The MoveOn contest garnered about 1,500 submissions and picked a winner that depicted children doing menial jobs with a graphic tag line that read: "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?"
But the ad didn't get its Super Bowl airing. CBS rejected the spot, saying it didn't meet the network's standards. The ad ran on cable news networks around the time of the President's State of the Union address instead.
And cable network featherweight CurrentTV, which is seen in about 30 million homes around the country, has a similar commitment to user-created ads.
Starting in the spring of last year the channel launched its VCAM (Viewer Created Ad Message) program, inviting budding ad pros to shoot ads for big brands that would air on the network -- with the reward of $1,000 for each ad that airs.
The channel has already aired ads for Toyota, Pop Secret Popcorn, Sony and Mountain Dew.
Letting the patients run the asylum is certainly a hot trend, but the real test will be finding out whether it works. The average Joe concept is a fun hook, but will these ads sell people on the products they are pitching?
"I think the jury's out as to how much a staple this is going to end up being in on-air advertising," said Linda Kaplan-Thaler, CEO and chief creative officer of ad firm Kaplan Thaler. "I say that only because, looking at these consumer-generated ads, they're not knocking my socks off."
Kaplan-Thaler said that, despite the fact that there's a significant cost savings with user-generated ads -- $150 for the average viewer-created ad as compared to the million-dollar budgets for agency-generated Super Bowl spots -- it's just not worth it for most advertisers.
"I don't think they're as entertaining as a lot of the ads that I saw last year which were created by good old ad agencies with people who are well steeped in the clients' needs and who spend their days and nights doing this," said Kaplan-Thaler.
No matter what the professionals think, Joes and Janes are certainly going to get their chance at Super Bowl fame this year. Even if the ads are bad, they'll be talked about, which is exactly why companies shell out the big bucks for a few ticks of the clock on Feb. 4.
For the contestants, a good rule of thumb is to keep in mind that you're only as good as you think you are.
"I don't think I'm better than the Madison Avenue ad guys, but I think I give them a run for their money," said Jared Cicon.
Come Super Bowl Sunday, about 90 million people will be able to see just how good Jared and his amateur ad peers are.