 6 finalists. You see, even if only 5% of the recipients of the “Please Vote For Me” emails actually view/vote, 100% of them still hear about the ‘Doritos Brand’.  Doritos couldn’t reach this many potential consumers with equivalent fervor for 100 times this amount of money. Think about it. If Doritos calls you up on their own behalf and tries to tug at your heart strings how effective would it be? Now imagine the person calling you up on Doritos behalf is your room mate from college, your cousin, your old little league teammate, your sister, your brother, your…….you get the picture.

NOTE: Spamming is illegal…unless you have your finalists do it for you.

Minions of the kingdom, don’t get me wrong. There is definitely an upside for the freelancers who prevail as finalists. This def. can open doors for a freelancer who is willing to hustle, (as it did for me), but please don’t think that Doritos>FritoLays>Goodby>PepsiCo is doing this out of the kindness of their heart(s) or that the ‘Top Three’ is the deal breaker for whether or not they run the contest next year…because it’s not.

Sorry, but I roll my eyes when I read the kind of hand-wringing-fear coming from some of the bloggers like my buddy Beardy over at Video Contest News, who is so afraid Doritos might not run the contest again if it doesn’t make the top three…….

“…[We] should focus on ensuring that the best videos of the Top 6 make it to the Superbowl. Breaking into the Top 3 on the Ad Meter is the entire point of this year’s contest,. So if the selected commercials flop and don’t accomplish that goal, Doritos might decide to try something different in 2011“.

Please!!!! Beardy, I love ya man, but you need to see the bigger picture here. Doritos is here to sell Doritos, nothing else. They are not the ‘Philanthropists’ of the freelance creative community. They are a cutting edge, brilliantly marketed company that does business by the numbers ($$$), as well they should. Nothing wrong with that, but all you minions need to know what the score is, and the VCK is here to bring it to you. Were it not profitable to run this contest (regardless of how the Top Three pan out), PepsiCo wouldn’t do it.

Let’s dissect how much bang Doritos is getting for their buck, regardless of how the Top Three pan out. As an example, we will use Five Point Productions (finalists with two spots this year: ‘Underdog‘ and ‘Kids These days).

If you go to their campaign site (nicely designed with a very cool web address), you will see some of the principals  involved in the project. There are eight (8) faces to the venture. I know, having met these very nice people (some of them are my friends to this day) that there are also supportive wives, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, grandparents etc. that will help out where this campaign is concerned. So let’s say we add in two (2) behind the scenes supporters per visible principal. 8 x 3 = 24 campaigners. The campaign voting period runs from January 4th thru January 31st. Let’s say that each of these 24 campaign workers labor a regular work day (8) hours per day for the 4 week campaign period.

(24) employees x (8) hours per day = (192) campaign hours

(192) campaign hours x (28) days = (5,376) campaign hours

(5,376) campaign hours / $50,000 award = $9.30 per hour.

Okay, so admittedly, some of the volunteers will not work 8 hours per day. Some may not work at all some days. Some, though are working 16 hours per day. Trust me I know, I’ve been there. So the estimate of 8 hours per day is probably pretty accurate. Bottom line, Doritos is employing a high octane army of marketers for a smidgin above the minimum wage, and with a ferocity and passion you could never get corporate employees to dedicate themselves, let alone 3rd party marketers or ad agency employees, mostly eager to punch the clock at 5:00PM.

I haven’t even factored in opportunity costs, gas, food, printing costs, and the other tangible expenses that go along with this campaigning. Nor have I factored in the intellectual property value of the commercials themselves, (labor, props, favors asked/owed) all, handed over to the brand along with the campaigning.

EG: Last time I checked, my web guy charges a tad more than $9 an hour to develop a very slick web site and to do it all within a two week time period.

And consider this: Had Five Points scored only one video in the finalist bracket they would still have marshalled the same campaign army, only then, at the pay rate of $4.68 per hour (the rate, the rest of the finalists are currently pulling down). In the end, if all things are to be factored in, the labor rate could be as little as $2.00 an hour with the IP (commercial) given away free. Now that’s good business.

So please, people, before you think that Doritos ‘took a chance’, do the math. Believe me, they do. If they don’t run this contest next year, it will have less to do with whether or not the commercials placed in the Top Three, than most people think.

Admittedly, if one or more of the finalists are as fortunate as the Herbert Brothers were last year to bag some serious cash than it is all worth it, but going in, we know the odds of that happening. And if Doritos has to write a 6 or 7 digit check to someone after the SuperBowl, that type of event has it’s own publicity awards, so this is a win/win for Doritios no matter how it unfolds.



8 responses to “Doritos – The Campaign, The Leader Board, and The Minimum Wage

  1. Send me your private email and I will share the analysis so far. I assume you are able to extract my email. If not, please post.


