In 2011, Volkswagen aired one of the most memorable ads in modern Super Bowl history: “The Force,” where a child donning a Darth Vader costume is convinced of the powers of the dark side. Time Magazine said it “changed Super Bowl commercials forever,” and as of 2015, it was the most shared Super Bowl ad ever, according to USA Today.
A couple years after that ad ran, the German automaker vanished from the national Super Bowl stage for a decade—until Sunday’s game, when Volkswagen, like Palpatine, will return, becoming one of the relatively few car brands slated to advertise in the game this year.
Why the hiatus? It just hadn’t felt natural to do another national Super Bowl campaign until now, according to Rachael Zaluzec, SVP of customer experience and brand marketing for Volkswagen of America. This year, that changed: The ad, called “An American Love Story,” is timed around the brand’s 75th anniversary in the US, along with the release of a couple of new models.
“You only go to the stage if you’ve got something to say, and we have a lot of things to say this year,” Zaluzec told Marketing Brew.
Throwback: Volkswagen started discussing this year’s commercial more than six months ago, according to Zaluzec. Creative concepting for the spot started around mid-September, although the buy wasn’t confirmed internally until Q4, Zaluzec said.
A two-minute cut, set to the reprise of Neil Diamond’s “I Am… I Said,” features a montage of scenes showing Volkswagens throughout American history—including references to Woodstock, scenes from the Herbie movie franchise, and the iconic “punch buggy” scene from The Simpsons. There’s even a callback to “The Force” (both ads were directed by Lance Acord). It’s all very nostalgic.
The ad is meant to “ignite the love for