For the past five years, Doritos’ "Crash the Super Bowl" contest has brought a modicum of democracy to the (football) field of advertising, and has been one of the most enduring, and lucrative, consumer-generated initiatives in the brand world. Aspiring commercial creatives need merely submit a 30-second ad online for the chance to have their work seen by one of the largest audiences still available on old media. After executives whittle the submissions down to five choices, folks at home vote for which one they like the best. This year, however, the early fan favorite seems to be one of the ads that was rejected.
The underdog submission is the work of Austin-based writing trio David Ward, John Ramsey, and Jack Dreesen. In it, an excitable, bearded man hosting a homespun cooking show attempts to teach viewers how to make their own Doritos. He’s working from a laundry list of ingredients that flash by the screen with pause-worthy quickness and include intangibles such as "sense of love" and "mother’s approval." Needless to say, the experiment does not go as planned. Although the ad was (and shall remain) rejected, thanks to a redditor’s plea, the spot has found a second life virally, bringing a level of democracy to the contest that Doritos probably hadn’t intended.
"There is a little vindication," David Ward says of the ad’s success. "It would have been nice to be a finalist, of course, but it’s a great feeling to know it’s getting such a great response from the kind people of the internets too." As of this writing, the "Make Your Own" ad has been viewed over 1.3 million times and counting. All of the real finalists are viewable on the Crash the Super Bowl website, but the closest YouTube contender is "Man’s Best Friend", which currently has 64,000 hits.
"I can see why they’re finalists," Ward says of the other ads. "They’re smooth, funny, look and smell nice too." What distinguishes the "Make Your Own" ad from the finalists is its frenzied pace, which packs as many jokes into a 30-second spot as possible, and a bravura performance from Byron Brown, a dynamic actor who was up for anything. Mainly, though, the ad has the feel of a Funny or Die parody, probably owing to the filmmakers’ shared background in comedy.
Jack Dreesen and David Ward met while they were both enrolled at Ball State working on a college comedy show together. They were both writers, although Ward possessed a flair for directing and would later work as a video editor after graduation. John Ramsey, a comedian selected as a New Face in the 2007 HBO Aspen Comedy Festival, would join the mix when the three met working on a short film. Although the three had worked in various permutations before, the "Make Your Own" Doritos ad is the first time they’ve all worked together.
"Since we’re all aspiring humorists, one way to build rapport is to enter (and win) video contests," says Ward. "Most contests offer… okay prizes (usually a gift certificate), and the Doritos contest, with a grand prize of a million dollars, has been the mother of all video contests for the last five years. It’s too big to pass up."
Indeed, its a contest they’ve been unable to resist in previous years. David and John threw their hat into the Doritos ring three years ago. Independently, Dave and John tried their luck with a spot last year. The work the three created together ultimately managed to generate the kind of response they’d been hoping for, even if it meant getting rejected first.
"I would love to know the reasons why it was rejected, but asking for Doritos to send each person a detailed critique to every single rejected submission is asking a little too much," Ward says, "and might be a little mean too."