The recent trend toward crowdsourced advertising reached new heights during this year's Super Bowl. Five finalists were selected in Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl contest, with some of those ads actually debuting during the game. As it turns out, one of the winning production teams wasn't new to crowdsourcing. Bill Federighi and Brett Snider had also created a winning ad for the Converse Gallery campaign, which makes Federighi and Snider what you might call Serial Crowdsourcees, something of an anomaly in the nascent field of crowdsource studies.
Daren Brabham, a new contributor to this blog, contacted Federighi and Snider for an installment to our Faces in the Crowd interview series. Brett Snider replied on behalf of the both of them, and his responses speak (in some very colorful phrasing, no less) to some of the previous discussions that have happened on this blog regarding crowdsourcing. From here, I turn the blog over to Daren and Brett:
Daren: Tell us a bit about your background?
Brett: I am from Des Moines, Iowa. After I graduated high school I went to a year of community college in Iowa and moved to L.A. when I was 19 to attend film school. I went to a school called Columbia College Hollywood (CCH) in Tarzana that nobody has ever heard of. That’s where I met Bill. I’m 25 years old and my skills are likened to that of an elk. Bill grew up in Chicago and is 25 years old. After he switched from Indiana University to Loyola University, he finally moved to Los Angeles and ended up at CCH, where we met. All CCH really provided us was an opportunity to use equipment.
What crowdsourced work have you done in the past? Tell us about the contests you’ve entered and what kind of work you submitted to them.
Our first user-generated spot was for a Converse contest. We were one of the winners and our spot played on television for a month or so. About a year later we heard about the Doritos contest and it seemed like it would get a lot of attention so we had to enter. We came up with two concepts and submitted them under separate names to help our chances of winning.
Do you consider yourself an amateur or a professional or somewhere in between?
So far we are amateurs but we’re trying to change that. I appreciate the people that call us professionals, even if it’s not with the best intentions. We’re doing whatever it takes to get some recognition. We produce the spots ourselves and with our own money which makes us amateurs. Suggesting that someone with formal training is a professional is mind-numbingly ignorant. To see an example of this go to any film school’s end-of-the-semester film festival.
Rest of the Q&A continued after the jump ...
What was it like to be able to go to the Super Bowl? Get lots of free stuff?
The Super Bowl was good. It was long. We were there for a week, which seemed a little excessive, but all in all it was a good experience. They were very liberal with free food and alcohol which was nice. We also got miniature replica football helmets signed by John Elway.
Have you done any other work that is not necessarily crowdsourced in nature?
We’ve also done a music video for a band, Liars.
What are the skills you apply to crowdsourcing? What are some unique perspectives that you feel you bring to the process?
We have good ideas and we’re very capable of executing them. The idea that consumer generated commercials are made by people who are closer to the product isn’t all that realistic. We have good ideas because we have good ideas, not because we have a passion for Doritos. These contests are great for companies because they get a large variety of ideas that they didn’t have before. Granted, most of them aren’t any good but a few of them will be.
Describe what your workplace looks like.
A goddamned romper-room.
What’s a typical day like for you?
We wake up at 6:15 a.m. sharp in our bunk beds. I climb down from the top bunk and prepare breakfast. Eggs benedict for Bill and a Denver omelet for me. We enjoy mimosas at our breakfast nook and read from the Wall Street Journal. After discussing the day’s weather in great detail we prepare for our busy morning. We then apply two coatings (OK, sometimes only one if we’re running late) of spray-on body tan. Once we look radiant enough, it’s off to work in our maroon 1992 Toyota Camry. The majority of our work day consists of bossing people around and reading celebrity gossip websites. By the way, did you see what Lohan was wearing at Area last week?
What other work do you do, if any?
See previous question.
Do you think people can earn a living solely from participating in crowdsourcing projects?
Fuck no. We’ve made $20,000 doing it but I think that we’re the exception. Also, $20,000 isn’t that much money.
Who inspires you?
Paul Thomas Anderson, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Spike Jonze, Ivan Zacharias, Dougal Wilson, the Cohen Brothers, David Lynch, Michael Mann, Hal Ashby, Andre Agassi, and Whitney Houston.
Any favorite medium you like to work in?
We only shoot on film if we’re doing something serious. The Doritos spots were the first time we shot on 35mm and hopefully we’ll continue doing so from now on.
Do you have a personal blog or website?
How did you get started in doing crowdsourcing work?
It seemed like a smart approach. We decided that we would team up and be commercial directors. It is the only possible way for someone in our position to get a spot on national television. We had the idea for the Converse spot a year before but never made it. After some crappy dance video that we were going to make fell through, we decided to use that time to make the Converse spot. We’re building a spec reel anyhow, so these contests give us the chance to make a spec spot that has the potential to win money and be seen by millions of people.
Has this opened any new doors for you?
It has. We haven’t been hired yet but we’ve started relationships with some really great ad agencies and production companies because of this.
Why do you think you’ve been so successful?
I think the fact that our style is very classic has given us the success we’ve had so far. We’re more interested in storytelling than flash. We try to make our spots very funny and very concise.
Any advice for a newcomer to crowdsourcing?
Look for contests that have a good incentive to enter. Then, make something really great. You never know what’s going to happen in contests since it’s left up to so many different opinions, but if it’s funny and it looks legit (i.e., shot well) you’ll have a good chance. Also, consider that if 1,000 people enter then 975 of them will probably suck.
Is crowdsourcing here to stay?
I think so. I think companies are struggling to sell their products and they need a fresh jolt. I think the “fresh jolt” is less about the content of one of these consumer spots and more about the publicity that they generate. I think they’ll get really big over the next few years and then taper down. They’ll have a place in advertising, but I don’t think they’ll disrupt the way that advertising works.
Do you see crowdsourcing being used in any other ways besides in creative and design work, such as advertising? Can it cure cancer, facilitate world peace, save the environment?
It’s limited to creative stuff. Some hick can submit something shot on a camcorder and there’s a chance it can be funny. I don’t think anyone would be interested in that same guy’s plan for a new cancer research center.
How do you view the creative process and collaboration?
We collaborate very well together. One of us will come up with the initial idea but the other one will always make that idea better. We only work on ideas that we can both get behind. That way we’re both personally invested in the project. Everything we’ve done is better because of the collaboration.
What is your biggest challenge or hurdle you face in your work?
Getting money to make more stuff. Now, we put our budgets on our credit cards. With the Doritos contest we knew we had a good chance of winning, so the investment was easier to swallow. We plan on making a couple more specs that look as good as “Mousetrap,” which even though we can produce them really cheaply, they will still cost several thousand dollars.
What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on to date?
I think our music video is my favorite. It had the biggest scope as far as actors, choreography, production design, location, editing, everything. I like “Mousetrap” because it shows how much we’ve improved since we started.
What’s it like to see your work airing on national TV?
I saw the Converse spot once and got a kick out of it. It was interesting to see it wedged between two other spots. I haven’t seen our Doritos commercial on TV yet.
What’s your next project?
Trying to get signed by a production company.
Anything else you’d like to add?
God bless America.