The Super Bowl celebration for the 20-somethings behind 5 Point Productions didn't begin until about 2 a.m. Monday - and it had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.
That's when a foursome from the small Raleigh advertising agency got official word that the 30-second Doritos commercial they created for a few hundred dollars ranked No.2 on the USA Today Ad Meter among the ads aired during the game - a feat worth $600,000 in prize money from Frito-Lay, the corporate parent of Doritos.
The humorous 30-second spot from 5 Point was created for a small fraction of the lavish sums that the giant Madison Avenue agencies had at their disposal. The commercial was credited to Joshua Svoboda, creative director at 5 Point, and featured local actor Brian Oliver obnoxiously teasing a dog with a bag of Doritos.
Svoboda and his colleagues didn't know ahead of time whether their commercial would air at all. Their spot, "Underdog," was one of six homemade ads selected as finalists in the annual Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" contest, which attracted more than 4,000 entries.
An online vote determined which ad would air during the Super Bowl and compete for the prize money, but Frito-Lay didn't disclose which would run. It ultimately aired four.
So although Svoboda, 24, and three collaborators, Nick Dimondi, Barrett Phillips and Kyle Gerardi, had a panoramic view of the game from Frito-Lay's skybox at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, during the commercial breaks their attention was riveted on the box's half-dozen or so widescreen TVs.
"It was all tension," said Dimondi, who was one of the producers of the spot and also was in charge of the sound.
The "Underdog" spot aired during the first quarter.
"It was a matter of just disbelief and euphoria," said Phillips, 23, who was director of photography for the spot. "We exchanged really big hugs."
Long after the game, when the ad's creators had arrived at the Epic Hotel around 2a.m., an announcement came over a loudspeaker system that "Underdog" had placed second. Frito-Lay followed up with complimentary bottles of champagne at the hotel's bar.
"There was some celebration, but mostly just exhaustion because stress had been mounting throughout the day," Dimondi said late Monday morning. Still, he said, none of them got much sleep.
Meanwhile, Oliver, the actor who also works as a freelance video editor, had his own celebration at his parents' house in Plymouth, a Washington county town about 100 miles east of Raleigh.
"My grandfather was in tears, hugging me," Oliver said. "I've never seen him ... like that."
Dimondi, 25, said the prize money will be split "at least seven ways" but declined to give details. He plans to use his share to pay off some school debts and fix up his 1991 Ford Escort GT, which needs a new speedometer and emergency brake.
Dimondi has been down this path before. He and some friends won the first "Crash the Super Bowl" contest in 2007 when the prize money was much more modest: $10,000.
Unfortunately, they weren't able to capitalize as much as they had hoped on the public relations bonanza that came with winning.
"We waited for [business] to come to us," Dimondi said. "You can't really do that."
This time around, they plan to be more aggressive about seizing the moment and soliciting clients while their ad continues to appear on national TV, Dimondi said. Their ultimate goal is to make independent films.
Despite losing this year's top spot to a Snickers ad featuring Betty White, the 5 Point production is getting good buzz. Time's TV critic James Poniewozik wrote: "A dog uses his antibark collar to get the best of a taunting Doritos eater in an ad that asks the question: Why wouldn't a dog with the manual dexterity to remove a collar from his own neck be able to get his own bag of Doritos? On the other hand, we get to see a guy get zapped repeatedly, so slapstick mission accomplished."
Meanwhile, the dog featured in the commercial, Rosie, may have a future as a Doritos mascot.
"She ended up loving Doritos more than the doggie treats that they had given me to keep her occupied," said Oliver, who spent two afternoons filming with Rosie. "We found out very quickly that Doritos was more in line with her taste buds."
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