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PepsiCo is offering up to $5 million to social media savvy fans who produce the best Super Bowl ads.

PepsiCo (Stock Quote: PEP) is getting into the game. The company announced Wednesday that it is offering up to $5 million to creative consumers who produce the best Super Bowl ads in time for the big game.

PepsiCo purchased a record number of six 30-second spots for its fourth annual “Crash the Super Bowl Contest.” Three spots will feature Doritos, while three additional ads will feature the new low-calorie beverage, Pepsi Max. Together the six spots will make PepsiCo one of the game's biggest ad spenders.

“Every year, the bar gets higher and higher,” Anindita Mukherjee, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Frito-Lay North America (the convenient foods unit of PepsiCo),tells MainStreet. She explains that the contest was expanded because the advertising model engages consumers and gives them a real voice in the brand.

Last year, the company ran a total of four consumer-generated spots that featured Doritos exclusively. According to Mukherjeem, the contest received more than 4,000 submissions.

This year, interested participants have from Sept. 27 to Nov. 15 to upload their 30-second Doritos or Pepsi Max commercials onto the contest’s website for consideration.  

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The company will select five of the best Doritos ads and five of the best Pepsi Max ads in January. Ten finalists will each receive $25,000 and a trip to Dallas to attend Super Bowl XLV in a private luxury suite. There, they’ll learn which six ads won as they air for a worldwide audience.
The big cash prizes will be won if one or more of the ads ranks in USA Today’s annual Ad Meter, which tracks then rates ads that appear during the game based off of the real-time responses from a panel of consumers.  

This year, $1 million will be awarded to the ad that scores the number one spot on the Ad Meter; $600,000 will be awarded for ad spot number two; and $400,000 will be awarded to the ad that claims the third spot. Should three of the selected Pepsi Max or Doritos ads sweep the top three spots, an additional $1 million will be awarded to each of the winners.

An appearance on the influential meter, which was created in 1989, isn’t too far-reaching. Last year, this consumer-created spot, which features a dog duping a man out of a bag of Doritos (and into an electric dog collar), ranked second on the meter, bested only by octogenarian actress Betty White’s now-infamous Snickers commercial. White, whom Mukherjee calls the company’s “point of inspiration,” is the 2011 contest’s official spokesperson.

The clip’s creators, all employed by a small Raleigh, N.C., production company, received the same $600,000 prize being offered this year. PepsiCo has added an extra incentive this year based off of specific requests from consumers. The company will contact the consumer who creates the highest-ranking Doritos or Pepsi Max ad, to create an additional ad for the two brands in 2011.

“The consumer actually gets employed,” Mukherjee said, adding that the exposure netted by the commercial over the television and then residually through social media can actually help many applicants advance their career.

Mukherjee acknowledged that the contest requires a certain amount of investment from its applicants as they have to do more than log onto the website and enter the sweepstakes. To help entrants enhance their creative masterpieces, the company will provide a toolbox on its website where Doritos and Pepsi Max logos, product shots, music and animations are available for download and use. Check here for these adds-on and a complete explanation of the contest’s rules and regulations.

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