Why Frito-Lay Is Returning To Its Super Bowl Playbook


Ann Mukherjee, group vp of marketing for Frito-Lay, has upped the ante for consumers who want to create Doritos’ next Super Bowl spot. While previous winners got $1 million, now the prize is $5 million, an amount the snack giant said it will dole out if all three of its consumer-generated ads for the chips brand top USA Today’s Super Bowl XLIV Ad Meter. In raising the stakes, the PepsiCo unit is pushing fans’ creativity to the limits, Mukherjee said. Case in point: Consumers voted last year’s “Free Doritos” ad by brothers Dave and Joe Herbert their favorite among the Super Bowl ad lineup, besting spots by the country’s top ad agencies. Mukherjee, a 2007 Brandweek Marketer of the Year, chatted about Super Bowl plans and other issues, including Doritos’ strategy for social media. Here are some excerpts from that conversation.

Brandweek: You’re increasing the prize money and airing three—not two—consumer-generated spots in Super Bowl XLIV. Why up the stakes for next year?
Ann Mukherjee:  [For Super Bowl XLIII], we said, “Hey, we’ll give you a million bucks if you can get [the] No. 1 [spot on USA Today's Ad Meter].” Did we think it could actually happen? We had hopes, but [the Herbert brothers] did it. Every time we raise the bar, our consumers step up. That’s why we raised the bar again [for next year].

BW: How much social media and online buzz did last year’s winning spot, “Free Doritos,” by brothers Joe and Dave Herbert, generate?
AM:  It exceeded all of our expectations. It was No. 1 on Twitter and on YouTube. You look at any kind of social media [outlet] out there, and we were at the top. But it wasn’t just about being [No. 1]. It was about those
two guys. They were the heroes of our story, and that’s what people were ecstatic about. That kind of social buzz only happens because people want to talk about it, not because a brand pushes its message out there [in the hopes that] people react to it.

BW: What was the biggest insight gained from last year’s Crash the Super Bowl contest?
AM:  Our biggest lesson, and we’ve seen it now over a period of time, is this notion of how people who are just amateurs, who don’t have any kind of professional training, can have the kind of creativity it takes to create a winning Super Bowl ad. That kind of approachability to that kind of everyday person is what unlocks the magic of this program. In leveraging that insight, one of the things the Herbert brothers will do for us—to pass on the throne or crown, so to speak—is when our Web site goes live on Sept. 21. You will see a series of hilarious tutorials that demystify the process of winning the Super Bowl [ad] contest. They are going to do these wonderful tutorials around [topics like] “What does it take to do a [fine] editing job?” and “What do you need to do the production?” and “Where do you find the budget to hire an actor?”…They’ve also been doing satellite media tours to talk [about their experiences] at the local media market level.

BW: Super Bowl buzz aside, how savvy is Doritos when it comes to social or digital media marketing?
AM:  I don’t know if we’re savvy. I don’t know how to measure savvy. What I do know how to measure is engagement. One of the things that we believe very strongly in our marketing at Frito-Lay is never to chase the media or fad or whatever is the latest cool thing to do. What we try to do instead is figure out “What are the ideas?” The core of the idea with Doritos is these are young adults who want to break the rules and be in control. That will never change. What kind of ideas and entertainment can we give them? What opportunities can we offer to help them discover themselves? Whether it’s running a contest for the first consumer-generated Xbox game or giving them a never-been-done-before gaming experience via our interactive haunted house online or a personalized concert in your hand with blink-182 that leverages augmented reality, these are all things we leverage the digital space for because that is where our consumer lives. Are [these efforts] the most savvy? I don’t know, but [they’ve resulted in our consumers] being engaged.

BW: So, it’s not just about being savvy or not in social media. There’s something else to it?
AM: Yes. Take SunChips, another Frito-Lay brand [for instance]. That consumer is someone who is looking to live brightly. These are consumers who like to see the glass half full. We did a teaser campaign this year because we are [converting to] fully compostable snack bags in 2010…The team [designed] this one spot to tell everyone how it was happening. They ran it once and because of this multiple screen world, someone saw it, Tweeted about it, and do you know who that someone was? It was Demi Moore. And all of a sudden, on the social media space, it explodes. Did we plan that? No. Did we know people would pick it up? Yes. But if you want this to be successful and explode, it’s got to be organic. If you start planting stuff, consumers will sniff that out in a second. To be a truly successful brand in this space, you have to be authentic and organic.

Continue to next page →