Pizza Hut on Monday will announce plans for a contest whose winners of which there could be five to 10 will star in a commercial that will run just minutes before the Super Bowl kickoff.
The pizza giant is asking football fans to submit very short videos of their best, silliest or most creative recitation of the words every quarterback shouts and which Pizza Hut says is the heart of its name: "Hut. Hut. Hut." In other words, simulate the start of a football play, but with creative zeal.
"For decades, quarterbacks have been calling our name to start every play," says Kurt Kane, chief marketing officer at Pizza Hut.
For Pizza Hut, it's all about generating serious social-media engagement during one of its busiest days of the year. For consumers, it's a cultural fantasy come true that is no longer limited to gridiron stars or Hollywood celebrities.
The evolution of Super Bowl spots from corporate ego-massaging to consumer ego-stroking took its biggest turn in late 2006, when Doritos began promoting its now-annual "Crash the Super Bowl" campaign before 2007's Big Game. Consumers submit homemade ads to Frito-Lay, and the winners get aired during the game with the lure of million-dollar cash prizes and other perks for winning USA TODAY's Ad Meter competition. Others have followed that lead of hands-on consumer participation most recently Pizza Hut.
"Our culture has become increasingly obsessed with ourselves," says Martin Lindstrom, brand guru and author of Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. "We're all turning into brands."
Pizza Hut clearly gets that. But what it may be missing is the real social-media connection, says social-media consultant Janet Fouts. "Why is it so hard for brands to understand that taking advantage of their fans' desire to be a star is not social?" poses Fouts. "This is really just another advertising ploy to take advantage of people's egos."
Pizza Hut says otherwise.
"Consumers love to be involved with the expansion of social media," Kane says. "Smartphones and hand-held cameras have made it easier to video yourself. Everyone has become a hip-pocket creative."
Clips, which must be no longer than 15 seconds, should have some sort of football theme with the word "hut" spoken at least once, twice or several times. Complete rules are at www.Facebook.com/PizzaHut. Pizza Hut also is encouraging fans to promote their videos on Twitter. Deadline for submissions: Jan. 20.
"The Super Bowl is all about being at the center of attention," Kane says. "Why shouldn't fans be part of it?"
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)