May the Force Be With Volkswagen An Analysis of Volkswagen’s Super Bowl XLV Commercial In 1977, a film was unleashed onto movie goers unlike any other. George Lucas created the ultimate science fiction movie that is still adored by millions of fans; young and old, proud nerds and closet nerds, male and female.
Star Wars’ legacy is being passed down through generations, from those born at the time of it’s beginning to their children. Television viewers born in or around 1977 are now in their mid-thirties, which is the perfect time for someone to have a small family and purchase a reliable new vehicle. Volkswagen seized these ideas in their thoroughly entertaining and relatively effective commercial that introduced us to a little boy who wished to demonstrate his Jedi talents.
What child wouldn’t want to be Darth Vader and be able to use the force to move objects and control surrounding items simply by pointing their hands at them? Our young Darth Vader, throughout the commercial, makes several attempts to control certain things, like an elliptical machine and his family dog, to varying degrees. Unfortunately, he is disappointed and does not receive the desired results of his futile attempts.
He finally gets it right when his dad comes home in a new Volkswagen Passat that locks and lights up as he conjures his powers. This commercial appeals to many audiences through use of emotions, humor, and logic, and lures the viewer to purchase a car that can be this easily controlled. Not just any car though, a Volkswagen.
If Volkswagen was attempting to speak to a wide audience, they hit the nail on the head by using a widely known icon from a popular movie. Chances are, most people know of Darth Vader and/or Star Wars and are therefore part of the majority population to whom Volkswagen hopes to appeal. There is a heavy dose of emotional appeal evoked from the audience in the use of an adorable little boy who tries so hard to use his Jedi skills.
Most would agree that the commercial would lose its cute factor if it were an adult in a Darth Vader costume as opposed to the child. It’s safe to say that the intended audience would consists of those who know who Darth Vader is, what Star Wars is, that the child is adorable and enjoy a little light humor. Even though the little boy tries his best to be intimidating and scary, he only manages to funnier and cuter.
"The Super Bowl is a TV event with one of the highest viewer totals in the world. We intend to take this opportunity to present our latest models to a very wide audience and to heighten the emotional associations of the Volkswagen brand," says Luca de Meo, Head of Group Marketing and Head of Marketing, Volkswagen Passenger Cars. (as cited in “Volkswagen,” 2011) One such emotional association that de Meo may be referring to in this commercial is the use of the typical American family, a husband and a wife, a cute child, and a lazy dog.
The husband and father fulfills every parent’s dream to be their child’s hero, unbeknownst to the little boy, by pushing the button on the car remote from inside the house. He obtains that “Aww…” factor and instantly earns the title of coolest dad in the world, all thanks to the easily used technology provided by his new Volkswagen Passat.
The timing of Volkswagen’s Star Wars commercial was perfect. An estimated 111 million people watched Super Bowl XLV and, besides for the game itself, the commercials are the most entertaining portion to watch. As de Meo points out, "There are very few occasions when commercial spots can attract such levels of attention as at the Super Bowl. The originality of our commercial will help make the game an unforgettable TV experience." (as cited in “Volkswagen,” 2011)
Millions of people watch the Super Bowl just to see the comedic advertising gems that are originally broadcast in multi-million dollar time slots between plays and quarters and many will agree that this was one of the best of the evening. Lately, humor has taken the lead when it comes to creating memorable commercials.
Advertising has taken a turn recently toward using more comedy as a way to sell products and other various items simply because it catches people’s attention and they enjoy laughing. Volkswagen jumped on this bandwagon and made us all chuckle when the little boy finally uses his powers successfully to control the car. They succeeded in equating how good it feels to laugh to how good it would feel to purchase their product; cars.
Timing is everything also when considering the target audience’s age range. People who were born in and around 1977 are now in their mid-thirties and have a higher chance of being in a young family with small children of their own and in need of a new, family friendly vehicle. They also grew up surrounded by Star Wars and the never-ending list of Star Wars merchandise which made them very familiar with the film and its characters.
The use of the song Imperial March in the background and throughout the entire commercial reminds the audience of when they were the age of their own children. The use of the song and no dialogue attracts and holds the attention of the viewer quickly and, in turn, conveys its message in a very simple, yet memorable way.
The message that this company seems to be conveying is that choosing to purchase a new Volkswagen Passat is an easy decision to make. There are several factors that contribute to the message including the demonstration that this vehicle was created with the technologically savvy buyer in mind. Without the small keychain remote, the adorably playful scene that was just viewed would not be possible.
This moment was brought to the audience by today’s available technology and Volkswagen wants viewers to know that they are producing the most up to date vehicles. In addition to being hip to today’s technologies, the Passat is advertised, at the end of the commercial as “Das Auto”, which is German for “The Car”. This simple statement tells viewers that they don’t want any car; they want “The Car”, meaning the best possible car for them. How could anybody argue with driving the best car?
References (2011, February 4). Volkswagen Passat and Beetle at the Super Bowl. Targeted News Service. http://search.proquest.com.proxy.davenport.edu/docview/849320774?accountid=40195 Volkswagen (2011). The Force: Volkswagen Commercial. Retrieved January 13, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R55e-uHQna0