RICHLAND -- Doug Browning and Lance Merkley are riding high this week after winning a $1 million prize for their Gain detergent commercial.
"People were so awesome, both here in the Tri-Cities and all over the country, for diligently voting for us every day," Browning said. "We're so excited. We have some big plans for the money."
The two Richland filmmakers entered the Smell Like a Million Bucks commercial contest about a month ago. The site shows that more than 650,000 people watched the contest videos.
Contestants had to use Gain detergent and get the message across to internet viewers how good it smells. The winner gets $100,000 a year for 10 years.
Browning said they heard the good news on Facebook when the rock band Barenaked Ladies performed at the contest's voting site and at the end of the song the band announced who won.
"I'm still pinching myself and saying, 'Did we really win this thing?' " Merkley said. "Everywhere we went ever since the story ran in the newspaper, people told us they were voting every day. It's just been awesome how wonderful people have been to us."
Soon after the Facebook proclamation, a representative from Gain called Browning and said the first $100,000 would be mailed soon.
"This was really a social networking contest that paid off," Browning said. "Besides all the fabulous people here in the Tri-Cities voting for us, we now have thousands of fans across the country too. We are filled with gratitude."
Browning stayed behind the camera directing the video while Merkley, Lyle Dye and Merkley's wife Jennifer played the comedic roles.
Their skit starts out with Merkley bumbling around in the dark trying to find a clean shirt to wear to work. He whispers to his half asleep and very annoyed wife that he can't find a shirt in the dark, and she tells him to just follow the clean Gain smell.
He ends up waltzing out of the house wearing one of his wife's gaudy blouses. Then he glances across the street and notices his neighbor, Dye, sailing out his front door wearing his wife's tacky blouse.
To truly appreciate the hilarity of the commercial, watch it online at www.tanrock.com.
Browning and Merkley plan to donate a portion of their first $100,000 to various Tri-City charities important to them, Browning said.
Browning would someday like to finish a screenplay he wrote and turn it into a feature film.
"My wife even gave me permission to buy a new video camera making that possible," Browning said. "We also want to do something for all the people here at home who helped us win this contest. Not sure what that will be yet, but we'll let you know."
Merkley said the first thing he plans to do when the money arrives is buy his wife a huge bouquet of flowers for putting up with him during the creation and filming of the commercial.
"My wife was so supportive as I ran around putting this thing together," he said. "I'll buy her the flowers then let her decide what we do with the money."
In the meantime, Browning will hang on to his day job as a building contractor and Merkley will remain a pharmaceutical salesman.
But they will remain chums and continue to make documentaries for various companies, which they have done together for several years.