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Super Bowl ad mania kicks off with a commercial for a commercial

January 19, 2012 |  8:34 pm

More than two weeks before the big game, buzz is beginning to build around what advertisements are going to kick off during the Super Bowl.

One prominent ad agency -- Deutsch LA, the Marina del Rey firm that does the creative work for Volkswagen -- has set a particularly high bar for clever Super Bowl spots. Last year it rolled out "The Force," a heart-warming commercial that featured a little boy dressed as Darth Vader who used his "powers" to start his parents' VW Passat. 

"The Force" immediately became a fan favorite. Over the last year, the VW Super Bowl commercial has attracted nearly 50 million views online and won several prestigious advertising awards.

VIDEO TIMELINE: Best Super Bowl commercials

So how does the agency top that?  This week, VW and Deutsch LA took the unusual step of releasing a "teaser" ad for its upcoming Super Bowl spot. "The Bark Side" is a commercial for the upcoming VW Super Bowl commercial.  

The teaser spot continues in the "Star Wars" theme with a menagerie of canines that bark the "Imperial Death March," the ominous tones that introduce Darth Vader. The howling and barking dogs sport various outfits from the sci-fi sensation. 

The teaser has attracted more than 1 million views since going online Wednesday night.

"It's trending faster than 'The Force' did, and this isn't even a Super Bowl ad," Mike Sheldon, chief executive of Deutsch LA, said in an interview.

The stakes are incredibly high for Super Bowl commercials. This year, companies are paying an average of $3.5 million for 30 seconds of advertising time in the big game, which NBC will televise Feb. 5.  Instant polls put additional pressure on the agencies to come up with catchy ads. 

"The Super Bowl is one of the most effective advertising platforms you can have, and it has become more competitive than ever," Sheldon said. "'The Bark Side' was our way to try to stay one step ahead and trump the 70 other advertisers who will be in the Super Bowl. We wanted to get people talking about Volkswagen."

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-- Meg James

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