Interview of @ChrisKuech (Frito-Lay) About Crash The Super Bowl VIII

Chris Kuechenmeister, one of "40 under 40 to watch" in 2011, according to

In 2011, cited Chris Kuechenmeister as one of “40 under 40” to watch in public relations

A week ago, PepsiCo launched the 8th edition of the Crash The Super Bowl contest, probably the world’s most famous, open-to-all video advertising competition. For the eight year, PepsiCo invites individuals to compete to have their own Doritos ads air in front of millions during Super Bowl XLVIII, the pinnacle of television advertising. What’s new this year? Doritos is opening Crash The Super Bowl (CTSB) up to the whole world, or at least to any of the 46 countries where Doritos are sold.

To talk about this latest evolution, but also about the general strategy of relying on consumers for the production of advertising content, I had the great pleasure to talk to Chris Kuechenmeister, Senior Director of Public Relations at Frito-Lay North America (which is part of PepsiCo). He kindly replied to my tweet and we had a very interesting chat on Monday. Here’s his insider perspective on this pioneering crowdsourcing initiative. One question a day.

The banner of the first CTSB edition in 2006

The banner of the first CTSB edition in 2006

As CTSB is entering its 8th edition… Was it initially planned to have a yearly contest?

You know, when we started this contest in 2006-2007, I don’t know if the Doritos brand ever would have anticipated how big it would become. At the time, we were looking for new ways to engage with consumers. We were looking for how we could bring the brand’s purpose to life in a unique way, because the brand has a very unique set of values and a purpose that is aimed at engaging with mobile consumers, young guys aged 18 to 25.

We really wanted to evolve the brand by getting the consumers more involved

At the time, we were looking at what the brand had to offer to its consumers, and also what our consumers were interested in doing, and we thought that our fans were interested in being able to show their creativity, they were looking for bold opportunities that were larger than life. The brand also knew that it was going to advertise on the Super Bowl, which is one of the biggest sporting events that we have in the United States, and which is also one of the few times a year where people actually want to watch advertisements rather than walk away. The Super Bowl has become a big pop culture phenomenon, and we though…

What if we give our consumers complete control of our Super Bowl television commercials? What could that do for us?

The Doritos logo in 2006

The Doritos logo in 2006

Many people at the time were very uncomfortable with the idea. It was a new idea that hadn’t been done before because it costs millions of dollars to buy the advertising time during the Super Bowl, and it was a very big gamble. To turn over your most expensive advertising program of the year to consumers who are complete amateurs, people that have not made a Super Bowl commercial before. So people were a little bit uncomfortable, but we really believed that our consumers had the talent and the creativity to meet that challenge, and they really did a great job that first year.

We were blown away by the talent that our consumers showed and the different kind of entries that came in, which is why we decided to bring it back the next year. And it became bigger and bigger every year, the response from our consumers has become overwhelmingly positive.

It has become bigger than anybody would have ever expected

Honestly, every year when the Super Bowl comes, and we have a winner whose ad airs, almost a few months after that’s done we start getting calls from consumers who ask if the contest will come back again. It really has become a great way for our brand to demonstrate its purpose and to engage with consumers in a unique way, and that’s why we’re already at the 8th edition of Crash The Super Bowl!

Is CTSB as a consumer-generated ad contest, even though many participants are professionals?

jared cicon

Jared Cicon, finalist of the first CTSB contest. Click to read his interview on my blog (May 2012)

We are looking for creative people, no matter where they are coming from. A lot of the people that enter the contest are aspiring filmmakers or aspiring advertising people, they have the experience in the field, there is no doubt about it. But we don’t open the contest up to professional advertising agencies or professional filmmaking companies, it’s open to individuals, to fans of Doritos. When we look at the people that have become finalists and that have won the contest, they come from a wide range of backgrounds.

The third year we had the contest, we decided to offer a USD 1,000,000 prize for the consumer who would create a Doritos commercial that would score number one on USA Today’s AdMeter. That year, we had two brothers from a small town in Indiana, who had never made a TV commercial ever, and who tought themselves how to do it, participating in CTSB. They made the commercial that became a finalist, a winner, and they became number one in the USA Today AdMeter, so they won the USD 1,000,000 prize.