  2. Perhaps I exaggerated in my post a bit for dramatic effect. But I think it’s important to recognize a few things:

    1. Anyone who is making money from video contests owes a lot to the crash the superbowl contest. Average joes have had the ability to upload videos to sites like youtube for at least 5 years. But video contests didn’t really take off until after the crash the superbowl contest was born. And the Herbert brothers win last year probably helped explode the number of contests out there. Video contests are now a cool, trendy marketing tool in the eyes of big companies. And if doritos has more success this year, there will be even more imitators springing up.

    2. The CTSB contest is a publicity stunt. And you can’t go backwards in a publicity stunt. That’s why Doritos raises the stakes every year. But bigger stakes demand bigger results. If “the little guys” blow it, and all of the CTSB ads are panned the day after the game, all that negative publicity erases all the free, good PR the company got with the get out the vote campaigns. If Doritos decides it was too much to ask of “the little guys” to create 3, superbowl quality ads, they really can’t go back to showing just 1 CTSB commercial a year. That’d be lowering the stakes and that’d be kind of lame.

    3. CTSB is a hugely expensive project. This year, a single 30 second commercial during the superbowl will cost 2.5 million minimum. So right off the bat Doritos is in for 7.5 million. Yes the contestants are out there doing free PR work for Doritos but check any popular website right now. You’ll probably see a banner ad saying “VOTE FOR THE CRASH THE SUPERBOWL FINALISTS!” So whatever work the finalists are doing for free, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of eyeballs that are getting exposes to those banner ads.

    4. In total, Doritos is probably will probably spend maybe 10 million on their CTSB ad campaign. Yes they get a ton of mileage out of that 10 mill, but if all the ads flop during the game, what was the point? No matter how much free PR Doritos gets because of the contest, the whole point of CTSB is to make good superbowl ads. So even if 20 million people get exposed to CTSB promotions (official and generated by finalists) the “brass ring” is the 100 million Americans that will watch those commercials on game day. If those 100 million viewers all see three lame, forgettable ads, Doritos will have flushed a monumental opportunity away. Again, all the market that the finalists do are nothing compared to the big enchilada; the superbowl audience.

    I understand that Doritos aren’t in the philanthropy business. Filmmakers who enter video contests should be treating contests like a business too. If this year’s Crash the Superbowl ads tank, that will probably result in a ripple effect in which nervous marking types hold back on suggesting “Hey, why don’t we do a video contest?” the next time the boss is looking for ideas. I’m not too concerned about Doritos making or losing money. I’m concerned about keeping the video contests model alive long enough so that it grows into something more than just a trend.

    • Rebuttal to Beardy:
      Yes, in your post, you over-exaggerated our responsibility to the contest as creatives.

      1. Anyone making money from contests does so because in one way or another they have an asset that the brand wants/needs and pays for.

      2. If Doritos doesn’t get the Top Three or at least a good showing, it won’t have been the ‘little guys’ (us) that blew it. I could go to the gallery and without all of the analytics and test marketing, field a stronger finalist bracket than what we currently have.

      3. Doritos would pay 2.5 million per spot to broadcast whatever they produced wether it was a free commercial from us, or a commercial they paid $350K to produce. This expense has nothing to do with the collateral promotion they are getting for minimum wage. Let me give you a little background Beardy.

      INFO BIT OF GOLD: Three years ago PepsiCo made a game week decision to bump one of their already produced Sierra Mist commercials, so they could air the 2nd place Doritos commercial C.O.G.. No where in the rules did it stipulate a 2nd Doritos commercial would air during the Superbowl. Kind of stole the thunder from the legitimate winner (Five Point Productions). I digress.

      Here’s why the 2nd highest vote getting video was aired: Doritos>PepsiCo realized that a stronger connection could be made with the consuming public, utilizing a spot 200,000 of them had already seen, voted for, and felt a sense of ownership of….as opposed to a Sierra Mist commercial where none of that attachment existed. The campaigns that these finalists execute are the kind of branding gold, no company can create for themselves at any price. And as far as SB spots go, they are like chess pieces moved around at will to justify the end to a means. This media buy would get spent on advertising one or the other Pepsi-Co brand. They are ‘sellingBeardy, not ‘doing favors. It’s all business.

      4. I am a little confused here Dan. How can our freelance creative community, in supporting any of these finalists, guarantee that millions of viewers will love these spots any more or less. Either that or somehow you think we can single handedly guide the best two or three commercials into the SuperBowl. ‘We’ don’t have that kind of power. By your own admission, last year’s field was strong for Doritos all the way around. They could have put up arguably any of the videos on during the game and been OK. Somehow, now if Doritos tanks, it is our fault. Ask the director of ‘Doritos Please’, or ‘Dave’, or some of the other excellent spots that didn’t make it, if they could have helped the Doritos cause more than ‘House Rules’.

      Summation: Dan, you are sounding like a wallflower who is just glad to have a ticket to the ball, wether or not she ever gets asked to dance.

      My expectations of the ‘Crash’ are pretty high. As one of the 16 finalists I think I’m qualified to say I understand ‘the game‘ as well as anyone. We need to be careful how we grovel. No brand or agency will ever respect a freelancer who doesn’t require it.

