A few years ago, Joe Herbert and some of his brothers decided they wanted to make a movie. What they didn't expect was an impromptu detour to be a top-five finalist for a user-generated Super Bowl commercial contest. Graciously, Joe agreed to an interview regarding the Web and user-generated media. What came out is much more that that! He has plenty of input on user-generated media, along with an inside view of his Super Bowl trip to Miami, his family and the five (yes, five!) brothers, the Frito-Lay people "keeping it real" and how you actually wrap someone to a door with duct tape.

Paul: First, thank you Joe for taking the time to answer some questions regarding user-generated media and being in the Yahoo/Doritos Super Bowl commercial finals. It's safe to say you're all pretty busy right now.

Joe: We are certainly busy with a few things. We had a great week in Miami for the Super Bowl, so we're busy catching up on work we didn't do for the week. We're busy with some media and with pursuing projects this contest has opened the doors too. Not too mention, my brother Dave and I combined both have 5 kids under the age of 5, and full time jobs to come back too, all while we prepare to further our filmmaking careers in the evening and on weekends. In short, we're VERY busy, but it's a good kind of busy, so we're having fun with it.

Paul: Herbert Brothers isn't just a name. There really are five of you, and you're all brothers? Are all of you involved in film?

Joe: There are five of us brothers (Pete, Josh, Matt, Dave, and myself) and we are a very close and competitive family. We enjoy each other's company, and whether it's filmmaking, or any other endeavor, we certainly have a level of desire to work with each other as often as possible, not only because we make each other better, but because we have a lot of fun doing it.

I would say the defining moment to steer our efforts toward filmmaking happened three years ago, when Dave and I, without any education or experience in filmmaking decided we wanted to make a movie. As brothers, once we decide we want to do something, no matter how difficult, we put a lot of hard work, energy, and patience into accomplishing what we set out to do.

Around the same time, my brother Matt had made up his mind that he will one day animate for The Simpsons, so he moved to California to pursue that dream, and I'm happy to say he is currently a Simpson's animator, and has been working on The Simpsons the movie, so he was too busy to help us with the Doritos commercials.

My brother Josh enlisted in the Army, and is currently serving our country and missed out on the Doritos commercial as well, but was a big help to us before he departed, and will be again when he returns.

My youngest brother, Pete, is currently a writing major and finishing up college. His creative writing talents are valuable in the film industry and he helps when he can, but he was away at college during the contest, leaving just Dave and myself to create our two Doritos commercials, with a GREAT team that we sought out and assembled… which is evident, since BOTH commercials we submitted made the top 8, with Duct Tape moving on to be a top five finalist winner. Several applicants submitted multiple entries (You could submit up to ten) and I'm proud to say that we were the only group to get more than one past the top 16, much less the top 8, which is a great honor for us. Unfortunately, being from the smallest hometown (by far) made it difficult to get enough votes to air during the Super Bowl, plus the other finalists made same awesome commercials themselves and are well deserved of all the credit they receive.

Paul: Your Duct Tape 30-second spot earned you a finalist spot for the "Crash the Super Bowl" contest. It wasn't the official winner, but it sounds like you have some good news. Can you share that with us?

Joe: First off, I want to say that after meeting the other finalists for a week in Miami I grew to love and respect each of them very much, so while I was extremely disappointed we didn't take home the grand prize, I was happy for the two groups that did get their commercials aired. With all the media attention, I don't think people realize how down to earth and humble all of the finalists are. They eat and love Doritos like everyone else and I'm proud to be in such good company.

It was a pretty intense moment leading up to the opening kickoff for the game as we all watched and waited. We knew the winner would air at the first commercial break, and with every tackle we waited for commercials that never came… what was likely only a few minutes felt like a very long time… and then it came, and Live the Flavor was shown. After a lot of handshakes and hugs, Doritos announced that because all of the finalist's spots were so good, a second was going to air in the second quarter. Just when we thought the long wait was finally over, we had to go back to running on pulsating nerves and crossed fingers again.

After Checkout Girl aired, Doritos hit us with another surprise, when the VP of Frito Lay said they would be airing our commercial nationally for two months, and that campaign is slated to begin within the next couple of weeks. It's not the big game, but it's a major reward to our hard work and dedication to this contest, and we're very proud to have been and continue to be a part of it.

