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Inane Doritos Ad Wins Super Bowl Poll. Do we smell a rat?

Posted by: Burt Helm on February 02, 2009

This morning USA Today released the results of its “Ad Meter”, the yardstick advertisers use to judge their Super Bowl ads. Not all of the scores jibe with our assessment of the game, but I thought the declared winner, Doritos, was downright outrageous. Did these 288 grown men and women from Portland, Oregon and McLean, Virginia — two places I always thought sounded decent enough — really chuckle hardest, grin widest, and twiddle their “ad meter” devices most vigorously when the twitchy man threw the snow globe at the vending machine? Of all the things advertisers tried last night, was that really all it took?

Judge for yourself:

USA Today’s site tracks the second-by-second responses to each ad, and I took some solace that the mood of these Portlanders and McLeaniacs’ fell slightly (very slightly) when an old man took a projectile snow globe to the crotch later in the spot. Hey, I like slapstick humor as much as anybody else, but this Doritos spot wasn’t the best.

USA Today interpreted the result to mean that Madison Avenue should be worried — this Doritos spot was created by amateurs as part of a competition. But that’s where I’m suspicious. In the competition, Doritos promised $1 million to anyone who could top the USA Today Ad Meter. So did USA Today’s panelists know that ahead of time? And, if they were aware that a hopeful amateur had a million bucks on the line, did that influence how hard they twisted their little ad meters when that snow globe took flight?

Meanwhile, a search marketing company, Reprise Media, tracked which ads generated the most online searches. E*Trade won there.

UPDATE: A spokesperson from USA Today tells me that no one mentioned to any of the panelists that the Doritos ad was made by an amateur, or that Doritos was running a contest around the Ad Meter results, but that of course, some of the panelists might have known on their own. I got in touch with one of the panelists, George Banks, from the Portland, Oregon group. He said he didn’t know that the Doritos ad wasn’t professionally created, but that he enjoyed it a lot. Two commenters have already weighed in to say they liked it to. So, I guess I’ll have to start a new conspiracy theory: What’s wrong with everyone else’s sense of humor??

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Reader Comments


February 2, 2009 02:29 PM

Did you even watch the commercials last night? They were all lame. The snow globe Doritos commercial was that only one that I laughed hysterically at. By far the best commercial of the night!!


February 2, 2009 03:03 PM

I agree with Peter; this was BY FAR the best commercial of the night. :)


February 2, 2009 03:40 PM

I guess if you think with a 12 year old boy's mind it was funny.... I was really disappointed in all the Doritos ads. The one where the woman lost her clothes, again 12 year old boy and I am sick of it! Besides it is an oxymoron: Doritos = skinny.


February 2, 2009 03:45 PM

The Doritos ad was horrible, lame, dumb, and juvenile. My thoughts exactly, were the panelists a bunch of 11-year-old boys?


February 2, 2009 04:05 PM

Agree. And Agree.


February 2, 2009 04:18 PM

Bitter, party of one....

Burt Helm

February 2, 2009 04:41 PM

@mike: Good one, touche.


February 2, 2009 05:17 PM

I think it's pretty cool, the guys that did it are from Ball State University in my hometown.


February 2, 2009 06:48 PM

Where I live, breaking the snack machine and declaring free Doritos is the same as stealing them. Isn't that a crime? Yet society votes this the best commercial.

miss viv

February 2, 2009 07:11 PM

The other dorito ad was way better. The new flavour where the advertising dude is pitching a beer flavoured chip. At the end when he is half nakkies and yells "you dont know me" cracks me up everytime LOVE that ad
Oh and hte pedigree ad was priceless "Bruno you bad bad bird"
Some were good some were just dumb like the coke ad ???!!!


February 2, 2009 07:15 PM

Clear consensus at our gathering...the Doritos ad at the beginning of the game (dress flies off, money flies out of ATM, bad luck with the bus) was by far the best ad of the Super Bowl.


February 2, 2009 08:38 PM

I'm not surprised that highly-educated, out-of-touch, media windbags disliked this commercial so much. Numerous online polls have this ad at the top or in the top 3. Yes the times are depressing and a serious but is it too much to be entertained by low ball slapstick?

jo jo

February 2, 2009 09:39 PM

Tearing a woman's clothes off in the street, robbing an ATM machine and killing a cop is supposed to help sell Dorito's? Do 12 year old boys really run the show over at Dorito's?
The commercial shows a Dorito customer eating a Dorito and getting magical powers.
The Dorito people chose to have one of their customers use his magical powers to do evil instead of good. Dope-ritos!


February 2, 2009 09:47 PM

Every Dorito commercial featured crime and violence to sell its product...a man in a mouse suit crushing the skull of another person with his fists, a man busting into a vending machine, another throwing a heavy glass object into the genitilia of his boss, a woman being violated in the street by having her clothes ripped off, a bank (atm) being robbed and a police officer reduced to a monkey. This is Super Toilet Bowl.
Janet Jackson took heat for her microsecond of exposure and these s Doritojerks give us minutes of really offensive exposure. Who's responsible?


February 2, 2009 10:59 PM

It won because it was unexpected and funny. You can watch it several times and chuckle. Repeat after me: it's not real life, it's not real life, it's not real life, it's a commercial. Then let me know what the weather is like up in the Ivory tower you people live in.


