OK, the Volkswagen spot with the Vader kid was cute, but it was still like every other commercial that aired during the Super Bowl: It wasn’t linked to the brand itself.
There are many Monday morning quarterbacks eager to go over which ad was the funniest or most remembered or what other scorecard they want to use, and I’m not going to do that here.
I’m also not going to go in great detail about whether it’s strategically smart to advertise during the Super Bowl (it’s not) or wonder how all those automobile manufacturers could think they’re only problem is awareness so they saturated the ad time.
No, the single biggest problem in the advertising industry is that most of them basically follow this outline: Comedy skit, plus logo. As much as I love the Volkswagen spot in other ways – it is beautifully done, with an exquisite sense of timing and tone – it is symptomatic of this problem.
The Vader spot doesn’t get you to prefer Volkswagen and it doesn’t even raise the level of awareness of the brand, as if that was Volkswagen’s problem. The only thing you see at the end of the spot is: “The all new Passat.” There is simply no connection to the brand, or even the product. I’ll bet most of you didn’t even know it was marketing the Passat.
In fact, after that spot aired and our laughter died down, I waited a few minutes, then asked those watching with me, “Who was that spot for?” No one could remember.
I have often railed against the advertising-as-entertainment trend and believe getting caught in the “who can top whom” competition that is Super Bowl advertising is a huge waste of money.
But it is also represents a larger problem with advertising, which is why marketers are desperately trying to find other ways to reach target audiences and make their brands more meaningful to them. They have mostly given up on the print ad model and instead are constantly searching for ways to make social media work for them.
Yet, it’s all so simple and not some Jedi mind trick. The avenue isn’t as important as a message that’s tied into the promise of the brand and who it reflects. Instead, we just remember the comedy and not the brand.
Marketing is a business venture, but so few execute it that way. (That’s why an advertising agency can’t fix your problem.) I love watching that Vader kid, but, in the end, he creates no preference for me because I had to wait for the pundits to tell me who the ad was for. The ad itself didn’t.