"Nothing is ever free in life." A maxim that my mother dutifully drilled into my head as I was growing up. Yet, from the perspective of companies like Toyota and Doritos, free online advertising is what they have been benefiting (or in the case of toyota, will benefit) from.
Doritos has a clever little campaign which touts a tag line of: "You make it, we play it." Creative consumers can turn in their Doritos advertisement, the web public will vote, and the winner will be broadcast for all to see. Similarly, Toyota is running an interactive project for its Corolla where one of its attributes will be sketchies: short and funny videos that will be posted on YouTube.
For both these brands,they actively engage artists and fame seekers alike to develop entertaining content that can be used to promote their products. It can be argued that the 4 million Toyota is paying to promote this online campaign, as well as the prize money given by Doritos does not make this a "freebie." However, I would like to point out that they not paying for the content and accessing the web through free sites, so they are not really paying for the platform ether. Resulting in a pittance of a total expense for the coverage garnered. In television terms this would mean you are not paying for both the production costs and broadcasting costs.
Nothing lasts forever, sites like Facebook and YouTube are quickly looking for ways to capitalize on these projects. We can all agree that they will be massive $$$ generators! Companies like M:Metrics in the UK are starting to show that campaigns of this sort are rapidly gaining ground on Online Adspend. For companies that are not currently engaged in similar online campaigns, now would be an excellent time to start exploring. Web 2.0 is all about creativity, flexibility, and the willingness to try new things.