February 3, 2009 01:34 AM

The Doritos add was an instant was and will be a cult classic. The uppity types expecting 1984 MAC adds as the yard stick fail to realize the funny bone sells.


February 3, 2009 03:54 AM

The E Trade one? really? They've been doing those spots for over a year.... kinda over it.

yeah Ann, such a crime ... its just a commercial.


February 3, 2009 09:10 AM

I thought the Doritos ad started off well (the outrageousness of calling a snowglobe a "crystal ball," and then the surprise of throwing it thru the vending machine). However, I'm among those who thought it took a downward turn with the juvenile crotch shot.

You suggested a conspiracy; I have another theory. USA Today's meter was based on second-by-second feedback. The ad started well, and ran very early in the game. If you look at the USA Today results, most of the top ads ran in the first half. Ad feedback fatigue? Initial enthusiasm at a hearty first laugh? That's my theory.

Personally, I laughed hardest at the Cash4Gold commercial -- although not too many are lauding that one. " gold medallion, with a picture of me wearing a gold medallion!" Very funny! :^D


February 3, 2009 09:16 AM

I thought both the Doritos commercials were so insipid that their new slogan must be "Doritos: Now Inspiring the Worst in Humanity".


February 3, 2009 10:18 AM

You were way off on this one. It was definitely one of the funniest ads, if not the funniest. Maybe you can chalk it up to the fact that most of the Super Bowl ads these days just aren't that good. This one was inspired and funny and memorable.

Burt Helm

February 3, 2009 11:00 AM

@RickDinChicago: Highly-educated and media windbag, fine, but out of touch? I take offense! Some of my dearest friends have been nailed in the crotch with snowglobes.

@John: I think you could definitely be onto something. It would be worth taking a look at the commercial positions of Ad Meter winners in year's past. Does that really help?


February 3, 2009 02:30 PM

Where I live people who steal Doritos out of vending machines do it on TV so I don't have to in the real world.


February 3, 2009 03:44 PM

The Doritos commercial was our favorite! We also thought the babies talking about "these are hard times" was a tired use of this idea, and just depressing. Yes, these are hard times. we're reminded 50 times a day through the TV, radio, newspapers, and the internet. Doritos gave us a 30 second commercial that aroused a huge laugh and put a smile on our faces. Thank you!


February 3, 2009 04:37 PM

For those who did NOT think the snowglobe commercial was funny, check your pulse! Truly one of the funniest commercials we've ever seen!


February 3, 2009 05:29 PM

People, please! It's a commercial. It WAS funny to some. Get a sense of humor already.


February 3, 2009 08:19 PM

Guys, seriously. Pepsi, by far, was the funniest. I'M GOOD. Come one. Doritos has nothing on them.


February 3, 2009 09:27 PM

I'm 30 years old and can't stop laughing.


February 3, 2009 10:04 PM

Is this 1955? Didn't think so....your lame if your don't think that commercial was funny....stop analyzing so in depth into everything!


February 4, 2009 01:37 AM

The Doritos ads were funny, they were poorly done, immature and predictable (But it looks like they found their market). I am going totally on a limb and will say the best ad was for Gatorade/G, those that still have brian cells may want to look up the accomplishments of those portrayed (Try a YouTube search on Jason McElwain) and get some inspiration. Looking at what the definition of what a commercial is supposed to do, it was the only one that made me go out and buy something.

Burt Helm

February 4, 2009 11:19 AM

@Funny: I thought the Pepsi Max ad was much funnier too. I also preferred the "Doritos Beer" ad, which didn't get picked for the Super Bowl, to the two that ran during the game. But I think we're severely outnumbered by the jokers who loved that snowglobe.

Denise Lee Yohn

February 4, 2009 01:10 PM

funny or not, and conspiracy or not, the problem with the doritos ad is that it's not about doritos.

just look at the 30 or so comments this post has generated -- has any one of them said anything about the doritos brand?! instead of the business reaping increased sales and share, it's the ad's makers who are celebrating the launch of their film-making careers.

i voiced this concern a couple of years after doritos's first super bowl publicity stunt -- -- and i'll continue to do so until someone proves to me that people have bought more doritos (or even simply thought more highly of the brand) as a result of seeing the ad.

Charles Xavier

February 4, 2009 07:08 PM


You really have no clue about marketing right? You just mentioned the Doritos name at least 4 times. Why? Because the AD did its job. They even got an article over it. You don't think that people will not think about doritos now when they are ready to make a purchase?

As Carlos Mencia would say... "Dee Dee Dee!"


February 5, 2009 02:50 AM

This ad is just one of many sadistic, anti-male ads/shows that pass as entertainment/humor these days. It wasn't long ago that sexually injuring men or women was NEVER shown on TV because it was recognized for the sadism that it is. Today however, the anti-male character of modern times has not only eliminated that taboo, but practically made it obligatory.

And to the male idiots and female bigots that get off on this sadism, perhaps you should think, if only for a moment, about the potential consequences to children. Does it not even occur to you that such 'humor' encourages kids to hit boys in the crotch as a 'joke'. And that the end result is inevitably more boys with serious genital injuries? Are you really such unethical fools that this either does not matter to you or it does not occur to you?

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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