The Return of the car commercial

Every year millions of consumers gather around their televisions to watch the most viewed professional football game of the year, the Super Bowl. Viewers not only watch the broadcast for the championship game, but also for the entertaining commericals. Corporations spend millions of dollars every year just for advertising space, not including production costs. Corporations are willing to invest so much money because they know that the SuperBowl is the most widely watched televison event in America. Super Bowl XLV imparticular showed a numerous amount of car commercials. Though some were more interesting than others, many of the commercials were extremely entertaining and deserving of recognition.

2011 Volkswagen Super Bowl Ad "The Force"


One of the most entertaining and widely acclaimed car commercials of Super Bowl XLV was also voted as the overall best commercial in many top super bowl commercial lists. The Volkswagen commercial, “The Force” has gone viral, as most of the super bowl ads intend to do, with almost thirty million views on YouTube since it first aired. What makes the commercial so great is not only its use of humor, but also its intrigue. When the viewer is first introduced to “The Force” the commercial shows a miniature Darth Vader trying to use his powers on various household objects. As the infamous “imperial march” plays in the background, the small Vader becomes more and more discouraged that the force is not with him. Soon, however the miniature Darth Vader’s father arrives home in his Volkswagen. As the music becomes more epic in sound the child races outside not to greet his father, but to try his powers on the car. To Vader’s surprise his powers finally seem to work on the car, while the viewer knows that it is the father playing with car’s remote.

The viewer does not know that it is a car commercial until the very end, which was refreshing compared to many of the other car advertisements. Because Volkswagen is such a famous vehicle company they were able to use indirect action to create an extremely entertaining commercial. Information on the actual car Volkswagen was trying to sell was not shown until the end of commercial, and it was a very small amount of information. Yet, the commercial did a fine job appealing to the intended target audience. Volkswagen is a trusted brand who knows how to appeal to their consumer audience. The message of the advertisement seemed to be that the car was reliable and child friendly, even though those words, nor any words, were ever actually spoken. This connotation of safety appeals to the target audience of parents and adults. Using a “Star Wars” reference would be most understood by adults; that plus an adorable miniature sized Darth Vader running around the house seemed to be a recipe for success.

Choosing to air this commercial during the super bowl was a great choice for Volkswagen. Not only did it reach hundreds of millions of consumers during the actual game, millions more viewers have seen the commercial online. “The Force” seems to have done exactly what an advertisement should do for a company. It reached hundreds of millions of consumers, was loved by its target audience, and went viral which made it loved by those who are not fans of Volkswagen. The selectivity of Volkswagen was impeccable, in my opinion down to the quarter it was aired. The Volkswagen advertisement “The Force” was extremely efficient and arguably the best commercial of Super Bowl XLV. Though it may have been the best, two more car commercials were almost equally entertaining. Although effective in different ways, they too intrigued their respected target audience.

2011 BMW Advanced Diesel Super Bowl Ad

This commercial is one of two commercials that BMW aired during the Super Bowl. This commercial starts off with a group of people waiting in line for the bus, while the bus coughs up black ugly looking diesel smoke. This is followed by showing older diesel cars; such as a Volvo also emitting this heavy graphic black pollution. Then they show a trucker undoubtedly getting lung cancer as he coughs up all of this black pollution. These images are very depressing, however when you think there is no hope at all; a 2011 Blue BMW comes racing through the streets (while the course of David Bowie's 1972 record "changes" plays in the background). This song is used to set an optimistic tone about the future of BMW diesel cars, and how their diesel engines have changed from the stereotypical environmental hazards diesel engines of the past. This new advanced clean diesel engine and how it differs from competitors of diesel engines of the past is the message of the ad.

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The nation has slowly been shifting and "going green" over the past ten years. The popularity of the Toyota Prius is one example of "green" environmentally friendly vehicles being a popular new part of the future. Wealthy people or people who think they are wealthy enough to finance a BMW are the target audience. BMW is definitely trying to appeal to the environmentally friendly or "green" audience with this ad. The ad never actually states facts about BMW's Advanced Diesel engines, just implies that it is clean and a bright part of our future. The add uses indirect action since it never tells you directly to buy the product. The ad just implies that you will be a better person in a BMW. This ad like the others is an example of viral advertising; the ad is on the internet and probably being viewed right now as we speak. It is possible that someone who hates BMW or the environment could be watching this viral advertisement over and over again because they have never heard the David Bowie song before and it is stuck in their head. Advertisers choose this song to try and incorporate it into the BMW brand. The luxury brand for the future with Advanced Diesel. BMW reaches an unlimited number of viewers since millions watch the Super Bowl as well as the commercials on the internet or TiVo. This would not be considered target or niche marketing because a majority of people are not in favor of the environment being destroyed.

