The day after Volkswagen released its new Star Wars-related Super Bowl commercial on YouTube, the video catapulted to nearly 2 million views and took Twitter by surprise.
In comparison, VW's 2010 Super Bowl commercial, "Punch Bug," took about a year to reach 1 million views on YouTube, Brian Thomas, the company's general manager of brand marketing, said.
This year, VW wanted to capitalize on the media's fixation on advertising in the week before the game, he said.
"There's definitely merit to holding your creative back and using the element of surprise at the Super Bowl," Thomas said. "But we thought we had something unique."
Volkswagen's other Super Bowl commercial this year, "Black Beetle," reached less than 200,000 views on YouTube in the same time span. Even that figure is something Thomas said his team would have been ecstatic about before MiniVader went viral.
The "Force" commercial became one of Twitter's top five worldwide trending topics Thursday morning.
"This Vader spot has produced a response unlike any other I've seen, not just in the automotive category, but outside of the automotive category in recent years," Thomas said.
Marrying the Star Wars franchise to the Volkswagen brand has helped the car manufacturer to reach a whole new audience, Thomas said.
"It's really a powerful storm," he said. "You don't get any broader and more culturally powerful than Star Wars."
Many of the folks who have already responded to the ad have sons and daughters who "dress up as dark lords of the Sith," Thomas said.
LucasFilms, the company behind the space saga, was eager to help Volkswagen, he said.
Knowing that diehard fans would be criticizing every detail, the film company provided a "regulation suit" for the six-year-old boy playing MiniDarth in the commercial and gave consultation on set, he said.
"We did this to make as many people smile at once as we possibly could," Thomas added. "It's just something that has a lot of heart."
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Harrison Keely is an online breaking news producer for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He also anchors the daily newscast. He joined the Times Free Press as a reporter in 2010. He previously served as managing editor of the Smoky Mountain Sentinel in western North Carolina and as a business reporter for the Washington Times in Washington, D.C. He graduated from Lee University in 2009 where he served as managing editor of the student news ...