Riding a wave of pregame publicity, msnbc.com 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.
“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 msnbc.com 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.