The "Herbert Brothers" (Joe and Dave Herbert) from Indiana. Click to see my "Creatives in the Crowd" map

The “Herbert Brothers” (Joe and Dave) from Indiana. Click to see my “Creatives in the Crowd” map

And they were not professionals at all, they learned it all by themselves, by reading books in the library, by watching YouTube videos and things like that. They spent less than USD 2,000 on their commercial. Two years we had a self-tought filmmaker who made his commercial for less than USD 100, I think it was even less, maybe USD 25. So we see a lot of different types of people that enter the contest. But what I think is important is that these people find unique creative ways to create this advertisement for Doritos, working with their friends or other people that they know. What they are telling us when they enter the contest is that they are hoping to use it as a stepping stone in their career. They want to position themselves for bigger career opportunities in filmmaking, advertising or one of these creative fields.

Why did you decide to open up CTSB to the whole world this year?

For a couple of reasons. The first one is that Doritos is a global brand, it is being sold in 46 countries around the world, and one of the things that we have been realizing at PepsiCo is that consumers at one part of the world are very similar to consumers in another part of the world. They tend to have the same interests, the same passions, they are motivated by many of the same things… so that is the first reason.

The second reason is that, this year, the Doritos brand intgrated all of its marketing across the world. We have the same logo everywhere in the world, we have the same marketing positioning, we have the same advertising… which was not the case before ; we had a very different feel to the brand from one part of the world to another. Today, everything is integrated, and we Doritos has the same positioning across the globe:

doritos for the bold

The Doritos brand is for bold consumers, our consumers are interested in bold opportunities, they like bold experiences.

We realize that this opportunity to create a commercial for Doritos, and potentially win USD 1,000,000 and potentially work on the set of the new Avengers movie with Marvel Studios, that was a pretty bold opportunity. Our colleagues around the world that work for Doritos felt that this could be a great opportunity to demonstrate that brand purpose. So everyone saw this as a bold opportunity, which is why you see CTSB brought to all consumers around the world now.

Are you also looking for insights arising from the different cultural interpretations of Doritos?

We are open to unique ideas and outstanding creativity. If you think about the fact that the most popular YouTube video ever comes from a Korean musician called Psy… Who would have thought that the world’s most popular video would be from Korea? To us, it shows that good content and good creativity can come from anywhere, that Doritos consumers from anywhere can come up with a great commercial for the brand, that’s what led us to open up the programm to the whole world.

We are looking for the best creativity, the best ads

Stan Lee, announcing in one of PepsiCo’s teasing videos for CTSB that two winners will win the opportunity to work on the set of “Marvel’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Among all the entries that come in, we will pick the five best entries that we see, it doesn’t matter where they come from as long as they are coming from countries where Doritos are sold. We will put them up for a vote on, where the entire world will be able to vote for the one they think it’s the best. When it comes to the Super Bowl, we will air the one that gets most votes, as well as one that we will pick ourselves. Those two winners will win the chance to work on the Marvel Studios Avengers movie, and the one with most votes will go home with USD 1,000,000, no matter where she or he comes from.

Is it now part of PepsiCo’s DNA to open up the creative process to consumers?

For PepsiCo, the consumer is very important and we’re always listening to what they say. It’s not just about the way we market our brands, but also about how we bring our brands to life, how it looks on the shelves etc. Consumer engagement is always a high priority for PepsiCo’s brands, and it takes different forms and shhapes depending on what that brand is and what that product happens to be. Crash The Super Bowl is a great example of how we engage with consumers in an innovative way, and it’s also a demonstration of PepsiCo’s ability to take ideas from one part of the company to other parts of the company. Not a lot companies can do that, and we’re really proud of that.

PepsiCo really has a strength in being able to take great ideas and adapt them to other places

Thank you Chris for the chat!


Some useful links to go further:

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