PepsiCo Inc. spends millions of dollars on commercials during the most watched U.S. television event of the year, the Super Bowl, and once again it is entrusting that budget to amateurs.
PepsiCo is offering people the chance to make six 30-second commercials for its Doritos chips and Pepsi Max soda for the 2011 National Football League championship game, and a prize money pool of up to $5 million for the best ads.
"Every year, it gets bigger and bigger for us in terms of consumer engagement," Ann Mukherjee, chief marketing officer of Frito-Lay North America, said in a telephone interview. "It's a model that works for today's consumers because they want to have a voice in the brand."
The Super Bowl contest continues an approach where consumers have helped PepsiCo create flavors and product line extensions, said Jill Beraud, chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Beverages Americas.
PepsiCo ended a 23-year streak for airing its Pepsi ads during the Super Bowl this year, but the company was still represented by its Frito-Lay snack food division. It ran four ads in 2010, which advertising research firm Kantar Media said cost Pepsi about $12 million to air.
Despite the weak economy, the Super Bowl remains one of the best ways for advertisers to get their message to a broad swath of consumers at once. The Pepsi brand is not alone in coming back in 2011. U.S. automaker General Motor Co. will return after a two-year break to save money.
CBS Corp. sold out its ad inventory for this year's game between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. More than 106 million U.S. TV viewers watched the game, eclipsing the record set in 1983 for the finale of the TV series "M*A*S*H."
That reach is not cheap. The cost of a 30-second Super Bowl ad has more than quadrupled in the past 20 years, reaching about $3 million over the past two years. News Corp's Fox TV unit will broadcast the 2011 game on Feb. 11.
PepsiCo is an old hand at the Super Bowl, having spent more than $266 million on game-day ads in the last 21 years, including $33 million in 2008, Kantar Media said.
Along with Coca-Cola Co., it was the third-largest advertiser at this year's game at two minutes, trailing beer maker Anheuser-Busch InBev and Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co., according to Kantar.
PepsiCo ran four ads this year, all created by amateurs. In addition to the six consumer-created ads in 2011, PepsiCo will run company-created ads for other brands, but Beraud declined to provide details.
Many post-game surveys of this year's Super Bowl ads crowned Doritos one of the champions with a slapstick spot where a dog escapes from an electric collar that shocks him when he barks so he can chow down on the triangular corn chips. Instead, his owner winds up with the collar around his neck.
The Doritos brand has aired consumer-created ads during the Super Bowl since 2007, with the spots often ranking among the most popular on USA Today's Ad Meter, which tracks consumer responses to Super Bowl ads.
Under the contest for the 2011 game, consumers can win $1 million for an ad that scores No. 1 on USA Today poll, $600,000 for No. 2 and $400,000 for the third spot. A sweep of all three spots would mean a $1 million bonus for each winner.
Consumers can submit their ads for the Doritos and zero-calorie Pepsi Max soda brands online at www.crashthesuperbowl.com from Sept. 27 to Nov. 15. Ten finalists will be picked in January and fans will vote for four of the winners with PepsiCo officials picking the other two.
For a budding advertising executive, there is also the carrot that the highest-ranked Doritos or Pepsi Max commercial will win its creator a guaranteed contract for an additional ad for two brands in 2011.