‘The Force’ of Volkswagen

One of the most shared adverts in 2011 was ‘The Force’ advert by Volkswagon which racked up 4.8 million shares across social networks since it was realised online. The advert features a young boy dressed up as a ‘mini Darth Vader’ testing out his ‘force’ on household objects and indeed the family dog – but with no avail. His father comes home, driving a new Volkswagen Passat and teases him with his remote control central locking.

I wanted to talk about this advert because it’s very different to the car adverts we normally see – where the car is the main focus. We are so used to seeing elegant cars being driven around hillsides or cities or country roads (often with sleeping children in the back). This advert features the car being driven for literally four seconds and parked in an ordinary driveway. Its appearance does not even take place until halfway through the advert. This approach, of not forcing the car and having something else going, would have greatly contributed to it going viral. In fact there is so little focus on the product that you could probably miss that it was a car advert. From what I have learned about viral advertising, this lack of product or brand is a very important aspect of the medium. In true viral spirit the Volkswagen logo appears at the end in a black screen but the advert would hold it’s own as a video and story without it.

Other than that fact it has remote central locking, comes in silver and would be a suitable family car the advert conveys very little about the car. It’s a long way off from some of the original car adverts I have been researching where they were packed full of every feature possible. During my advertising and branding module my lecturer has stressed the importance of advertising the benefits of a product – rather than it’s features. I have picked up on this before, but it basically means show people what it can do for them, rather than how it does it. You could say this advert shows that you can have some fun with central locking…

Anyway, In theory, it’s merging together two modern day associations, almost stereotypes you could say: men, cars and star wars. By using a (very talented) young boy they manage to combine all of these in a very charming way and rather than the cliché being forgotten, it’s enjoyed. Volkswagen’s communications manager, Danny Hill commented:

‘It’s a charming ad with great music and has the universal appeal of Star Wars. It captures the imagination and ties in well with our message about the Passat’s clever technology. It was such a success in the States that it seemed a shame not to share it with a wider UK audience.’

The decision to show the advert in the UK would have been easy since they knew how popular it had been, not only in America but online as well. Unfortunately I cannot find any information about an online pre-test of the advert before it aired on television in America. I believe that one of it’s first television appearances was during the America Super Bowl. The decision to air it in this very expensive time-slot was not just because of the amount of people watching it but instead because a large majority of the people watching fell into their target market.

A blooper video of the advert was also released by Volkswagen (clever idea!)

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