TV alumnus creates Super Bowl Commercial

By Alyssa Medina

For Mike Cullen, a 2013 television alumnus, Super Bowl Sunday was more than just a game; it was a stepping stone in his career all because of a 30 second Doritos commercial, viewed by 111.5 million football fans.

Doritos’ “Crash the Super Bowl” is an annual contest that encourages consumers to submit their own 30-second commercial advertising the brand of nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips. Contestants have the chance to win $1 million and an opportunity to work with Marvel Studios on the upcoming film “Avengers: Age of Ultron”.

 After graduating from Columbia College Chicago last May with a bachelor’s degree from the Television Department, Cullen moved to Los Angeles, where he landed a job as a production assistant on the set of the “Cowboy Kid” commercial. Shortly after he became a part of the second grand prize-winning commercial in the 2014 fan-based “Crash the Super Bowl” contest.

“My role was small but it was exciting to be a part of something that aired during the Super bowl,” Cullen said.

The commercial consists of two young boys, one engaged in technology, the other in a cowboy costume practicing his lasso skills on a gigantic dog. The boys pay no attention to their mother’s request to help unload groceries until Doritos are mentioned. They then race toward the chips and the cowboy kid rides his dog, using his lasso to take the chips from his brother’s hand, victoriously rearing up the dog and tying his brother up in triumph.

Cullen said the massive stage dog and goofy kid made for a hilarious set that taught him how tedious these processes could be. However, nothing taught him more than his experiences at Columbia and semester at The Second City.

Cullen was a member of Columbia’s improv team, Droppin’ $cience, an experience he said significantly impacted his college career. 

 “[Columbia is] about meeting people and not being afraid to fall on your face [because] you got to remember that’s what it’s there for,” Cullen said. “You should be trying to do whatever it is you want to do and learning from your mistakes.”

Cullen had a handful of influential professors help him make his YouTube series, “Sad boss,” including Clint Vaupel, a Cinema Art + Science professor. Cullen was Vaupel’s student in the freshman course ‘Moving Image Production.’  

“As a creative individual Mike is astonishingly brilliant,” Vaupel said. “He is incredibly humble. I don’t think he realizes how smart and funny he is.”

Vaupel said he is proud of Cullen for having the courage to move to an entirely new city and even moreso for his success on the commercial.

Michael Niederman, chair of the Television Department, said he remembers Cullen being very funny, innovative and hardworking.

“It’s about a kid connecting their dream to their life’s journey,” Niederman said. “When you see somebody like Mike, you know the commercial got down to the final two, and with the exposure and everything … I look at that and think ‘this is great, this is what he wanted to do.’”