Last year VW released its Super Bowl ads several days before the big game, and “The Force” (the adorable commercial with the kid dressed as Darth Vader) became a viral hit on YouTube. By the time the Super Bowl rolled around, everyone was talking about it. As I wrote last year, the preemptive strike was a stroke of viral genius, one-upping all the other advertisers battling to become the most-buzzed commercial of TV’s biggest annual event. Today, that clip on YouTube has 48 million (free) views.
So what will Volkswagen do this year, especially now that other brands will likely release their ads in advance? This week it released a commercial “teaser” on YouTube over two weeks before kickoff, and it already has 3 million views and counting. The clip features a chorus of dogs, barking the Star Wars theme song. “Keep an eye out for our 2012 Game Day commercial – it will all make sense,” teases the YouTube description, which also encourages users to follow Volkswagen’s social accounts to be notified on January 27th to craft their own “Intergalactic Invite” using a Star Wars-like video crawl.
In short, Volkswagen is trying to upstage other advertisers yet again, backing up its pre-Super Bowl hype well before the event. The teaser hypes the pre-release of the ads, which hypes the ads airing in the Super Bowl. When it airs, many people will explain to their friends that they’ve already seen it – a sort of “reverse recommendation” that carries its own social cache.
Lexus is trying a similar strategy, releasing its own Super Bowl ad teaser earlier this month. But it only has 17k views on YouTube.
These days, Super Bowl ads are social launching pads, and that’s why NBC sold out months in advance (it left a few spots open for a $3.5 million price tag.) And it looks like Volkswagen, which received millions of dollars of free advertising as a result, wants to repeat its social success.