Volkswagen’s Super Bowl spot reaches for the sky – USA TODAY
Goodbye, Darth Vader. Hello, Clarence the angel.
Volkswagen, the German carmaker whose Super Bowl commercials seem to often raise the creative bar, is once again nostalgically reaching back into the movie theme bucket.
This morning, VW revealedl that its new Super Bowl ad is loosely linked with the 1946 Jimmy Stewart classic: It’s a Wonderful Life. It comes several years after VW’s wildly successful Star Wars-inspired Super Bowl spot about a little kid in a Darth Vader costume who thinks he starts his folks’ Passat by waving his hands.
This time, however, there’s no magic Force — but magic wings. A classic line from It’s a Wonderful Life is when the little girl Zuzu says: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” VW reinvents that line for the ad, with a father telling his daughter: “Every time a VW reaches 100,000 miles, an engineer gets his wings.”
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The commercial, partly filmed at a VW factory in Dresden, Germany, shows engineers “earning” their wings at sometimes awkward moments. One gets his while testing a car in a wind tunnel — and is blown away. Another gets his riding in an elevator and is slapped in the face after one of his new wings pats a female rider on her backside. One guy gets his in the men’s room.
For this Super Bowl spot, and a ‘teaser” ad posted last week on YouTube, VW hopes to get 25 to 35 million views, says Justin Osborne, general manager of advertising and marketing communications at VW of America. Since 2011, the Star Wars spot has had 58 million views, with about 25 million going into the game.
Pushing the ad will be VW’s social media “war room,” as Osborne calls it: 10 people posting on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
The 60-second spot clearly is an attempt to regain VW’s crown as a Super Bowl ad creative heavyweight. In this case, it’s with a nostalgic wink. “There’s a certain amount of comfort in remembering easier times,” says Elayne Rapping, professor of American Studies at SUNY/Buffalo.
“We’re definitely pulling the nostalgia card,” says Osborne. “We know not everyone will understand the reference” to the film that airs every Christmas, but even then, he says, it still works across generations.
VW is not trying to mimic its Star Wars success, he insists. “You can’t just replicate what happened with that ad,” he says. “You have to try something new.”
Adds Osborne, “Star Wars was a blessing and a curse. Some thought it overshadowed the VW brand. Some people still call it the Darth Vader ad, not the VW ad.”