VW’s The Force


The Force

(Photo from TIME Magazine)


This ad created all the buzz in the Super Bowl of 2011. If you are not familiar, this is an ad for the Volkswagen Passat featuring a child who dreams of having ‘The Force.’ A Star Wars spin off, this ad created a marketing campaign controversial to the original stigmatism of other Super Bowl ads. Tim Ellis, the head of marketing at Volkswagen North America at the time, fought to pre-release this ad four days before the game. The original commercial is 60 seconds while VW only had a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl.

The longer ad was released four days before show time, and it was a hit. It is personal, and that is what good marketing is all about, making it personal. People can see themselves in it. It has an antagonist, protagonist, and conflict, and resolution packed in both commercials. By the time the game aired, people already knew about it and could attest to its greatness.

Now a model for other ads to pre-release their commercials, “The Force” will forever be globally remembered.

Kristan Cottle

Here are the links to both ads:

60 seconds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrBTxqNjM6M

30 seconds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhzwmYRXPp4

9 thoughts on “VW’s The Force

  1. I think Ellis made a smart move to release the commercial early. Having such a great reception, it ensured not only that people would be talking about it, but also that by the time the 30 second commercial aired, everyone who hadn’t already seen it would be eagerly watching so they too could be in the loop. I do think, however, that a more strategic move would have been to show a commercial even shorter than 30 seconds prior to the Superbowl, and then show the thirty second one during the game. I don’t feel like the 60 second commercial contributed anything extra to the narrative VW had created, but an even shorter version of the 30 second commercial could have acted as a “trailer” for the “actual” commercial that would be airing on Superbowl Sunday.

  2. This commercial is a great example of brands using modern western culture to familiarize consumers with their product. It draws in the audience through something almost everyone can relate to in some way or another, Star Wars. The use of children with dreams furthers this and attracts even more of the audiences attention since everyone has had dreams before, many that were not attainable in reality. Once the consumer is “reeled in” the Volkswagen appears and shows that the dream the child once has can be come somewhat of a reality with their product and its features. The commercial does not need to say anything at all during this whole showing and that makes the consumer more in tune, and the presentation more powerful.

    • I definitely agree that positively utilizing modern western culture was a great choice here, as I’m sure that a vast majority of viewers that haven’t actually seen Star Wars understands the references of “the force” paired alongside Darth Vader. However, the most interesting aspect to me was the lack of company commentary that you mentioned. The fact that this did not have to happen in order to get a message across, whether entertainment, marketing, or otherwise, is a respectable choice that I feel definitely went over well for this ad.

  3. This commercial is perfect for using brands and organizations that most of America can notice when they hear it, a brand like Star Wars and more specifically, Darth Vader. They then take this idea or product and cross it with another, in this instance its VW. They make it appear that with VW, your “dreams will come true” in a sense, and that with this product your life will become that much closer to the dream you feel is unattainable, with the sheer use of marketing through visuals, not statements or words of any kind.

  4. I think that it was a great move to release the commercial a few days early in order for the viewers to get the full effect, which they wouldn’t have if they only saw the 30 second clip. Releasing it early also gave them a one-up on the competition because people already new about it prior to the Super Bowl, so when they saw it again it just increased the chances that they would remember the ad. The use of Star Wars also most likely interested the majority of their audience because everyone has seen Star Wars and appreciates the movie. Star Wars hooks in the audience and then forces them to pay attention to what Volkswagen is saying.

  5. Connecting something people already love with something new was such a smart choice for Volkswagen. People who might be unfamiliar with Volkswagen, but love Star Wars are now able to immediately make a connection to the brand. And now, that brand has planted a seed in the consumers mind to look into the Volkswagen brand. Really smart marketing on their part for making those connections!

  6. I love that VW went out of their way to make sure that the full commercial was aired so that the presentation fulfilled their desires for their product. Star Wars is beloved by all; it has withstood the test of time and can appeal to many generations. This is a great marketing strategy because even though a child is not likely to purchase a VW upon seeing this commercial, they will still bring it up to their parents therefore attracting the desired audience for VW. This is a very cute and relatable commercial that is still talked about years later. A job well done by VW.

  7. It was a great idea to implement one of the most successful franchises of all time and make it a charming car commercial. I remember when this commercial aired, I was grinning the whole time.

  8. I agree with Audra Bullard about the fact that the 60 second ad really didn’t bring anything new to the table. If anything it lost my attention because it was too long. I think that since a lot of people, including myself have short attention spans it is always more effective to run a shorter ad that gets the same idea out in an entertaining way. I also think its interesting that they are promoting not only the Volkswagen brand but also the Star Wars brand which has made a comeback in popular culture with the release of its new films. It’s crazy how well Star Wars has maintained their brand image since it began in the 1970’s even though they have had long gaps between the trilogies.

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