Anatomy Of A Cannes Contender: Volkswagen The Force

As Cannes judges shortlist their Lions, we talk with creatives about the key decisions that helped them transform their visions into award-worthy campaigns. Here’s how Deutsch L.A. EVP/Group Creative Director Michael Kadin used a Super Bowl spot for Volkswagen to create a great disturbance in The Force.

Anatomy Of A Cannes Contender: Volkswagen The Force
kid Vader


Let’s be honest. The Super Bowl isn’t as super as it’s supposed to be as a showcase of the ad industry’s best work. Too many agencies go for the tried and true formula and end up creating a lot of predictable pap.

This year there were a few refreshing exceptions, and one true blockbuster. Deutsch L.A. made a risky move by launching its Super Bowl ad before the game. It paid off in sheer audience numbers (40 million views, more than any other Super Bowl entry). And it’s certainly stuck in hearts and minds.
The spot features a tiny Darth Vader whose dark Force fizzles until he meets the VW Passat (and an attentive dad). Under the direction of Lance Acord, the spot landed with just the right level of cuddliness and appealed to a huge cross section of the Super Bowl-watching public.

Here, Michael Kadin, EVP, Group Creative Director, Deutsch L.A. talks about the five decisions that allowed the agency to harness this Force.

1. Avoid aliens and fart jokes at all costs

The Super Bowl is usually a forum to be outrageous and hyperbolic. We wanted to be loud by being quiet, so we created a spot that was simple, human, and cool, the exact same qualities that the Volkswagen brands stand for.

2. Hire Lance Acord

On paper, we felt we had a wonderful little human story. The challenge was finding a director that could, without the aid of dialogue, bring the story to life. The car and spot also had to look absolutely beautiful. Luckily, there’s Lance, who has an absolute command of both.

3. Give art and commerce a fair fight

With over 100 million people watching the game, and the cost to buy a spot, clients often defer to the “Just do something crazy that will get us noticed” mentality. We wanted to make sure we struck the right balance of showcasing the product and being entertaining and engaging.


4. Create an idea with a longer shelf life than a gallon of milk

We set out to write a story of enduring interest and not something that was some topical, vapid happening in the world. I think this commercial resonated with so many people, because kids want to be this boy and parents want to be those parents.

5. Make pop culture by tapping into pop culture

Star Wars
is one of the few cultural touchstones that nearly everyone in the world has a relationship with. We needed to turn that into something new and uniquely ownable to Volkswagen.

Read More About The Cannes Lions 2011

About the author

Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Co.Create. She was previously the editor of Advertising Age’s Creativity, covering all things creative in the brand world