Living in Los Angeles, it isn’t rare to know people who work in what is locally called, simply, “The Industry.” Since my work is focused on business process, it would be easy for my friends in The Industry to think we’re in very different career fields, but are we? The more one digs into what goes into the business of Hollywood, the more you find process and process management. From the smallest productions to the largest studios, there are best practice ways to get work done and plenty of room for creativity in the mix. Creativity is an input to the process of making entertaining products.
It doesn’t get much more creative than advertising, as each effort tries to maximize the viewer’s impression in a 30-second window of time. I have a personal friend, Kevin Willson, who has been selected as a finalist three times in the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest. Doritos has brilliantly crowdsourced their Superbowl advertisements to the public, and the result has been some of the most creative ads in history. I asked him why he does it, and his answer was simple, “Every year Doritos offer its fans the biggest stage imaginable, the Super Bowl, and offers to show a filmmaker’s work to over 120 million people. This is the biggest video context in history with over 6,000 people submitting videos and Doritos chose our own Sling Baby as one of the top 5.”
As the only three-time finalist, Kevin has clearly found a process that works. Let’s take a look at how it happens.
Some ideas come in the middle of night when you sit bolt upright with an amazing thought, but most come through reasonably structured process. The more creative people you speak with, the more you realize that there are best practices for how to gain the best creative ideas. Just like any industry, it has to start with expertise, in this case, knowledge of what the public will consider entertaining, and it ends with a sorting of ideas down to the one that is deemed most effective. Kevin’s process is to, “Get a group of funny people together and work on an idea until it feels funny, visual and original.” Looking at and perhaps steering toward the themes that have done well in the past is an ingredient for success: Coworkers, babies, animals, slapstick comedy. Kevin’s finalist entry last year, “Birthday Wish” went outside the box and in the end, was not selected as the winner. Lesson learned?
Rounding up people, cameras, lighting and most importantly, money is as old as The Industry. Studios were built around the idea of having all of these elements on contract or under a single roof where they could be used frequently and through a very thought out set of processes. Go to any movie set in the world and you’ll see that there are very defined ways of producing entertainment. What you’ll see is no more than a highly defined supply chain. For a small operation like Kevin’s, everything needs to be assembled including locations and props. In his first finalist entry, “Casket“, he needed to purchase enough Doritos to fill a casket with the chips and to rent out a church where the filming was completed.
Creating Sling Baby
What comes out of the creative process is just as much a product as any widget created by industry. In Kevin’s case, it is a product built ‘on spec’ with the hope that it will be ‘purchased’ by Doritos and used during the biggest commercial advertisement event of the television year, the Super Bowl. If he wins the $1,000,000 the assumption is that his career will be significantly enhanced by the exposure. Doritos, by selecting Kevin as a finalist, has purchased his ad and empowered him through their marketing reach to promote his work in a way that would be impossible on his own.
This is where continuous improvement kicked into high gear. As a finalist three years running, Kevin has continuously improved his ways for reaching the public and giving people easy acces to support his entry. He created a website entitled Vote 4 Sling Baby that spells out the options for how the viewer can vote for the ad. There are choices that include Facebook, through a browser, through the Doritos website, Buzzfeed and even through an XBox.
Beyond the webpage, Kevin has encouraged his Facebook friends to change their personal photo to be an advertisement to go to the website. It all works together to ‘produce’ the desired result of votes for his work. What may look like typical Hollywood-style marketing is really a very carefully planned thing. Sling Baby even has a video game that was played 60,000 times in its first six hours. These creative ideas help drive publicity even further than social media alone. You can take your own ‘shot’ at launching a baby by going to their site here.
When asked what this contest means for him, Kevin quickly replied, “For me as a struggling filmmaker who runs my video productions out of my garage doing primarily humanitarian documentaries, to win Crash the Super Bowl would change everything. Please help Sling Baby air during the Super Bowl by going to Vote4SlingBaby.com. Every time you vote you increase your chances to win $10K. You can even vote five times per day.” Kevin clearly knows how the process works and is on-message. If he wins, this will be why.
UPDATE 2/6/2012: Kevin is now one of two Doritos commercials competing for the top score on the USA Today Ad Meter. If he gets the highest ratings , he takes the $1M. But don’t worry, he’s rallying his friends, hitting social media and of course, has a process for that. If you want to help him, click here.
UPDATE 2/7/2012: Kevin won the $1M prize for coming in first on the US Today Ad Meter. Congratulations!
Update 2/8/2012: Sling Baby officially hits the big time as the most recalled commercial AND the basis for a political cartoon about Romney and Santorum fighting over delegates.
The argument has been made that capturing and describing process has a stifling effect on creativity. I trust this example of excellent creativity side-by-side with great process demonstrates how the two lean on each other for success.