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TheStreet Open House

2012 Super Bowl Commercials: Sneak Preview (Update 1)

Volkswagen
Either Volkswagen really doesn't know how to do Super Bowl ads or has stumbled across the absolute best way to squeeze the most out of their $7 million.

VW has spent much of the playoffs running its teaser ad featuring a pack of dogs barking Darth Vader's imperial march from Star Wars. Weeks later, though, it's now about as novel as Singing Dogs' Jingle Bells is on Christmas Eve after a solid two months of play on all-holiday radio.

Just before the big game, however, Volkswagen debuted its epic 60-second, two-part spot and took away any element of surprise it may have had. We now know the dog getting back in shape to chase the new 2012 Volkswagen Beetle is playing straight man to the commercial's Star Wars punch line, as it ends with Darth Vader nearly choking out a critic of last year's VW commercial in the Mos Eisley cantina.

Two big problems here. The first is that unlike Super Bowl veterans such as Anheuser-Busch, which guards its ads like state secrets, VW gives away the goods early just about every year. What exactly is a consumer anticipating come game day? The second is that, well, Star Wars is showing some age. Folks born when it came out are heading to the dark side of their 30s and those alive to see it in its first release are already facing a Gen-X-targeted assault of Ferris Bueller references, Echo and the Bunnymen songs and Madonna on game day. According to brand tracking firm Collective Intellect, this is having the unintended effect of making Gen-Y consumers wonder why companies are bombarding them with '80s references instead of using something a bit more relatable.

In VW's eyes, it's working. Sales were up 26% last year -- already the company's best U.S. sales year since 2003 -- and the new Passat featured in last year's commercial saw sales skyrocket 124% during the same span. Considering all the Gen-X and Gen-Y '90s nostalgists driving a 54% spike in Jetta sales, VW may want to stay the course with its commercials and continue to host '80s night on its own schedule.

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