As a final note, I can't say enough how impressed I was with the Doritos team. They were all very nice to us, and we had a lot of fun hanging out with them. I really didn't know what to expect, but did not expect them to all be so young and fun. I think in our minds it was natural to put them up on this pedestal high above us, so we were very pleasantly surprised to see them on the same level as each of us finalists, just doing a job they love, and having fun doing it. The great people associated with Frito Lay are not a bunch of suits looking to capitalize on the backs of the consumer. They are fathers, and mothers. They are brothers and sisters. They are friends. They like to have fun like you and I, and they love their jobs. They also really care about their consumers. Before this contest I loved Doritos because it was simply a great product. Now I love them for a whole new reason. After watching them in action, I understand why this project was such a huge success.

Paul: Your commercial scored quite a buzz in different online social media outlets. Have most of the reactions and comments been positive, and are there things you've taken in from online audiences who voice their opinions?

Joe: I've been absolutely blown away by both the vast number of articles and mentions regarding our commercial and the Doritos contest in general, and the fact that almost all of it has been extremely positive. I was also amazed at how many different sources ranked each of us finalists. All five of us find ourselves the favorite on many lists, and at the bottom of the five on others. It's amazing how diverse the public opinion has been on who their favorite is, and I interpret that to mean they are all done very well.

Like all of the other contestants, we worked hard during the voting process to get family and friends to vote, as well as gaining massive hometown support. But all of that can be expected. What I found most rewarding were the articles I have found on the Internet giving praise to our effort or the contest in general from sources not related to myself. It's not something that's happened with anything I've done before, so it's very heartwarming to gain that kind of positive recognition among the masses, and it also gives us some reassurance that our self-taught efforts to get into filmmaking isn't a waste of our time. With every project we do, it's our goal to do better every time. We set the bar pretty high with this contest, and I'm looking forward to topping it.

The only real negative press I've seen, has been from old school ad executives who feel threatened by the trend of user generated content, which I can understand completely, and would probably feel the same if I were on the other side of the fence on this issue. Whether it's an ad agency, or a consumer, or an athlete or in any business in the world, I like to see people doing something for the right reasons, and because they love to do it, and want to do a good job, and not doing something just to make money. When that happens, we all win.

Paul: According to the Reprise Media search marketing scorecard (PDF), the Doritos (Frito Lay) Super Bowl promotion was rated as a fumble. According to consumer-based polls, the promotion was a hit. A few examples:

What are your thoughts regarding the consumer-based polls versus the Reprise scorecard?

Joe: Honestly, I have a big smile at reading the Reprise Media article, which I have not seen until you sent it to me. I would guess it was created either by someone who was simply not informed, or someone who feels threatened by user generated content. Contrary to its mention of Doritos and Frito Lay as being virtually invisible online, there has been millions of views of the commercials. Duct tape was viewed over 200,000 times, and the winning commercial is approaching 400,000 views and that's just on www.crashthesuperbowl.com and doesn't count the numerous sites showing our commercials like YouTube and many more.

We have also been informed that Frito Lay has been impressed by the media attention this contest and the super bowl commercials have encountered. In fact, we were told that this was the biggest thing in the history of Frito Lay with regard to the amount of positive media attention surrounding the contest and our commercials. As I understand it, Pepsi was so impressed with how well all five commercials were received, that the decision to air a second Doritos commercial was made the morning of the Super Bowl.

I also heard that the Snickers commercial, who Reprise gave a touchdown too, has been yanked from the air because it was received as inappropriate by a lot of people.

I think it is also fair to point out, as you shown in your links contradicting the reprise article, that the winner (Live the Flavor) was rated 4th in the USA Today ranking of the super bowl commercials, and was the highest non-budweiser commercial ranked. And correct me if I'm wrong, but Bud didn't even make the Reprise list anywhere, despite having the most number of commercials aired during the big game, and the top three spots on the USA Today list.

The article doesn't bother me, however, as everyone is entitled to their opinion, so I just grin and go when I read something like that.

Paul: What do you think the future holds for user-generated media, and are there avenues that you and the rest of the Herbert brothers found that helps capture this market?

