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The Volkswagen Darth Vader Advert: Was It A Success? .

The author

Malcolm Slade

Head of Technical SEO

In a radical deviation from my normal hardcore SEO posts, I am going to look at some subject matter that addresses my other passions in life: Star Wars, TV and my family. So let’s have a look at possibly the best advert ever, The Force by Volkswagen.

In a radical deviation from my normal hardcore SEO posts, I am going to look at some subject matter that addresses my other passions in life: Star Wars, TV and my family. So let’s have a look at possibly the best advert ever, The Force by Volkswagen.

Within marketing we have a tendency to consider TV as a bit of a dying medium and the general public in me rarely pays any attention to adverts that aren’t a movie trailer or have attractive ladies in them (Nicole? Papa?). If you had asked me three weeks ago to name my favourite and most memorable advert I would have gone with the Carling Black Label advert from the 1980’s which spans three adverts. You know, the one with the cowboys? Oh you were two years old in the 80’s! Let’s move on... The 2011 Super Bowl took place in February and although I didn’t personally watch it, more than 111,000,000 Americans did. Bar the upcoming royal wedding this will no doubt be the most watched event on TV during 2011, and because of this, the advertisement slots were very sought after (if a little expensive). The usual suspects were in there such as movie teasers for the new X-men movie, Super 8, Thor and many others. Big consumer brands were also present such as Doritos and Pepsi. While watching the various movie trailers, I came across an interesting looking advert by Volkswagen containing a mini Darth Vader and I discovered my new favourite advert ever. What makes this advert so great? There are several adverts out at the moment that are snigger worthy but nothing more. My colleague Tom wrote an interesting post about the Yell Day V Lately ad which you can read here. I was around when J R Hartley hit the screens and until then I probably didn’t know what the Yellow Pages was. I now know Yell has an App but to be honest I don’t care as we have Google. The Volkswagen advert on the other hand ticks a lot of boxes for me and other Thirty-Something males. I like Star Wars, I used to drive around in Golf GTI’s and the likes, and I now have a family (no more Golf GTI’s). All of these traits are directly represented in the VW advert. It’s got a small boy (it must be a boy) in a Darth Vader costume, it features a pretty middle of the road family, the young boy displays nearly identical traits to every 4-year-old I have ever met, and in true car advert style the featured VW Passat is top spec. So for me it ticks all the right boxes as an advert but... When I talk about this advert I say things like “Have you seen the advert with the mini Darth Vader?” or similar. I rarely consider the brand. Indeed when you watch the advert the whole brand side of things is minimal. You see the car at the end for a few seconds and it is a main part of the crescendo, but until the VW logo appears at the very end you have no idea it has anything to do with Volkswagen. This lack of brand focus is both a plus and a massive negative. From a plus point we are not getting VW thrust down our necks like most car adverts and are left alone to marvel at the content. However, on a negative side... Where does this advert fail? As a tool for driving awareness for the new VW Passat, the advert kind of fails. I am left knowing nothing about the car other than it has remote central locking and comes in grey. On top of this, has anyone ever seen the advert airing on UK TV other than those select few who watched the Super Bowl? The team at Hitwise did some analysis on traffic trends after the Super Bowl. The research is here, but the main point is that the advert did more for Darth Vader than it did for Volkswagen. This is further confirmed by Google Insights. Here we can see that there was a spike in Volkswagen related searches, but man alive Darth must have made a mint (followed by,, you get the thread. Rant over). When we look at the UK nothing really happened. Let’s face it nobody saw it. On TV anyway. What if it wasn’t about Passat awareness? As an experiment for social media and viral marketing this has been a major success, at marketing the Youtube video... hmmm... Even though nobody I know watched the Super Bowl (maybe Nicole did but she is American), everybody I know has seen this advert. As of the 16th of February, in the knowledge the commercial was uploaded to Youtube on the 2nd and aired on the 8th, the Youtube video has had more than 30,000,000 views and generated over 23,000 comments. Yahoo Site Explorer (not dead yet) has recorded more than 43,000 links to the Youtube video. Facebook walls all over the world are riddled with the video as are Twitter feeds. Again Youtube must be loving it but Volkswagen.... To conclude While I don’t want Volkswagen to fall into the typical car advert rut of going fast down a windy road blah blah blah, lessons need to be learnt. You can have a happy balance between product placement and cool ideas that drives product interest, social engagement and ultimately sales. Take Blendtec. There sales have gone through the roof off of the “Will it blend?” marketing. You’re having fun while all the time learning just how awesome a Blendtec blender is. Whether this winning formula can be used for larger products such as cars, well smarter people than me can work that out, but in the case of generating Volkswagen awareness, it didn’t. I have added the blooper / making of real that Volkwagen added on the 8th below. More absolute awesomeness. I close with a salute to Volkwagen for making such an amazing advert.