Darth Vader Super Bowl Ad

“This changes the long-held belief that the role of the ‘creative idea’ in advertising is to gain attention. Instead, the ‘creative’ parts of an ad can serve to help lower our defenses and cause us to pay less attention to the message, not more…” – Daryl Weber “Brand Seduction”

When Volkswagon first launched their infamous Darth Vader Super Bowl Commercial (as shown below), they shattered their audiences expectations, not-so-forcefully. While Darth Vader may have mastered the Force, VW has mastered cognitive dissonance. The first expectation of ours they break is when the creatives behind the ad decided to put the kid in the Darth Vader costume. Usually kids want to be a super Hero – not villain.  This initially creates interest from the viewpoint of the audience because right of the bat, a cute kid, a known villain, what could possibly be happening?

The next notable decision was to have the kid use the force on objects around the house. Both the audience and the creators of the ad know the force is strictly fiction, as of now, but think it’s cute the kid keeps trying. The audience is captured by the story of a cute kid in a Darth Vader mask repeatedly failing at an impossible task. Suddenly, the force works! How did that happen? The kid’s parent started their VW parked in the driveway from the keys in the kitchen as the kid uses the force on it. The kid thinks he started the car, but the viewers are aware the keys were able to start the car. VW then entertains the viewer, while getting across messages of family, innovation, and safety.

A final note worth mentioning is Volkswagon’s choice to release the advertisement on youtube prior to its airing at the Super Bowl. In this way, with hundreds of thousands of views, much of the audience was sitting in anticipation for this commercial, a feat VW was able to accomplish heroically.

“…The story can entertain the viewer, making them more relaxed and less focused on picking apart an overt claim or message. This means that even if explicit brand or message recall are low in consumer testing, the relevant associations may still be getting through, even if only subconsciously.” – Daryl Weber, “Brand Seduction”

Super Bowl commercials used to serve to get across a certain claim or message, now, their purpose is to provide brand recognition and “seduce” their audience towards their product.

In his 2016 novel “Brand Seduction” Daryl Weber describes, even if we simply see an ad, “enjoy a fleeting smile,” and get on with our day, our perception of Volkswagon changes, even if just subtly, by viewing this commercial. The only left to say is… Well done VW. May the force be with you, always.

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