The Doritos are fake. The potential rewards for a former Hudson resident are very real.
Interest in the Super Bowl has for years gone beyond the game itself to include the commercials airing in it, with annual recaps of the all-time great ads and item-by-item analysis. The opportunities for products are huge, as the game telecast routinely averages more than 100 million viewers. So a reported $4 million will be spent for 30 seconds of national ad time in this year’s game.
Doritos tried to create even more interest in its ads by launching the fan-friendly “Crash the Super Bowl” contest seven years ago. It invites people to submit their own ads for the crunchy snack.
For the latest Super Bowl, on Feb. 2, five finalists were chosen from more than 5,000 entries and await your votes at www.doritos.com. After the voting ends on Jan. 29, two of the spots will end up airing during the game, one selected by the voters, the other by a Doritos team. The makers of both ads will get to work on the new Marvel’s The Avengers movie, and the top vote-getter will receive a $1 million prize.
All of this matters a great deal to former Hudson resident Steve Olson, an actor who appeared in one of the ads, Office Thief. Made by Chris Capel of Valencia, Calif., it has Olson playing a man accused of stealing his co-workers’ Doritos — and who angrily denies the claim while having telltale Dorito dust and chips messily visible on his face, glasses and clothing.
Olson has been actively lobbying for the ad via social media, although the competition is tough. One ad, Finger Cleaner, is by far the most viewed of the top five on YouTube. Two others, Time Machine and The Cowboy Kid, include cute children. (In fact, The Cowboy Kid has two children and a dog.)
“I think they should be disqualified for using children,” Olson joked. “It’s a shady tactic. But there are these recurring themes you see in Doritos spots over the years — children, animals, office settings, because it’s all sort of relatable stuff.”
Indeed, the fifth ad, Breakroom Ostrich, also uses a who’s-taking-the-Doritos-in-the-office theme, with a big bird as one of the suspects.
Still, while Doritos will not release early vote totals, the YouTube tallies indicate Office Thief is still contending for a broadcast slot.
Capel recruited Olson for the spot after seeing his work in an ad for dating site Zoosk, in which he played a dart-throwing disaster a woman has gone out with — because she failed to use Zoosk. Olson has also been in spots for Bud Light, Planet Fitness, Orbit Gum, Baskin-Robbins, Arby’s, Miracle-Gro and Pepcid. For that last product he has done a series of ads about the Burns family, which has trouble choosing the best heartburn remedy. (You can see his work on his website, www.steveolsonsite.com.)
“Obviously, nobody knows who I am,” he said, “But I’m sort of making a living doing commercials and little TV parts and little indie movies.”
The son of Janet Olson of Hudson and the late Jeff Olson, Steve Olson graduated from Hudson High in 2003, then went to Kent State for a year before transferring to California State-Los Angeles. He studied finance in college but maintains that was a backup to an acting career he had his eye on as soon as he went west. It took a few years to start making money as an actor, he said.
Office Thief took about a 10-hour day and dozens of takes to shoot, Olson said. “That’s pretty standard, because you have to shoot from different angles. But it can get a little tiring because you’re doing the same joke over and over, and nobody’s laughing after take 11.”
The ad also used what might best be called “stunt Doritos.”
“I think they experimented ahead of time and found the regular Dorito dust wasn’t orange enough, or didn’t show up on camera. So he had to go to like a makeup shop and have an orange powder made that they glued onto my face. It was highly uncomfortable. … They were stuffing it everywhere, in my pockets, and in my pants belt, so when I stood up it would fall out. There was, like, a six-minute delay between each take to pile the Doritos up just right.”
Still, the ad is an improvement on a couple of previous contenders Olson appeared in which, he said, “never went anywhere.” Even if the ad does not win, it has already gotten some air time, for example in a segment about the ads on the Today show.
And if it wins?
“The director wins the majority of the money, and we [actors] get a cut,” he said. “The exposure — the opportunity to be on the Super Bowl — I would take over the money, if I had to choose between the two.”
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including in the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or email@example.com.