Busted: Another "Consumer-Generated Ad" Myth

Exhale, Madison Avenue. Uninitiated content-generating user masses are yet to create a winning Super Bowl spot.

In its predictable "Do-It-Yourself Super Ads" piece, NY Times writes about the effectiveness of home-brewed Super Bowl spots:

"Be afraid, Madison Avenue. Be very afraid. That seems to be the message in the aftermath of the crowded, frenetic advertising bowl that took place inside Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday. Among those commercials consistently deemed most effective, memorable and talked-about, many were created or suggested by consumers — or produced internally by the sponsors — rather than the work of agency professionals."

Exhibit A: Doritos' "House Rules". Exhibit B: Doritos' "Underdog". According to the paper, both spots did well in a variety of surveys and polls. The obligatory soundbite illustrates the teaching moment: "Consumers seem to know best what other consumers will like to watch in the "unique" ad environment of the Super Bowl."

And they probably do. Only the paper fails to mention that Joshua Svoboda, the 24-year-old guy who reportedly created "Underdog" for $200 and ended up with $600K in prize money works as a creative director. A guy who works with him at 5 Point Productions had won another Doritos' contest in 2007.  Which is not to say that the dudes didn't do a great job but, you know, the story would've been that much stronger if it were the other Joshua Svoboda, an electrical engineer.

And the guy who did "House Rules"? He is a "writer, director, producer & editor" in Hollywood.

The two Herbert brothers who won Doritos' "Crash the Super Bowl" contest the year before had been "building their Transit Films business".

The five finalists in 2007 were a short-film director, a musician, the same Herbert brothers, the same 5 Point Productions, and an aspiring filmmaker Billy Federighi who also had won a similar contest by Converse that ran the previous year and who was subsequently contracted by Leo Burnett.  (In 2008, the contest ran in a different format with Doritos looking for a music performer.)

The winner of Heinz's 2008 "UGC" contest - a director, producer, photographer and editor.  Amazon's 2009 contest winner - a pro photographer (awesome work, too). This list goes on.

There are a lot of things agencies should be worrying about -- like, what happens if clients start budgeting $200 for spot production after reading the Times.  Or that there's a lot of great talent outside of the usual ad hubs hungry for a piece of the pie. Or that they aren't hiring these guys as freelancers or contractors. But the whole "random consumers are taking over Mad Ave" myth isn't one of them.

Flashback: in a 2007 story on the same subject, a different Times reporter wrote: "Ad agencies and brand marketers are still doing much of the legwork. Heinz and Doritos spent months planning their user-generated contests, hiring lawyers to vet them and designing advertisements to promote them. Then they assigned employees to wade through entries."


  1. Or go to MOFILM.com as a brand and they do it all for you

  2. While production quality, hitting comedic beats, classic reveals, etc. might still be winning the user-generated race for Super Bowl spots, the sheer volume of ideas that do come from real consumers is of value to brands also. At Zooppa a lot of our brand and agency clients have gone on to reproduce great ideas professionally or launch whole campaigns based on a tag line or design that did come from an actual "user". While there is a lot of hype and a degree of "myth" about it around a spectacle like the Super Bowl, for those that work in the industry I think there's a lot more to it than some smaller shops or studios getting on tv.

  3. I have no idea why the NYT are running on the home-brewed storyline. That everyone but the pastor works in advertising was evident out in Doritos own press release that they sent around pre-bowl - the only dodgy thing they did was write "aspiring filmmaker" on people who already worked with another title (ie: producer / creative director) next to the credit names on each ad. This has a list at the bottom.


  4. Nice diligence!

  5. Hey did anyone here about the company in Munich that are doing a virtual counterstrike to the Belgium thing? Think they’re called Threeview GmbH or something

  6. While it doesn't get as much credit as it deserves, there is a big difference between ideas and execution. That's where experience turns ideas into a valuable reality. I'm not sure why that's missed, or is talking about hard work and experience less interesting than pretending that doing someone's job well is kind of like winning the lottery?


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