Volkswagen's Chattanooga-made Passat is front and center in the automaker's new Super Bowl commercial as the company hearkens back to a scene from the classic film "It's a Wonderful Life" to showcase German engineering.
The commercial shows VW engineers sprouting wings at often comedic moments every time a VW achieves 100,000 miles on the road.
A father driving a black Passat tells his daughter about the wings -- a reference to a scene in the classic Christmas movie in which a character says, "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."
Jeff Sayen, Volkswagen of America's advertising manager, said the ad hits on "a special moment" between a father and daughter.
"What we really wanted to do is talk about the claim that Volks-wagen has the most vehicles than any brand with 100,000 miles," he said. "We wanted to bring that to life -- human stories told simply, and to have a humorous tone."
The ad is a sharp contrast between the angelic winged engineers and the mini-Darth Vader which VW used effectively a few years ago when it introduced the made-in-America Passat.
Sayen said the Super Bowl, which is set for a Sunday kickoff, is a special two-week period for advertisers. It's the fourth year in which VW has released its Super Sunday commercial before the game.
Advertising Age reports that 30-second commercials on the Fox network during the Super Bowl are priced at more than $4 million this year and 60-second ads, like the one that VW is showing now on YouTube, cost far more.
"It's a unique period in which people are actively searching out advertisements" that go with the game., Sayen said. "What better way to take advantage of that participation."
Addressing some complaints about VW advertising that it's too focused on promoting the broad brand in America, Sayen said that's something officials are evaluating. Using the big platform the Super Bowl offers provides a chance to talk about the brand and to make sure it's the one for the viewers, he said.
Later in the year, VW will look at presenting more vehicle targeted messaging, Sayen said.
In addition to the Passat, the commercial shows the Passat CC and the Tiguan sport utility vehicle.
Rebecca Frank, creative services director for WDSI Fox61, said the Super Bowl has a definite positive impact on the Chattanooga station in terms of revenue.
"Locally, we see quite a bit of a bump," she said. "Advertisers want to be in the game."
Frank said the station, in addition to running national ads, also gets a number of "local units" of time in which it can run spots. She said she didn't know how much revenue the Super Bowl would generate for the station, but that the game is a big draw.
"We're expecting a big bump in viewership as well," Frank said.
Vinay Shahani, vice president of marketing at Volkswagen of America, said the game is a unique chance for the automaker to entertain tens of millions of people.
"We are thrilled with this year's creative, which highlights the enthusiasm around our brand and our vehicles' German engineering in a humorous spot that embodies the Volkswagen spirit," he said in a statement.
The commercial was developed by Argonaut, a San Francisco-based creative agency.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com at 423-757-6318.