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.