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Why Frito-Lay Is Returning To Its Super Bowl Playbook

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BW: Earlier, you talked about how Doritos fans love that element of control in their lives. Do you think this notion of “control” is even more important now in a recession?
AM:  [Absolutely.] One of the biggest things in these tough economic times is people are feeling a sense of lack of control: “My 401(k) is not what it used to be.” “I don’t know if my job is secure.” “I don’t know what my future plans are.” Giving people ways to take a break from all the craziness in the world, giving them some sort of entertainment outlet, giving them something that says, “Hey, this is not just fun. I can actually use this to unlock possibilities I might be passionate about that I never knew before.” These [are reasons why] Crash the Super Bowl is more important now than ever. It’s giving someone a chance to open up an agency, to start his/her own film company, to do whatever they want because we unlock their creativity for them to win money.    

BW: In raising the stakes, don’t you think the contest is a bit daunting this year?
AM: Is the barrier of entry higher than filling out a questionnaire? Absolutely yes. But if you go back and look at the winners from previous years, the first year, the winners were teenagers who spent $12 and got really creative with a camera. The poor guy didn’t even have a dolly. He had to wear rollerblades to make his camera move. There’s no high barrier of entry if you think outside the box. This year’s winners spent $2,000, primarily to feed the people that did the ad for free. You have to come up with an ingenious idea and once you do, there are so any tools out there that make [Crash the Super Bowl] such an incredibly fun exercise.

BW: What’s your marketing philosophy on Doritos? How do you keep the brand healthy in tough times?
AM: One of the things that makes for ongoing, healthy success of a brand is consistency. With Doritos, one of the things we’ve stayed true to is consistency with its purpose, which is to unleash the potential of our consumer and to give them control. That’s always principle No. 1. Principle No. 2 is understanding how the trends of our passionate consumers are evolving. One of the trends we’re seeing among today’s young adults who are of the millennial generation is they are a group of people who are not only creative, but have incredible multi-tasking capabilities. They live in a world that we call hyperlife. They have their favorite music on their iPods, favorite shows on TV, they are IMing their friends. This is a consumer that lives in a world of multiple screens. If you are going to engage with consumers, how do you deliver not just advertising, but content that has the ability to morph into multiple screens because the content tells a story that they care to follow and share? That is where I think you will see the consistency in Doritos and what keeps Doritos fresh is always finding out how to deliver that in never-before-done ways.

BW: Best and worst marketing experience you’ve had while overseeing the Doritos brand.
AM: The [best] moment [would have to be when] you see one of the winners in Crash the Super Bowl realize their life is about to change because they won the contest. It’s one of the most rewarding moments. I personally witness it. We put them in front of the TV set, they have chairs and they sit there. The moment they find out is the moment the spot airs. I am literally looking at them. I’m not watching the TV because I know who wins. I just watch their faces. It is an incredible moment. Our CEO [Al Carey], his favorite thing about the Super Bowl is to be in that suite at that moment. It is a high that is unbelievable. Each finalist is listening for that first sound beat because they know what their spot sounds like. It’s also the worst moment because there are the other finalists who are so incredibly talented and you just want all of them to win.

BW: Tell us one interesting and seldom known fact about yourself.

AM: My undergraduate background training is actually in religious theology, not in marketing. I actually wanted to be a minister…And so, one of my greatest passions is to collect Buddhas from all over the world. It’s amazing to look at Buddhas from different cultures because the reflection of how they make the Buddha is a reflection of their culture.

BW: And, your favorite Frito-Lay snack product?
AM: My favorite snack depends on whomever I’m eating it with. So, if I’m snacking with my daughter, it’ll be a Cheetos Giant. If it’s my son, it’s Peppercorn Ranch SunChips, as that’s his favorite snack…The thing I love most about our product is we bring smiles to people’s faces.