Image: Doritos ad
The punchline to the spot had a lot of punch to it.
updated 2/2/2009 5:30:54 PM ET 2009-02-02T22:30:54

When the makers of Doritos offered a promotion seeking Super Bowl ads from its customer base they offered two prizes. Each of five finalists got $25,000, but snack-maker Frito-Lay also promised $1 million if the ad chosen to run during the big game could beat Budweiser, Coke, CareerBuilder and the other traditional heavyweights in a prominent national ranking.

Last night, Doritos had to write the the big check.

Against all odds, two brothers who spent about $2,000 on Doritos' "Crystal Ball" ad ended up as the No. 1 selection in USA Today's Ad Meter focus group ranking and took home the $1 million prize. The ad also won's Super Bowl XLIII ad challenge , an unscientific survey, with 12 percent of the nearly 60,000 votes cast.

That was far more than the Nos. 2 and 3 ads in the bracket-style ranking from Budweiser and Careerbuilder.

Indiana brothers Joe and Dave Herbert created the spot. They were chosen from among 2,000  aspiring filmmakers to have their ad produced for the big game.

Surprisingly, their ad surpassed the dozens of ads produced by professional ad agencies to win the No. 1 position and the money.

“It’s a really nice kind of Cinderella story,” said Chris Kuechenmeister, director of publicity for Frito-Lay, which makes Doritos.

“We didn’t change a thing,” Kuechenmeister said of the spot that eventually aired. “It cost them just under $2,000. The largest expense they had was food for the cast and crew. They were all volunteers. They shot it at the local Y. They bought a vending machine for $400.”

Kuechenmeister said the company considers its $1 million well spent.

“Everyone here was so thrilled and excited. The reality is for the Doritos brand it’s not just about a great Super Bowl ad, but it’s about wanting to have engagement with our fans. We wanted to give away this million dollars.”

The company’s other user-created ad, “The Power of Crunch,” ranked 11th on the vote and fifth on USA Today's Ad Meter.

The ad shows two cubicle drones chatting in an office break room. One shows off his “crystal ball.” The other scoffs and calls it a snow globe. After destroying the glass front of a vending machine, he declares the crystal ball predicted free Doritos today.

The other worker asks the crystal ball whether it can see a promotion in his future. After he flings it in frustration and hits an older male colleague in a place where no man would want to be hit, the first co-worker remarks he’s probably not getting that promotion now.

Rounding out the top five in the Ad Showdown were: Budweiser's “Clydesdales Stick”;'s “Tips”; E*Trade's “Talking Baby”; and Bridgestone's “Taters.”

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