The tank of creativity that traditionally fuels Super Bowl ads was running on fumes last night. The lazy, unimaginative spots were too numerous to delve into here, so let's focus on the one commercial that got it right: Doritos' "Finger Cleaner." A finger glory hole—brilliant! It is a fresh as fuck idea. It is perfectly cast. It is forever memorable. It makes me want to eat Doritos (something I don’t do). It was one of five finalists in Doritos’ eighth annual Crash the Super Bowl contest. The commercial was created by Australian director Tom Noakes and has over three million YouTube views.
But it didn’t air last night.
Frito-Lay said it would air two Doritos spots from their contest: the winner of an online poll and another picked by them. They stated that the “consumer-created ad with the highest number of total fan votes […] will win its creator […] $1 million, and the runner-up, selected by the Doritos brand, will receive $50,000 (U.S.).”
The two winning spots that aired during the game were both made by Americans: “Time Machine,” by Ryan Andersenfrom Scottsdale, Arizona, and "Cowboy Kid,” by Amber Gill of Ladera Ranch, California. Anderson won the million bucks.
Time Machine is a pretty good spot, but nowhere near as original as “Finger Cleaner.” It finished second in USA Today’s Ad Meter. “Cowboy Kid” is decent for an amateur commercial, but nothing at all special—the kid/dog thing has been done to death.
Here’s the official statement from yesterday about the contest’s conclusion, via Ram Krishnan, vice president of marketing for Frito-Lay:
"There has been tremendous enthusiasm around the world for all five of our finalists and we couldn't be more thrilled with how consumers have rallied behind their favorites during the voting process. While fan votes picked one winner, the Doritos brand had a tough time picking our second winner, so we ultimately decided to go with the ad that generated the second highest votes. We're extremely proud of our two winners and look forward to revealing who will win the $1 million grand prize."
But “Finger Cleaner,” as of this morning, has over 600,000 more YouTube views than the two winners, combined. Frito-Lay, very conveniently, hasn’t published the tally from their supposed online poll.
Doritos tweeted this update—featuring a still from “Finger Cleaner”—last Tuesday, January 28.
In my humble opinion, the results of this contest are complete and utter bullshit. I think what happened here is “Finger Cleaner,” and its admittedly creepy premise, scared the living shit out of top brass, and they decided to put the kibosh on the idea of airing it. That’s what great advertising has always done to marketing MBAs—scared the shit out of them. See “1984.”
I emailed Frito-Lay and tweeted at Doritos, seeking comment. Not a fucking peep, so far. I also emailed Noakes. Nothing yet, but it’s the middle of the night Down Under. I will update if I receive new information.