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Volkswagen Channeling Hollywood On Its Way To Stardom At Super Bowl XVL

By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor

A pint-sized 'Darth Vader' gets a starring role in a Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial.January 27, 2011: Volkswagen is taking a side trip, via Hollywood, California, en route to Super Bowl XLV in North Texas.

The automaker broke a spot late last year for its Jetta brand, "Backseat Dancer," that features movie legends Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, both deceased (1996 and 2003, respectively), sitting in the back of the vehicle and foot-stomping in time to overlayed music (which actually are digitally remixed outtakes from a TV special the pair did in 1960). Volkswagen had previously used Kelly in marketing, including a spot for its Golf GTI in 2006.

For the Super Bowl, Volkswagen is channeling another movie classic, George Lucas' franchise Star Wars, for one of the two 30-second spots it has scheduled to air on Fox on Feb. 6. In "The Force," humorously played out to Star Wars' composer John Williams' "The Imperial March," a much younger and pint-sized version of villain Darth Vader finds the 2012 Passat in his driveway. According to Volkswagen, he then "uses the Force" to his advantage, not only on the Passat but on other items in his parents' home.

The second spot, "Black Beetle," is being billed as the on-air premiere of the 21st Century Beetle marketing campaign. According to the carmaker, it will be "an homage to some of the greatest car chase scenes in the history of film and TV," even though the actual VW car itself is never shown. In the spot, a CGI black beetle is in a "lush kingdom where [it] rules, runs, navigates and out performs all the other creatures." The spot is played out to the high-energy song, "Black Betty," re-recorded here by Jon Spencer and the Blues Explosion.

This will be the second consecutive year Volkswagen has advertised during the Super Bowl after a nine-year hiatus.

Support includes media buys on Oprah and the NBA Finals. Immediately following the Super Bowl, Volkswagen said it would launch a related digital and social media campaign, including an ESPN mobile takeover, VW.com blog, Facebook activations and a YouTube homepage takeover for the recently launched walk-around Webisodes, "Inside the VW Academy." Lead agency is Deutsch LA.

"The iconic shape of the Beetle and its place in pop culture gives us creative license to take a bold and unconventional approach in this spot where viewers only see the silhouette and not the car itself," Tim Ellis, vp-marketing for Volkswagen of America, said in a statement. "Additionally, we've partnered with Lucasfilm for the all-new Passat ad, leveraging the emotional heritage of both Star Wars and Volkswagen to create a memorable moment on an unparalleled platform for two of the vehicles most important to Volkswagen's growth strategy."

Volkswagen went Hollywood with Donald O'Connor (R) and Gene Kelly for its Jetta campaign.According to Mike Sheldon, CEO for Deutsch LA, "Both spots show the creativity and innovation that people expect from an iconic brand like Volkswagen. The Super Bowl is unlike any other media platform in the world in terms of its reach and cultural influence. It is tailor-made for big announcements and is the perfect way for VW to engage the American public."

Voklswagen will be among at least ten automakers and car-related companies with spots during Super Bowl XLV, including Hyundai, Kia, Chrysler, Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Bridgestone and Cars.com. Thirty-second spots are going for between $2.7-$3 million, per industry analysts.

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