Volkswagen's ad featuring this young Darth Vader was rated the most popular of the Super Bowl.
updated 2/7/2011 8:17:27 PM ET 2011-02-08T01:17:27

Riding a wave of pregame publicity, users rated Volkswagen’s “The Force” ad as the best of this year’s Super Bowl spots.

The ad features a young child, actor Max Page, in full-on Darth Vader costume trying to use his mystical powers to move the washing machine, family dog and a doll — all unsuccessfully.

The dejected Dark Lord mopes around the kitchen before trying one more use of The Force on his dad’s Volkswagen. Channeling his power, he starts the car and seems surprised (well, as surprised as anyone wearing a full helmet-mask can look) that he was able to do it.

Cut to his parents looking out to the driveway at him with Dad’s fingers on the remote control start button.

The automaker saw an early concept for the spot, promoting the 2012 Passat, the week after Thanksgiving. “Sometimes you discuss an idea for the first time, and you just know you have something special,” said Brian Thomas, general manager of brand marketing for American Volkswagen.

“It’s a confluence of things. Volkswagen is one of the most iconic brands in the world, and ‘Star Wars’ is the biggest movie franchise in the world. (The ad tells) a simple, sweet relatable story that has a lot of heart,” Thomas said.

In the past, many Super Bowl advertisers kept their plans tightly guarded to build anticipation in the days leading up to the game. But in today's world of endlessly replayed ads circulating over social media websites, those strategies have changed.

Volkswagen posted “The Force” to YouTube last Wednesday, and the buzz was already building well before kickoff. A longer version of the Volkswagen ad on YouTube has been viewed more than 16 million times, given it an exposure beyond the 53.3 million households that tuned into the Super Bowl nationwide.

Story: Decoding the Super Bowl ads

“There is a lot to be said for the element of surprise,” said Thomas, noting the company had gone that route last year in its “Punch Dub” spot featuring Tracy Morgan and Stevie Wonder. But he said this year it just made sense to launch ahead of the game and begin to tell the company's story.

While the original "Star Wars" inspired more movies, there are no sequels currently planned to the Volkswagen ad. "We think there are still some legs with this one," Thomas said.

Volkswagen's other Super Bowl ad, promoting its forthcoming Beetle update, also fared well among users, placing fourth. Rounding out the top five were Bridgestone’s “Beavers” in second, Chrysler’s “Detroit” ad featuring Eminem and Doritos’ “Fish Food” in fifth.

The Wall Street Journal's poll also gave top honors to "The Force." In USA Today's 23rd annual poll, two spots featuring dogs tied for a top prize, one from Bud Light and the other from Doritos.

A slapstick spot from Snickers featuring Richard Lewis and Rosanne set in a logging camp took the top prize in TiVo Inc's audience measurement analysis. It was followed by the odd couple of teen sensation Justin Bieber and veteran rocker Ozzy Osbourne in a spot from Best Buy.

To view and rate all the ads, scroll down this page.

Reuters contributed to this story.

Video: Unmasked! Meet the boy behind Darth Vader

  1. Closed captioning of: Unmasked! Meet the boy behind Darth Vader

    >>> never mind the mvp on the field. one of the biggest stars of last nigh's super bowl was the boy who played darth vader in a volkswagen commercial. his name is max page . he's 6 years old. he's here along with his mom jennifer. good morning to you.

    >> hey,guys.

    >> first of all, darth vader , show us what you've got.

    >> there you go.

    >> let's see who you are, max. can you take the mask off? hello, young man. nice to see you. this is exciting stuff, isn't it?

    >> yeah.

    >> do you like being darth vader ? it's cool. how did this happen? how did this audition take place and how did he win?

    >> you know, well, it started, i think, december 29th was his first audition. he had a call-back and it got down to 16 kids. we got a call over the weekend that said they booked it. it wasn't until halfway through the first day of filming we knew it was a super bowl commercial . we just thought it was his first national commercial and the deutsch group was like, no, this is a super bowl spot. it was out of this world.

    >> you didn't know much about darth vader , did you?

    >> no.

    >> you went to the internet and saw a picture of him?

    >> sort of.

    >> now, your mom said this is your first national commercial. tell me about some of the other commercials you have done.

    >> well, i have done like other commercials.

    >> yeah.

    >> do you remember who you backed up in two commercials?

    >> a band-aid and a -- i can't remember.

    >> what were the other ones?

    >> he was with clear communications was the first regional commercial and walgreens.

    >> on a soap as well.

    >> yeah.

    >> you think about the number of people who watched this ad online. forget the super bowl . there is another hundred million people. like 10 million people watched it before the game even started.

    >> yeah.

    >> what kind of response have you guys gotten?

    >> oh, i can't even keep up with the messages and the calls. i wish i could. so many people support us in so many things. it's just overwhelming. the first night it was 60,000. i woke up the next morning and it was a million. then my mind couldn't comprehend after that.

    >> what do you think and what do your friends think about it?

    >> they wish they could see it.

    >> people asked for your autograph, too?

    >> because of "the young & the restless ."

    >> i wanted to mention max has a pacemaker. he was born with a congenital heart defect.

    >> right. he had his first surgery at 3 months old at children's hospital los angeles . they saved his life, gave him back to us. a week after the first surgery had had to have a pacemaker, so he has maintenance on that. he's routinely at the hospital. we try to make it fun with blankets and bears and try not to make it scary about appointments and blood draws. but he's a real inspiration. even the press conference in los angeles there was a father and son and they were in the garden. the dad said, just to see him run and play is enough. that was always enough for us, too. just to see the ray of hope of what a couple years ahead looks like. you can do anything.

    >> way to go. congratulations.

    >> thank you.

    >> we're back after this. [ kid ] it was the



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