January 22, 2002

Dialing for Doritos
When I read that Doritos will abandon their Super Bowl advertising this year and instead triple their investment in online advertising, you could say I was a bit surprised. Given that millions of people actually watch the Super Bowl just to see the ads (as many as 8% of the 120 millions viewers by some accounts), while studies show more and more web users have "banner blindness", I have to wonder what the snack food marketing folks know that we don't. I understand that web ad prices have plummeted and that the cost of 30 seconds time during the Super Bowl would buy year long exposure online -- even on major name properties like MTV.com. What I don't get is Doritos' campaign featuring a character named "Clive" and a fake "underground" site called fortheboldanddaring.com.

I'm sure most of their online target market of 12-24 year olds will hear about this fake site, and realize they are being targeted and being treated like total fools who can't see the difference between the real thing an a bad corporate parody of it. I'm also not sure how this underground site will help sell Doritos' products. Just like the Pets.com puppet didn't drive sales of pet food, my prediction is Clive and the related campaign will create a buzz, win lots of awards for the ad agency, but fail when it comes to the bottom line. Then again, I could be wrong -- maybe this is just so clever I don't get it.

I'm reminded of a quote from that epic "rockumentary" This is Spinal Tap:
"It's such a fine line between stupid and...clever."

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