Super Bowl ad review: Volkswagen uses the Force of nostalgia
Campaign: The Force
Agency: Deutsch LA
Volkswagen’s insanely popular Super Bowl ad (25m YouTube hits and counting) features a pint-sized kid in a Darth Vader costume attempting to use “the Force” on various inanimate objects around his classic suburban home. He fails to elicit a response until a very Teutonic-looking “dad” comes home in a VW Passat. The kid rushes past him to try his luck on the shiny sedan and, as if by magic, he manages to start the car. The Force? Nope, it’s just dear old Dad screwing with his son’s mind with the electronic key ignition.
Except that’s not his dad at all—the cute kid in a Darth Vader costume is the nostalgic projection of the contemporary thirty-something parent (the kid doesn’t stop to hug “Dad” because he’s not really there at all).
The first clue is the costume itself: toddlers today would be much more likely to dress up like Darth Maul if they wore anything Star Wars-related at all. But fathers of infant children—the family-sized Passat’s target demographic—all remember childhood Halloweens spent traipsing around the neighbourhood in a hot plastic helmet while waving around a floppy green light-saber.
Then there’s the home. Few parents in their thirties today choose to live in leafy suburbs, though many grew up in them. They also grew up with moms who fixed them sandwiches while waiting for Dad to come from work with briefcase in hand, a scene that hardly reflects the current recession-provoked shift in successful professional careers from men to women.
There’s a family dog, the pink-decorated sister’s room. Even the exercise bike in the parents’ bedroom is a throwback to the home fitness-obsessed 80s. (Today’s hipster parents would go to the Y.)
In short, the ad brilliantly aligns contemporary parents’ nostalgia for their relatively economically-secure childhoods with the purchase of an affordable family sedan, while remaining well within the ostensible boundaries of the “cute kid” ad genre.
Full five out of five, I suppose, even though I HATE IT.
• Richard Whittall writes about football for A More Splendid Life, among others. He sings countertenor in Toronto.