For a lot of people, the Super Bowl is as much about the commercials as it is the football. They pay attention during commercial breaks to see which ads will make them laugh, which ones will make them groan and which ones will tug at their heart. Chris Crutchfield, a 2006 NC State grad who lives in Los Angeles, was looking for something different when he watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. He wanted to see if a particular commercial would show up at all.
Crutchfield directs commercials and music videos for a living. He has also done a bit of acting in commercials and had a few small parts in movies. He’s built a successful career since moving to Los Angeles in 2010 with what he could fit into his Mini Cooper and the money he had saved while working at an Apple retail store and doing freelance video production work in his hometown of Charlotte, N.C.
“I just liked the idea of being able to work on a bigger level,” says Crutchfield. “I respond really well to deadlines and challenges. Throw me into a big swimming pool, and I’m going to swim.”
Swim he did, finding work as a director, editor and actor for commercials, movies and Web projects. “It’s been a smart move,” he says.
So Crutchfield was busy when a friend approached him about taking a shot at a contest sponsored by Doritos to make a commercial to air during the Super Bowl. His friend, Mark Freiburger, had directed or produced several movies and he wanted to know if Crutchfield would be the editor for the commercial.
“It was really about working with a lot of friends,” Crutchfield says. “Nobody got paid for the actual project.”
But because this group of friends were all in the entertainment business, they had access to good cameras, lights and other equipment. Their commercial would benefit from quality production.
The commercial made the first cut, being selected as one of five finalists out of 7,000 submissions. Then it was up to online voters and Doritos executives to determine which two finalists would air during the Super Bowl. And the finalists would find out the same time as everyone else — while they were watching the Super Bowl. “They don’t tell you if you are one of the two commercials that will air, they just air them,” Crutchfield says.
So Crutchfield and his friends, including many of the actors in the commercial, watched anxiously at Crutchfield’s house as the Baltimore Ravens broke out to an early lead over the San Francisco 49ers. Crutchfield was busy being a host during much of the game, but stopped to pay close attention during commercial breaks. The first Doritos ad to air, though, was not the one that Crutchfield’s group had produced. It featured a Doritos-loving goat, and Crutchfield had expected it to be their toughest competition.
But during a break in the second quarter, the crowd at Crutchfield’s house broke out into cheers, hugs and high-fives when their commercial — about a dad and a his buddies playing dress-up with his young daughter — came on the big-screen television. Some of the actors in the commercial, including the young girl and the bearded guy who wears a wedding dress, were there for the celebration.
“We knew what we were making was good,” Crutchfield says, “but we didn’t really expect to see it go as far as it did.”
Their success won’t make Crutchfield and his friends rich (they would have received $1 million if their commercial had won USA Today‘s Ad Meter contest, but it finished fourth), but the commercial is likely to draw attention to them and their work. “The exposure is enough,” Crutchfield says. “It was worth the whole project.”