Matt Williams: Doritos’ crowd-sourced Super Bowl spots show why you need an ad agency

Last weekend I witnessed one of the great sporting match-ups. There was tension, drama, jaw-dropping athleticism, sloppy mistakes, last gasp tackles, unexpected heroics and a comeback that’ll live long in the memory.

In the end, the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers and claimed a place in the Super Bowl. If I didn’t support Seattle’s biggest rivals, and Mrs Williams didn’t support Green Bay, I’d call it one of the best sporting events I’ve seen.

But that’s enough about the actual sport of American Football. Let’s talk about the Super Bowl, and most importantly, the Super Bowl ads. With just a fortnight to go until the big game, prepare yourself to be bombarded with teasers, tweets, and a terrific amount of hyperbole.

One Super Bowl offering that has been running with relative success for the past couple of years has been Doritos’ ‘Crash the Super Bowl’ campaign.

It’s quite a neat idea. The contest challenges filmmakers to create a 30-second spot promoting Doritos, with $1 million and a chance to work as a contractor for Universal Pictures in Hollywood up for grabs.

Of course, the winning spot will also be shown during the most anticipated ad break of the year. It’s as close as you can get to Advertising X Factor.

This year’s shortlist was revealed earlier this month. ten films were chosen and the standard is, well, mixed. All go for humour and most of them manage to raise a smile, but few are what you call truly funny.

This isn’t meant as a dig at Doritos or the filmmakers. They’ve all created something far better than anything I could do. And ‘Middle Seat,’ ‘Angler’ and ‘Mis-spelling bee’ (below) are all films I’d even consider sharing.

But my problem is that in all honesty ‘raising a smile’ is all we can really be expecting from the films. Something that produces a quick smirk. That’s an easy joke played off an obvious brand truth.

The only time it does get a bit more risqué, this year with the ‘Trouble in the Back Seat’ spot, it’s because the idea is stolen from a different ad campaign.

Like it or not, a truly brilliant 30-second ad campaign takes time to create. It takes time to devise. Time to sell-in. Time to produce. And even if on the face of it that doesn’t seem the case – or anecdotally you hear that from concept to creation a campaign only took a couple of days to produce – that’s because the people behind it are advertising experts, who have spent time understanding brands and understanding consumers.

These people don’t look for quick wins. They care about brand building. About creating truly effective work, not just producing any old idea that they have lodged in the bottom drawer and have always thought was funny.

It’s also why I wasn’t necessarily surprised this week to see Peperami ditch its crowdsourcing approach in favour of an agency.

When they originally dumped incumbent Lowe I didn’t agree with it, but I could see why they did it. Peperami had a clear and obvious brand strategy and an established attitude and tone of voice. Easy for fans and filmmakers to take and play with in whatever way they liked.

But six years later, the brand was unsurprisingly losing its way. It once again needed brand experts to define a positioning, come up with a clear and consistent advertising campaign that can resonate with its customers. It needed a partner well versed in adding business creativity to its mix.

In short, it needed an ad agency.

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