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DIY Super Bowl commercials

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KAI RYSSDAL: Don't look now but it's only 108 days until the Super Bowl. Lest you think we're just feeding into the hype, companies and marketers are already planning their ad campaigns. Some of those ads will be a little different this year. They'll be created not just by media agencies, but by us. The buzzword here is user-generated content. Our business of sports analyst Ed Derse's here to help us make sense of it all.

Hey Ed...

ED DERSE: Hi, Kai.

RYSSDAL: So, YouTube sells last week for $1.6 billion and now anybody can make an ad an put it on the Super Bowl?

DERSE: Well, yes, it may be officially Super Bowl XLI, but it's more like Super Bowl 2.0. You know, user-generated content is really sort of the buzzword right now. You've got YouTube, obviously, which has got everybody's attention. And the number of other old-media outlets like television — the Steven Colbert Report is using user-generated with his green-screen challenge. It's sort of a new trick.

RYSSDAL: So, tell me about the companies that are, frankly, crazy enough to turn over their ad campaigns — it could be some college freshman sitting there.

DERSE: Right, there are three campaigns for this year's Super Bowl. First of all you had Chevrolet, who sponsored the Super Bowl College Challenge, which teams of college students could submit story boards and ideas for the commercial and then Chevrolet would go out and produce that.

Then you've got the NFL and what you do is you show up at one of three pitch days, and you pitch the commercial and then the winner gets to produce that commercial, has it shown on air and wins a VIP trip to the Super Bowl. The true, 2.0 commercial here is one sponsored by Doritos and powered by Yahoo! And, essentially, they've given some tools out — graphics, music and some sound — and said, "Here, you guys go out and create a commercial, we'll take the five best that we like, and then we're gonna have the public vote on it. And then the one that wins gets to have that commercial aired on the Super Bowl. And, that's a lot of people — tens of millions.

RYSSDAL: Alright, yeah, it's a nifty idea and it's all hip and Web 2.0 and this and that, but, um, last time I checked, 30 seconds on the Super Bowl goes for 2.5 million semolians. You're not really telling me that Doritos is gonna give it up for that.

DERSE: Well, that's a whole lot of money. And, yes, they are going to give it up for that. Think about . . . This is how the universe has changed. Where user-generated content is considered to be legitimate. Now, yes, there's a bit of a risk. Of course, all of these companies get to screen these ideas and essentially choose the ones that they feel comfortable with. But it creates a lot of buzz. And the thing is for advertisers, $2.5 million specifically because it's so much money, they need to get more value out of that. And a 30-second spot that just drops in the Super Bowl isn't necessarily the best use of $2.5 million. However, if you can tie it to promotions, like trips to the Super Bowl, or you can tie it to some kind of trendy or hot topic like user-generated content, and then you extend that out over several months, suddenly your $2.5 million goes a lot farther. And then you get radio pundits talking about people who are trying new, interesting ideas for their $2.5 million.

RYSSDAL: Well, that's great. But isn't that all just sort of a trend, and really most of this stuff on YouTube is just boring anyway?

DERSE: Well, that remains to be seen. The Internet first was just a trend. Blogs were just a trend and nobody was going to read them and then they affected the political atmosphere. So, the question really becomes: Is user-generated video going to affect the commercial atmosphere. And, of course, Google just made a very large bet on, yes, in fact, that's gonna happen.

RYSSDAL: Ed Derse is the director of interactive media at Fox Sports International. Thanks, Ed.

DERSE: You're welcome, Kai.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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