Darth Vader (probably) won't be in the Super Bowl this time around, but Volkswagen is bringing back a creative theme, or a least the feeling, from a 2012 ad, "Smiles."
The salubrious sentiment from that fourth-quarter ad last year will come back in the second quarter of the Super Bowl this year. Actually, it’s online now in teaser form. “Sunny Side,” via Deutsch, L.A., reverses a tactic that a couple of automakers have used in the past: taking an act or artist who made it big on YouTube and putting them in an ad. Volkswagen, by contrast, is featuring actual clips from YouTube videos that are wildly popular simply because its "stars" -- a politician, a baseball manager, a woman who suffers from a nearly Harlequin-romantic love of cats -- erupt in rage, tears, and violent frustration. Think of the Winnebago guy, who, famously, melted down during a bolloxed attempt to make a promotional video. That clip, by the way, is in the spot.
But then, those real people from the viral videos (not the Winnebago guy) show up in the second half of the spot, happy and dancing across a grassy field with mega-star Jimmy Cliff leading the way, playing pied piper with a reggae rendition of the Partridge Family hit, "C'mon Get Happy."
Kevin Mayer, VP marketing at the Herndon, Va.-based Volkswagen of American, tells Marketing Daily that, like last year's "Smiles" ad, which came out during the caustic presidential campaign, the new ad is partly intended to be a tonic for the present rage-driven social mosaic of acts too awful to recount here. "Because of the success of 'Smiles,' it seemed like the natural thing to do this." Mayer points out that the teaser isn't a version of the actual creative for the Super Bowl as much as a hint at the direction those ads will take.
As the teaser comes to a close, others join the crowd: a weatherman with a tattered umbrella torn to shreds by a hurricane, a little girl who threw a temper tantrum in a grocery store, for example. "We do have a vehicle in the ad, but it's really a brand message. We didn't want to do a Super Bowl ad for Volkswagen, but a Volkswagen commercial for the Super Bowl. We wanted to make sure that whatever we said connected to customers and served as an umbrella for the brand."
Mayer says the campaign will be supported by a big digital effort, including a YouTube takeover, and free downloads (available now) on Volkswagen's social media sites and home page.