2011 Chevy Cruze Eco Super Bowl Ad
The first of the three Chevrolet car commercials that aired during the 45th Super Bowl was aired during the first quarter of the game. The commercial starts out as a regular car commercial, showing the brand new Chevy Cruze Eco driving in all of its glory, when it then takes a comical turn. The camera then cuts to a senior citizen home where there are a group of elderly people who are watching the Chevy commercial on television, which they then misinterpret everything the narrator says. With the first elderly man misinterpreting “42 miles per gallon” for “42 wild Italians”, the comedic tone is set for the whole advertisement. As the ad continues with more and more crazy misinterpretations, it becomes evident that Chevy used this stereotypical comedy as a source to get their point across to the viewer.

Chevrolet Since 1911
Chevrolet Since 1911

Much like the other two car commercials, this ad used indirect action to let the viewer know as to what the commercial is a bout. Since Chevy has been around since 1911, the ad agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners INC., relied on the viewer’s prior knowledge of the company to understand that this advertisement was about a specific model they are releasing. This can also been seen as consumer advertising due to the fact that many people rely on cars as their means of transportation on a daily basis. Furthermore, this gives the ad agency a little more freedom when it comes to creating an ad, for they don’t have to worry about describing who Chevy is and as to what they are about. This is evident within this commercial due to the lack of advertising of the car itself, they rely on the humor of the misinterpretations to get people to remember key features about the car.

Aside from the commercial using indirect action and consumer advertising, this ad can also be considered viral. As mentioned earlier, this commercial relies on the viewer already having prior knowledge about Chevy, which allows them to put together commercials that are created purely to get the products name out there. Rather than spending the whole commercial advertising this specific model, they created this viral video to increase the awareness about the Chevy Cruze Eco.
2011 Chevy Cruze Eco
2011 Chevy Cruze Eco

The target audience of this ad is obviously viewers who are interested in purchasing a car that is more “eco” friendly, where they will be able to get more miles per gallon and leave less of a footprint. However, this advertisement picked up viewers who were out of the target audience who started to cause controversy over it. Complaints were filed about this specific advertisement saying that it is too stereotypical and that it has potential to offend elderly people, which it did. Since the whole idea of the commercial is created around getting facts about the car from the misinterpretations of the elderly people, many were offended by the fact that they are stereotyping old people for not being able to hear well. As a result, there is a demand for a public apology from Chevrolet, one that they have yet to give.

As a conclusion, there are several similarities as well as a few differences between the three car commercials. The first and most obvious, is that they all share humor. All three commercials use comedy at some point during the advertisements in order to get the viewer to remember specific features about the car. For example, the BMW commercial shows a truck driver coughing up smoke as well as a man driving a noisy car that looks to be a Volvo (one of BMW’s main competitors) that is releasing a dirty black smoke. The humor in this is used to emphasize that the new BMW uses a diesel engine that is more clean and quiet so it will not harm those who are around you. Furthermore, another similarity between the three is that they are all viral videos, as well as consumer advertising. The three car companies rely on the consumer to know who they are already, and as a result, they created ads that are promoting specific models to increase the awareness.

The idea that all three companies shared, as well as all of the other Super Bowl commercials, is the concept of reach. Although they are paying millions of dollars to have a short advertisement played during one of the biggest games of the year, they are reaching out and exposing their product to millions of viewers (111 million to be exact). Paying all that money for one thirty second commercial spot may sound a bit out of the ordinary, but it is the fact that people all over the world are going to see what your company has to offer.

One of the differences between the three commercials is that two of them relied on music to help set the tone of the ad, while one relied on verbal communication. In the background of the Volkswagen commercial, the infamous Imperial Death March is being played while the child dressed like Darth Vader tries to use the “force” to manipulate different objects. This sets a dark tone in the beginning that is then complimented with some comic relief at its conclusion. As for the BMW commercial, the David Bowie hit “Changes” is being played, signifying that BMW has made changes to this specific brand to make it less like the other automobiles that are shown. In the Chevy Eco Commercial, they rely on the misinterpretations of the elderly to set the comical tone of the ad. Once the viewer hears what it is that the senior citizens are misinterpret ting, they are then exposed to facts about the car that would spark some viewers interest.

A difference that sets the BMW commercial apart from the other two is that it denotes Volvo within the advertisement. Although it doesn’t actually have the Volvo logo present in the commercial, it has a dirty, beat-up car that is meant to portray a Volvo. Being that Volvo is one of BMW’s fierce competitors, they are attaching negative connotations with Volvo’s name which in turn makes BMW look like the better of the two companies. The other two commercials do not include any of their competitors’ products.

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works cited

Dominick, J. (2010). The Dynamics of Mass Communication. 11th Edition. New York: McGraw Hill.

Super Bowl XLV Commercials (February 7th, 2011). Retrieved February 13th, 2011,

Synder, Steven James. ( February 7th, 2011). The Best and Worst Super Bowl Commercials of 2011. Time.
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