      The cat is out of the bag and it won’t be going back in anytime soon. Technology is leveling the playing field more than any single brand ever could. In one year we went from a $35,000.00 RED system (which was already astounding) to a $3,500.00 Canon 5D Mark II!! The camera, BTW, with which both Five Point spots were shot.

      Yes, Doritos was one of the first brands to recognize a trend/value in freelance content. It doesn’t make them sacrosanct. Gradually, the marketplace is going to take care of itself as brands look for less expensive ways to procure content. The need for additional web based video is going to quadruple over the next five years. It’s not going to be ‘Doritos Contests‘ that fill this content void. It’ll be us! And if we’re smart, we can have a say in our own future as the advertising world evolves.

      I am on board with Doritos 100% as long as they are accurately representing us (qualitatively) to the business world at large. If they send the message that we are only at half strength creatively, I then have reservations about committing to them carte blanche.

      I hate to toot my own horn, but please read this blog post from Kevin Nalty (Nalts – YouTube). There are many interesting points that refer to the writing on the wall relative to the future of advertsing.

      The VCK

  3. Rebuttal to the rebuttal:

    Everything you said is correct. But the facts don’t matter. PERCEPTIONS matter. The marketing team at “Beer company A” or “Software Company X” have not and will not see “Doritos Please” and “Dave” and the 50 other awesome videos that were submitted to CTSB. The probably won’t even ever see all 6 finalists.

    It’s not fair but like it or not, 99.999% of americans who watch the superbowl will judge all 4000 CTSB entries (and maybe all “user-generated” ads) by the 3 spots that air during the game. Frito-lay is a giant corporation and Doritos has invested millions and millions in the CTSB campaign. Do you really think joe-6-pack or Jane marketing-guru will see bad spots and think “wow, doritos must have picked terrible finalists.” No, they’ll think “wow, doritos must have gotten some really s%&tty entries this year. Again, the facts don’t matter. Perception matter. So everyone can talk about what great work was submitted but what’s the view count on “Doritos Please.” Maybe 5,000? It’ll look great on the director’s reel but that’s as far as it’s ever going to go.

    Creatives have zero responsibility to brands that hold contests. The only thing we should look out for his the health and future of this very young cottage industry. Doritos will be fine whether the CTSB commercials bomb or not on game day. But a bad showing by our “community” might be a big set back for user-generated media and people who make a lot of money from video contests and open calls for content. Just think of how the media played up the “2 nobodys from Indiana out-do the biggest ad makers in the country” story last year. I’m sure a lot of marketing people would be happy to see this user-generated content trend suffer a high-profile flop. Again, people will never even think that Doritos may have picked bad finalists. The perception will be that even with 5 Million dollars in prize money on the line, freelance creatives failed to deliver.

    • Okay Beardy,
      Let’s say we campaign our own little fingers to the bone for Doritos (FOR FREE – boy those guys are brilliant), but fail to elevate ‘our’ top three pics (whatever those freaging are). Doritos only gets one (or none) in the USA Today Top Five, but decides to run the contest again anyways…….

      How much money will you be spending on production next year? You gonna buy another casket? And how much endorsing will you be doing of Doritos. Honestly Dan, if there is a ‘next year’ and the current judging trend is an indication of the future, I hope I don’t have the time (or the need) to submit.

      I hope I am wrong. Dude, I hope Doritos gets 2 or 3 of the spots in the top Five, coz we do need Doritos. But we need a Doritos that picks 6 kick-ass finalists so all of these ‘other companies’ you speak of, aren’t mislead into thinking this is the best we have to offer. There are bad advocates and good advocates. We need the latter.

      The VCK

      • Two weeks ago I would have said I was certainly going to enter the Crash the Superbowl contest again. Apparently, I was just a Red camera, a church and a few story tweaks away from having an entry good enough to make it to the finals. And I’m not being sarcastic. I was upset that I might have been ripped off but in a way, it’s a confidence booster to realize I was conceptually very, very close to what Doritos was looking for.

        But…at this point, I sorta think my bridges have been burned. (long story) And so even if I wanted to, I’d probably be unofficially blacklisted for being a troublemaker.

        • Hey Beardy,
          I wouldn’t worry about the “…bridges…” thing. I think we can all take a page from the Five Point play book and if there is any suspicion that you have been ID’d and B-listed, just enter the contest with your sister-in-law or someone you trust as the ‘producer of record’. Do you think Doritos knew they were awarding two spots to the same crew this year? No way. I’m sure it was not anticipated.

          Just as these brands utilize social networking to effectively brand their products, we have to maximize all of the attributes of S.N. (including anonymity) to give ourselves the advantage whenever possible.

          I would advise though, that everyone first see how this year’s contest pans out before continuing down the road of blind loyalty. When the economy turns around, I predict FritoLays will receive it’s share of competition from brands who also discover the value of S.N. marketing.

          The VCK

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