Why Did Doritos End Its Successful Super Bowl Campaign?

By Gabe Rosenberg February 5th, 2016

After 10 years of clever animals trying to steal bags of chips and men using nachos to seduce women, Doritos is finally calling curtains on its annual “Crash the Super Bowl” contest. For both Doritos and the Super Bowl, it’s about time.

Doritos announced it would put out one last call for submissions for amateur filmmakers to submit their own Doritos ads, putting a user-generated spin on one of the most familiar snack foods in America. Over 4,500 people sent in videos this year, according to Adweek, from which 50 crowdsourced semifinalists were whittled down to three finalists.

Two of those finalists will win $100,000, but only a single spot will air this Sunday to an audience of over 100 million. The big winner will also earn a $1 million check from Doritos and an opportunity to collaborate with Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zach Snyder on an upcoming project. Sounds epic, right?

Truth be told, the prizes may be great, but the campaign itself has gotten somewhat uninspired. As I wrote for Contently last year, the winning Doritos ads—usually two a year since 2006—have all turned out so safe that they’ve become a parody of themselves.

This year’s finalists are no different, appealing to the brand’s stoner-chic demographic. In one, a group of dogs try to trick a grocery store manager so they can steal bags of Doritos. In another, a man swipes left on a Tinder-esque app to reject women who don’t have Doritos. In the third finalist’s entry—probably the least suited for air—parents watch on an ultrasound as an unborn baby tries to take chips from the dopey father.

As The Verge wrote on Wednesday, “Crash the Super Bowl” has toed an ethical line for years. On one hand, it has lead to exposure and cash for amateur filmmakers, but the campaign’s success has also been fueled by exploiting free labor from the thousands of entrants who don’t come close to winning.

From an engagement perspective, Doritos is happy with the results—which led to top-10 rankings among Super Bowl ads, according to Nielsen and USA Today‘s Ad Meter.

“The Doritos brand sparked a marketing industry in terms of crowdsourcing,” Jeff Klein, Frito-Lay’s vice president of marketing, told Adweek. “’Crash the Super Bowl’ has played a major role in legitimizing consumer content.”

That may be true, but “Crash the Super Bowl” has also shown the limits of crowdsourcing. If the people in charge suffer from a lack of imagination, user-generated content won’t solve that.

The chips have become stale, and now it’s time for Doritos to restock.

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