Super Bowl Is Turning Into Consumer's Ad Game

If you've got a slacker nephew who has always wanted to get into advertising, now's the chance.

First, General Motors announced a competition for college students to come up with the concept for a Super Bowl to be produced by its agency, Campbell-Ewald. Now Frito-Lay is upping the ante: Its Super Bowl ad will be created, voted on, and shot by members of the chip-eating public.

The trend of consumer-generated content is having an impact on almost all areas of life, from Wikipedia to political blogs to wannabe divas distributing their music on MySpace. So it's no surprise that marketers are in the game, too.

Working with Yahoo Video, which offers video creators the chance to be seen by the largest audience online, Dorito ads can be submitted between Oct. 2 and Dec. 1, 2006, Frito-Lay said yesterday. And once the finalists' ads are posted on Yahoo Video in January, viewers will vote and speculate on which ad will make it to the coveted Super Bowl spot. (There's also a contest component involving specially marked bags of Doritos.)



The Chevrolet competition is a little more highbrow: College students (at any school with any major) are invited to submit a design storyboard and script for a 30-second TV spot that will "reignite the love affair between Americans and Chevrolet." The winning submissions will be produced by Chevrolet and air on the Super Bowl.

Although not destined for the Super Bowl, Absolut is asking viewers to nominate "The 100 Absolutes"--their favorites in everything from cuisine and culture to retro video games. (The company already solicits drink recipes from its Web site users.)

In a way, the trend is just the latest incarnation of the jingle-writing contests that were so popular in the 1950s. But thanks to the power of the Internet, the rewards are greater. (So are the risks, as proved by GM's recent experience with consumer-generated content, a mock Tahoe ad that made the rounds of ad-bloggers: "We deforested the hills ... and sold ourselves for oil ... so you can finally drive ... to see what's left of our wilderness.")

"Consumers are jumping to do this, and smart brands are engaging their consumers," says Jamie Tedford, senior vice president, media and marketing innovation, Arnold Worldwide, Boston. "This is the ultimate empowerment for the voice of the customer."

But the rewards for companies like Frito-Lay, GM, and Procter & Gamble--which is asking users of its Secret antiperspirant to share their secrets via the Web--are that it can greatly increase consumer engagement, says Marissa Gluck, a managing partner at Radar Research in Los Angeles.

"I don't think Madison Avenue is worried about being replaced yet," she says. "But these ads will generate a lot of word-of-mouth, which can end up being more valuable than the ad itself. For marketers, the end game is simply getting consumers to be part of the conversation."

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