Joe: I think there is going to be a large thrust of user-generated media in the next couple of years. I personally think it might be a passing trend, because once everyone is doing it, the appeal wears off. I'm extremely happy to be a pioneer in the movement having been involved in such a big event on the world's most watched stage.

I do think that the user-generated commercials that give the user full creative control are the most appealing. I'm very thankful Doritos gave their consumers the opportunity to make a commercial that would air on the Super Bowl AS IS, without altering it.

While on one hand I feel it could be a passing trend because it will be over-saturated eventually, I also believe that media is changing in itself, and that change, might keep user generated content around much longer. As television shifts to become more like the Internet, I do believe there is going to be a lot more opportunities for advertisers to take advantage of empowering their consumers in many different ways.

While we have enjoyed every minute of the ride, and are very thankful to Doritos for opening some doors for us, it is our hope that we (the Herbert Brothers) will walk through those doors with a level of success that would allow us to do big things, without having to enter more contests to prove ourselves. Our initial and ultimate goal has always been to make movies. We hope to get some paid opportunities to produce creative and quality commercials for new clients, as we focus on getting our feature film scripts in front of the right people. If we have the opportunity to try for a super bowl commercial again next year with Doritos, you will see us make another run at it.

Paul: Have you noticed a spike in traffic to the Herbert Brothers Web site since the Super Bowl promotion, and has it been qualified traffic?

Joe: To be honest, when we started this contest, we really didn't want to use it as a platform to increase traffic to our web site. At the time, our web site was just something for us to keep our focus on what we want to do, and not something we were using to promote ourselves to the public. Because of the increase, however, we have been developing a new web site which we hope to launch within the month. And perhaps some of the things we'd like to be doing will allow us the opportunity to get paid to do what we love so that we can make it our new day jobs.

Paul: You don't just do film. Can you describe the other types of media you provide?

Joe: Well, regarding filmmaking, we setup some ventures that would help us practice and perfect our skills, such as doing wedding cinematography, and music videos. To date we have only done 5 weddings, and 1 music video, but it's something we setup so that we can afford to pursue our expensive hobby.

Aside from filmmaking, I'm proud of our efforts to get a board game produced and into stores. We have a few years of research and dedication to creating a very unique and fun board game that I feel will be received well by people who love to play board games.

I don't want to give away too many details, but it is a Trivia game that doesn't follow the traditional formats that most trivia games do. We have mass production of the game lined up, and we're working on warehousing and distribution. The only thing we really need to do is finish the cards for the game, and we'll start putting our efforts into development and sales. I hope to have the game mass produced sometime this year if everything goes well. PS: I said that last year, lol.

Paul: Ok, how long did it take to duct tape the actor to the door? That looks like a project itself!

Joe: We went out and bought ten rolls of duct tape, and found that we only needed three. However, because we needed to do several takes, our actor duct taped to the door is more the result of clever camera tricks, than having him actually taped up.

We created a full body duct tape suit, I wrapped my upper body in duct tape, while my brother wrapped his legs. We then cut the duct tape clothing off of ourselves from the back, and put them on our actor like a suit. This gave an illusion of having a lot of tape. When then had a miniature platform on wheels made for our actor to stand on. To complete the illusion, we put strands of tape from the actor to the door, with enough support so that when the door shut, it rolled him along with it, and therefore didn't need to support his weight.

He was up there for a little over an hour, and we joked about leaving him there while we took a lunch break. Eventually he had to go to the bathroom, and we had all the takes we needed so we let him down. He, and two other actors in this commercial are stand up comedians, plus it wouldn't be a Herbert Brothers event if there wasn't a lot of fun, so I can say with confidence that with this cast and crew, there was never a dull moment.

Paul: Thanks again Joe for taking the time! It's very appreciated. Congrats, we're looking forward to the Simpsons movie, please thank Josh for defending our country, and remember us little people when you're on the big screen!

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

February 13, 2007

Paul Jahn is the owner of Localmn Interactive Marketing, a Minnesota-based Internet marketing company. Localmn focuses on helping local companies large and small leverage the most out of their search marketing campaigns depending on their respective needs, including SEO, PPC, local search, and social media campaigns. Paul also runs and contributes to the Localmn local search blog.

With over ten years of Internet marketing experience, Paul has particular expertise in search marketing, with extensive knowledge of local search.

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