The Young Guns of the Super Bowl

A look at some of the filmmakers responsible for this years Super Bowl ads

Meet some of the rookie creatives that made it to the big game this year.

Thanks to crowd-sourcing competitions from giant brands, a handful of young filmmakers achieved the honor of having their ads air during the Super Bowl on Sunday. Dannon’s slapstick spot, for example, created by brothers Remy Neymarc, 21, and Andrew Neymarc, 23, featured John Stamos getting head-butted by a girlfriend after teasing her with a spoonful of Oikos Greek yogurt. The work won an invite-only contest run by crowdsourcing site Poptent, fulfilling what Andrew—who with Remy won similar competitions for Jaguar and The American Red Cross—called their most challenging. 

Y&R creative director Richard Goldstein was on set for the shooting of the final version to help ensure the brand’s satisfaction with the production, which was more involved than the Neymarc brothers’ usual two-man operation.

The Neymarc brothers weren’t the only crowd-sourced directors in the under-thirty set to make their Super Bowl debut Sunday night. 26-year-old filmmaker Zachary Borst wrote and directed the spot that won Chevrolet’s “Route 66” competition, conducted through branded video contest site MOFILM. The pumped-up ad, one of three Chevy spots to air during the game, featured a high schooler launching into an over-the-top celebration at a brand new Camaro that he mistakenly thinks his parents have bought him as a graduation gift. That concept more or less ignored the brief’s “pretty vague” directive to focus on the brand’s “Chevy Runs Deep” slogan, said Borst. Instead, Borst wanted to poke a little fun at what he imagined his teenage reaction would have been had he gotten a brand new sports car, instead of the used subcompact he drove: “A 1997 Mitsubishi Mirage… fully analog,” Borst said.

A striking aspect of many crowd-sourced ads is how little they can cost to produce – especially in contrast to the $3.5 million a brand shelled out, on average, for 30-seconds of airtime during this year’s Super Bowl. Borst says he spent about $487–including the price of renting the Camaro–to create his spot for Chevy. Beyond that, it was just a matter of time: “I probably put in about 200 plus hours,” he said.

And while the young directors are clearly glad about the experience and exposure, they sound more interested in signing with a production house or working for an agency than flogging the crowdsourcing circuit for little—and when they lose, no—cash. “The problem with competitions is there is no guarantee that we're going to be paid,” said Andrew. Remy declined to share how much he and his brother received for the Dannon ad. But according to a report on Dow Jones’s, the prize pot for the Poptent contest was $10,000. Borst, meanwhile, collected $25,000 for the Chevy commercial, and said he has “no real complaints” but doesn’t plan to continue competing in crowd-sourcing contests. “Maybe for stability for a year I'll work at an ad agency for a year…I want to write my own first feature and produce it myself,” Borst said. 

In other words, the contests can be great stepping stones. “Crowdsourcing is really great for beginner filmmakers that want to show what they're capable of,” Remy said. “Our next big move is to keep making breakthrough commercials for big brands,” said Andrew. “Remy has the objective of making his first feature film by the time he's 23.”

In rare cases, crowd-sourcing contests can deliver huge payouts. This year, freelance graphic designer Jonathan Friedman, 39, won $1 million from Doritos, thanks to his crowd-sourced spot placing first among Super Bowl spots on USA Today’s annual Ad Meter, based on a consumer focus group. “Man’s Best Friend,” which stars a Great Dane bribing a human with bags of Doritos, was one of two spots the brand chose to air this year as part of its sixth “Crash the Super Bowl” crowd-sourcing contest, overseen by agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Out-of-pocket costs for the spot tallied up to about $20 for “some Doritos, some dog treats, a few props,” Friedman estimates. “Shot in my neighbor’s yard with my camera,” starring “an awesome local actor” who was also happened to be his friend.

Doritos second Super Bowl spot, “Sling Baby,” was created by 34 year-old Kevin Willson – and marked his third time placing as a finalist in the brand’s competition. Starring a grandmother and an infant conspiring to liberate a bag of snacks from a nearby bully, Willson’s spot also has a chance to collect $1 million from the brand, if it’s at the top of Facebook’s Super Bowl Ad Meter when public voting ends at 6pm Tuesday. Willson put up about $2700 to shoot the spot, between renting gear and visual effects. Regardless of whether he wins the seven-figure bonus or not, he collected $25,000 for his ad – and will, along with Friedman, work with popular comedy group The Lonely Island on an upcoming project for Doritos. “Not a bad return,” he said. 

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.