STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Frank Ahrens is a reporter for the Washington Post and he's writing about this new phenomenon.
FRANK AHRENS: We've all seen the richly Hollywood-produced commercial with sound effects and things exploding and valkyries flying in. And at the end of it, you're like, ah. But you see these ads which have bare minimum production - although high quality content because everyone's shooting on digital, it looks pretty good - but you see the bones of the idea and you can tell if the ad works or not.
INSKEEP: Can you already go on the Internet and find these ads?
AHRENS: Oh, gosh, yes. And that's an interesting thing, too. It used to be a closely-guarded secret. People wanted to debut at the Super Bowl, which is seen by like 90 million people. It's the biggest watched event of the year on TV. But now TV doesn't have the stage to itself anymore like it used to. And all these advertises have been realizing the promotional value of the Internet to get the ad out there a little soon, get it spreading on the Internet, a little viral marketing and get some buzz.
INSKEEP: Well, at the risk of giving somebody some ad time, you want to go online to see if we can find one of these things?
AHRENS: Go for it.
INSKEEP: What's the Web site that I should...
AHRENS: Go to Google and type in Doritos and Super Bowl.
AHRENS: And Super Bowl. Two words.
INSKEEP: Super Bowl.
INSKEEP: Doritos in Yahoo's consumer-generated Super Bowl commercial.
INSKEEP: Okay, let's go on here.
AHRENS: This is one of the five finalists out of more than a thousand applicants.
INSKEEP: All right. Here it comes. We're going to do a play by play of this for people listening on the radio.
AHRENS: Hit the player arrow now.
INSKEEP: Here we go.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: Okay. Doritos bag guy in a car trying to open the Doritos bag with his teeth, while driving, while seeing an attractive girl who's holding Doritos - or so he imagines.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
INSKEEP: Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORN)
INSKEEP: And I won't spoil the end. But okay, probably didn't spend more than a couple hundred bucks on that one.
AHRENS: He said $12.79.
INSKEEP: Twelve dollars and seventy-nine cents! Well, you got the Doritos bags, and you got to pretend to crash a car. Now, would you explain what the point is here? Because people make cheap videos because they have to, that's what's available to them is $12.79. This is a company with millions of dollars to buy the ad time, and they spent $12.79.
AHRENS: Okay, let's do the math. Last year, Doritos, if they had Super Bowl ad, spent $2.5 million for a 30-second ad. On top of that, they spent maybe up to a million dollars to produce the 30-second ad itself. This year, they spent $2.6 million on the ad time - a little bit higher - and they have this ad for the cost of the prize - which I think is $10,000 - and a plane ticket to Miami and the Super Bowl for the winning team.
INSKEEP: But they clearly could have spent the extra million for a highly-produced ad.
AHRENS: Don't have to.
INSKEEP: Is this a question they just don't have to, or do they think they actually get more impact? Like people will watch in a different way when it just looks homemade.
AHRENS: I think it's a twofer. I think, A, it saves them a lot of money, and B, I think it's an attempt to sort of reach out to the sort of YouTube generation. Probably a lot of people who see this ad eventually on the Super Bowl would have known that it was homemade. You know, it's like advertiser always - you know, what are the kids up to? Let's get the kids into it.
INSKEEP: Frank Ahrens of the Washington Post. Thanks for coming by.
AHRENS: Thanks a lot.
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