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A $1 million idea

Jonathan Friedman ('94) wins Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest
By Gabrielle Piccininni ('11)

Jonathan Friedman ('94)

Jonathan Friedman ('94)

Jonathan Friedman ('94) was sitting in his Virginia Beach home when an idea involving a Great Dane named Huff, Doritos and a motive just came to him. What he didn't know, was that this combination was worth over $1 million dollars. Friedman, one of five finalists in the 2012 "Doritos Crash the Super Bowl Contest," is the $1,000,000 winner of USA Today's Ad Meter Contest.

With a budget of $20 for a cat collar, some dog treats and a few bags of Doritos, Friedman set out to make his video entry, Man's Best Friend. Competing against entries that cost upwards of $3,000, Friedman's commercial was dubbed the underdog.

"You need just enough money so that production values are good," Friedman says. Shooting for the commercial took five hours, but the editing process took nearly three weeks. "In the end, creativity always wins. Ideas are what wins or lose," says the School of Media Arts and Design major.

And sometimes, ideas are so good they need to be kept confidential.

Once his script was ready to go, Friedman called fellow JMU alumnus Derek Leonidoff ('94). Knowing full well the potential success of his commercial, Friedman waited until Leonidoff arrived on set to disclose script details. Friedman knew that the best concept would win the competition.

According to the judging criteria, each commercial is evaluated according to three principles: Originality and Creativity, Adherence to the Creative Assignment ("Make it action packed. Make it funny. Make it something you've never seen before."), and on Overall Appeal. Up against 6,100 other entries, Man's Best Friend earned Friedman a $25,000 prize as a top-five finalist.

All five finalists — along with their chosen guest — were flown to Indianapolis and sent to a hotel suite, where they eagerly awaited the Super Bowl commercial breaks. Only two of the five commercials would air on national television. Friedman's was the first to air. "I just couldn't believe it," he says. "I have so much respect for the creators of the other commercials that it came as such a huge surprise."

Noting that the Doritos commercials have captured the number one spot on USA Today's Ad meter four years running, Friedman said that he had great confidence in the originality and creativity of his commercial, but still couldn't get away from the fact that he was competing against huge brand names like Budweiser and Pepsi.

Unable to bring any cell phone or electronics into the suite, none of the finalists were able to track the progress of the Ad Meter during the game. It wasn't until the official announcement at the end of the game that Friedman knew he was the $1 million winner.

Friedman knew he produced something innovative and with an original twist. "I knew it was possible, but you never think it's going to be you," he says.

With no set plans on how he will spend his winnings, Friedman says he's just thinking about gifts for friends right now. While he probably won't enter next years Doritos contest, Friedman says he has a notebook full of ideas for future commercials and projects.

See the $1 million commercial at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STb6ZSo5CPw.