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YouTube Meltdown Legends Find Stardom In Volkswagen Pre-Super Bowl Commercial

By Barry Janoff

January 24, 2013: Phil Wellman, Phil Davidson, the mascots from the Universities of Oregon and Houston and a woman who gets really, really, really emotional about cats all had meltdowns that made them infamous stars on YouTube.

They and others like them now star with music icon Jimmy Cliff in a pre-Super Bowl XLVII commercial from Volkswagen.

The two-minute spot, "Sunny Side," features Cliff doing a cover version of "Come On, Get Happy" — the theme song from The Partridge Family TV show of the early 1970s — which transforms a diverse group of unhappy or overly intense people into smiling buddies running up a hill on a sunny day, joining arms and singing the song along with Cliff.

The ad begins with actual footage from YouTube of people who are ultra-intense and/or having major brain implosions.

Among them are a woman who is bawling uncontrollably because "I really love cats; I just want to hug all the cats;" a guy smashing his guitar after losing on a video game; a woman who weeps after a sporting event; screaming Ohio politician Phil Davidson; the duck mascot from Oregon and the horse from Houston seen in an actual on-field fight from 2007; and Phil Wellman, who as manager of the minor league Mississippi Braves in 2007 had a classic tirade following an umpire's call.

The scene shifts to Cliff, bathed in sunlight.

"We never dreamed we'd be traveling together," Cliff sings in his classic reggae style. "We'd spread a little loving then we'd keep moving on. Something always happens whenever we're together. We get a happy feeling when we're singing a song. C'mon, c'mon get happy."

The overwrought people have a change in mood and attitude when they hear Cliff. "Crazy cat-hugging lady," Cliff yells to the woman, who is now smiling and carrying cats, "Alright, baseball manager!" he calls out to Wellman. "Screaming politician," he says to a very calm Davidson.

We also see the guitar-smashing video gamer, who has a new guitar; the battling college mascots, who are holding hands; and a bevy of other joyous people who had their 15-seconds of YouTube fame (including a weather forecaster who had to do his broadcast in a hurricane, a young girl who had a tantrum in a supermarket and even an "irritated llama!").

The spot closes with the tag line: "Time to get happy." Followed by Volkswagen's marketing mantra: "That's the power of German engineering." (See the full spot here.)

"I teamed up with Volkswagen, we re-recorded 'Come On, Get Happy' and filmed this video," Cliff, who is supporting the release of a new album, Rebirth, wrote on his Web site. "It has a positive message and was fun to make. Let's keep spreading good vibes in 2013!"

Volkswagen will have at least one spot during Super Bowl XLVII Feb. 3 on CBS. The company's lead agency is Deutsch, Los Angeles.

The premise of the "Sunny Side" spot can trace its roots to the Coca-Cola melody, "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony)," which made its debut in 1971 as the "Buy the World a Coke" jingle from the commercial, "Hilltop." That spot, from ad agency McCann-Erickson, shows a diverse group of men and women running up a hill on a sunny day, joining arms and sining the song with each other.

Volkswagen scored big during Super Bowl XLV with its "The Force" commercial featuring a kid dressed as Darth Vader, and then again last year during Super Bowl XLVI with "The Dog Strikes Back," which featured a pooch who goes on a self-inflicted diet, with an ending that takes place in the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars fame.

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