VW to feature finicky German engineers in Super Bowl spot

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Volkswagen’s motto in the U.S. market is “The Power of German Engineering” and with its upcoming Super Bowl spot, the German brand intends to show just how quality-obsessed its German engineers can be.

Volkswagen of America said today it has bought a 60-second spot during the second quarter of the Feb. 2 broadcast of the NFL's championship game. It will mark the fifth straight year the VW brand has advertised during America’s most watched advertising event.

Some of the key characters in the spot will be actual German engineers, not actors, said Justin Osborne, general manager of marketing communications at Volkswagen of America.

The point of the advertisement, he said, will be showing how their “obsessiveness about making cars perfect can be a little funny.”

The advertisement will feature the whole VW lineup rather than a single model, but with an emphasis on the Passat sedan. VW has featured the iconic Beetle in its last two Super Bowl spots, and three of the past four; executives felt it was time for a change.

“We’re not Beetled out, but we’ve done enough of it,” Osborne said. “Passat is a beautiful, mainstream car that not everybody knows that we make. If we keep focusing on Beetle, it starts to narrow or actually reinforce perceptions of the brand. We want to show that we have got a strong, mid-sized player.”

Having a strong marketing presence during Super Bowl Sunday has become a major emphasis for the VW brand in recent years.

Executives would love to repeat the success of their 2011 advertisement, "The Force," which featured a young boy dressed up as Darth Vader from the movie “Star Wars.” It has been watched more than 50 million times on YouTube.com.

Last year VW drew attention with an ad that featured a presumably white, American office worker speaking in a faux Jamaican accent and urging his coworkers to cheer up.

A few commentators in the media said they considered the use of the accent to be offensive, but prominent Jamaicans and the Jamaican government embraced the spot.

Osborne said that VW has not decided whether to release this year’s advertisement before the Super Bowl or let it be a surprise.

The brand is also preparing teasers, he said, but they will not be simply more video; the goal is a multi-channel release with more “utility and interaction with consumers.”

The rollout of teaser material will begin in mid-January.

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com.

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