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Advertising Goes DIY


The rise of consumer-created commercials.

Companies are giving consumers the opportunity to dictate their ad strategy, with one large brand upping the stakes.

Whatever their motivation, some of the world's foremost brands are casting their advertising lot with regular joes. With a variety of companies looking towards a grass-roots talent pool for ideas, Doritos has added a sizeable cash incentive to the mix.

A subsidiary of PepsiCo (PEP), Doritos first started casting a wider advertising net in 2007 with its "Crash the Super Bowl" campaign, in which aspiring ad men submitted home-made commercials; 5 finalists were selected to air the day of the Super Bowl. The winner was selected online and shown during the big game, becoming the first-ever consumer-created Doritos ad campaign.

This year, again choosing from a field of 5 finalists, the company has upped the ante by offering a $1 million grand prize to the winner if their advertisement finishes atop the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter, a rating system that ranks the game's commercials from favorite to least favorite.

"We've always believed our fans have the talent and passion to compete at the highest level," said Doritos' group VP of Marketing Ann Mukherjee in a statement launching the campaign. "And we are putting $1 million on the table to demonstrate our confidence."

While other brands haven't stepped up with a million-dollar prize or Super Bowl airtime, companies across a variety of industries are looking to their "fans" for marketing ideas. The basic premise grew out of a 2007 competition organized by MSNBC (jointly owned by Microsoft (MSFT) and NBC (GE)) in the opening stages of the presidential primaries. One of the channels' most popular programs, Hardball, launched the Campaign Ad Challenge, in which viewers submitted their own ads for their favorite presidential candidate, the best of which was selected by ad guru Donny Deutsch. While the contest was a way to involve viewers in the political process, it has since spawned a growing trend of large-scale brands looking to the people for inspiration.

Like Doritos, Heinz (HNZ) ketchup selected 5 finalists from a field of home-made commercials. The winner won $57,000 and had his 30-second spot aired on national television.

But drawing ideas from Joe Sixpack isn't just for the food industry. Emporio Armani ran an almost-identical contest -- using the slogan "Get Together" as a starting point -- to market their new fragrances.

"I am inviting men and women from around the world to get together with Emporio Armani," Giorgio Armani challenged. "I am offering you the challenge of creating my next Emporio Armani classic advertising campaign."

Since the Armani campaign, other brands, such as Jim Beam (FO), have started their own DIY contests. Although the winning entry won't air during the Super Bowl, it's a great opportunity to launch a potential advertising career - and avoid another tired and unpopular ad campaign.
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