Crunchy Time — Will User Generated Commercials make The Superbowl a Winner?

The Superbowl does deliver a mass audience. Nielsen estimates that TV audiences for the Superbowl game have been on the order of 90 million per game for the past decade. As in many other cases, size may not be decisive.

As regular readers of this blog may remember, I have a low opinion of advertising on mass events such as the Superbowl. They are expensive and have not been shown to be effective. Their ROI would be small, if their results were measurable at all. It is more reasonable to look at these campaigns as boondoggles. Corporate execs and key clients have a fun weekend at someone else’s expense.

An interesting case is Doritos, one of Frito-Lay’s chip brands. Not only does Doritos want you to consume more of its junk food, it also invites you to make a commercial.

There are already quite a few do it yourself video contests from Apple’s Insomnia Film Festival to lip synch contest. Doritos differentiates its contest by offering the winning commercial to be shown during the 2009 Super Bowl and with a top prize of $ 1 million – not bad for a user generated 30 second spot. A reading of the contest rules shows that Doritos is likely to pay only $ 25,000 and a trip to the game.

Social media introduce another dimension. Their marginal cost of redirected media, including Superbowl ads, can be very small. With user produced ads, Doritos will save a bundle on creative and production costs and generate a lot of customer input. If the winning campaign goes viral in a significant way it will extend reach and frequency beyond those who saw the game and may or may not have seen the commercial.

ROI or not, the Superbowl and the ads which make it possible, will be around for a while. For those advertisers, going viral and employing user generated content should at least allow for an extra point conversion.