Chevy is the latest to ditch Madison Avenue and ask fans to create its Super Bowl ad. Past examples show the move isn't just cost effective—it builds brands' buzz (we have stats!) and helps young careers.
Nick Simotas, cofounder of GoodLookingLiars.com
Winning spot: "First Date" for Pepsi Max, 2011. (Internal monologues of a couple: She thinks family; he thinks sex. They both think Pepsi Max.)
Self-taught: "At first we tried hit-in-the-crotch humor, but it was off-putting. We needed something broader. Everyone can relate to the awkwardness of a first date."
Production value: Prior to his win, Simotas worked as an editor on a Nickelodeon show. Following that, he got a gig directing a project at Lucasfilm. "[The ad] gave me the edge to push things over the top," he says.
Pete Holmes, cofounder of Front Page Films
Winning spot: "Doritos Beer" for Doritos, 2009. (Guy pitches beer-flavored chips to execs.)
Self-taught: "Ad firms spend millions on research, but we just had ourselves. We first thought of Doritos Scotch but had to consider that consumers might not want a hard-liquor chip."
Production value: Holmes, a comedian (and voice of the E*Trade baby), is a familiar face at Comedy Central and is currently a writer for the Fox sitcom I Hate My Teenage Daughter. "In the backs of producers' minds, winning the contest gave us some legitimacy."
A version of this article appears in the February 2012 issue of Fast Company.