NEW YORK Tonight an eight-member team of students from Southern Methodist University in Dallas will pick up a check for $10,000. The reason? They beat out 69 other entries from students at 20 schools in a national commercial contest sponsored by Chipotle, the Denver-based chain of casual Mexican restaurants.
Their spot, titled "The Wall," depicts two college students using the packaging from their meals as art. One arranges the empty food baskets on her wall while the other covers his wall with foil wrappers.
Chipotle's efforts come as clients try to figure out how to get consumers to not only watch their commercials but also feel as though they have a stake in them.
Quiznos, the sandwich maker, and Good Times, a burger emporium, both based in Colorado, are also running contests that ask the public to submit their own commercials. The winner of the Quiznos contest will have his or her ad aired on VH1 while the Good Times winner will receive a cash prize of $1,267.04.
Chipotle's contest, dubbed "30 Seconds of Fame," named two winners: One for the most creative spot ("The Wall"), the other for most YouTube viewings. The latter winner was a commercial called "Dady," created by a team from the University of Nebraska.
"Dady" garnered more than 8 million views, about 300,000 more than "The Wall."
The University of Nebraska receives $5,000 for its efforts. (Both teams' respective schools will get matching funds from the company.)
The company plans to show "The Wall" in several theater chains, said Jim Adams, client marketing director.
"We know college students are big fans of our brands. Partly it's because we haven't gone out of our way to advertise to them. This contest was a good way to build excitement and give them an opportunity to express their enthusiasm," he said.
Chipotle's agency is TDA Advertising and Design of Boulder.
Asked what made "The Wall" the most creative spot, Adams said, "It showed Chipotle without beating you over the head—and it spoke to the audience of the people who produced it."
"This contest has opened our eyes to the potential of user-generated content. It's a great way to engage our customers," he said.