'The Bark Side' Tells Of Super Bowl Ads To Come

Jan 22, 2012
Originally published on January 23, 2012 4:47 am

Say you're the ad agency behind last year's most memorable Super Bowl commercial — a spot for Volkswagen in which a little boy, dressed as Darth Vader, starts his Dad's new Passat with the Force.

The ad was a huge success. The little boy became an overnight star, the ad won several awards, and today it's been viewed online almost 50 million times.

The ad achieved all that success because the agency behind it, Deutsch LA, did something revolutionary in the ad world: It put the spot on the Web a week before the big game.

"People were even more excited about waiting to see [the ad] during the game because of that," says Mark Hunter, chief creative officer at Deutsch LA.

But its success came with a problem. This year, any agency worth its salt is pre-releasing its Super Bowl ad.

"It's totally de rigueur now," Hunter says. "You have to pre-release your spot. You'd be mad not to. And our thinking was, well, you know, we need to remain one step ahead of the game here."

So they took that iconic Star Wars music and added dogs.

The result is a perfect viral recipe. Cute pets, Star Wars and instant re-watchability as you look for an edit or a clue to how it was done. Hunter says the dogs were shot individually, then looped and edited together into one composite shot. But their barks are the real thing — no Auto-Tune.

"We simply got as many facial expressions as we could visually and had them bark as many times as they could as many different ways, and an editor wound up stitching all the sounds together," he says. "Those are the real dog barks, absolutely."

One thing that's not as it seems: This ad isn't really an ad. It's a teaser for Volkswagen's Super Bowl campaign, which will also include ads pre-released online closer to the big game.

That's right. An ad. For more ads. For an ad.

"This really is a creative arms race when it comes to the Super Bowl," Hunter says. "We know that a lot of the competition who were just waiting — and maybe even thinking that they would pre-release four days ahead instead of three days — have now seen this thing out a full two weeks in advance."

Lexus and Samsung are among the handful of companies with teaser campaigns this year. The endgame? Will ads for ads for ads keeping coming earlier and earlier every year?

"It's a valid question," Hunter says." "I wish I could tell you we have that answer right now, but I can certainly promise you we will 12 months from now."

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

And speaking of dogs...

(SOUNDBITE OF BARKING)

RAZ: This is a new ad by an agency behind last year's most memorable Super Bowl commercial.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2011 VOLKSWAGEN SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL)

RAZ: A spot for Volkswagen where a little boy dressed as Darth Vader starts his dad's new Passat...

(SOUNDBITE OF 2011 VOLKSWAGEN SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL)

RAZ: ...using the Force.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2011 VOLKSWAGEN SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL)

RAZ: Well, not actually, because the car has a remote start feature. But the ad was a huge success. The little boy became an overnight star. And today, that ad's been viewed online almost 50 million times. It's all in part because the agency behind it, it's called Deutsche LA, did something revolutionary in the ad world. They put it on the Web a week before the game.

MARK HUNTER: People were even more excited about waiting to see it, you know, in the game because of that, and of course, you know, all the online chatter and buzz it generated.

RAZ: Mark Hunter is the chief creative director at Deutsch LA. He says right now, any agency worth its salt is pre-releasing their ads.

HUNTER: Absolutely. It's totally de rigueur now. I mean, you have to pre-release your spot. You'd be mad not to. And our thinking was, well, you know, we need to remain one step ahead of the game here. What can we do?

RAZ: Well...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

(SOUNDBITE OF BARKING)

RAZ: That's where the dogs come in.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2012 VOLKSWAGEN SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL TEASER)

RAZ: You can watch this video online. It's about 15 dogs in a room, all different shapes and sizes wearing little "Star Wars" outfits barking "The Imperial March." And although the dogs were shot separately and then looped and edited together, Mark Hunter swears their barks were not auto-tuned.

HUNTER: We simply got as many facial expressions as we could visually and had them bark as many times as they could as many different ways, and an editor wound up stitching all the sounds together. But no, that's not artificial. Those are the real dog barks, absolutely.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2012 VOLKSWAGEN SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL TEASER)

RAZ: And what does this have to do with Volkswagen? Not a whole lot.

(SOUNDBITE OF 2012 VOLKSWAGEN SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL TEASER)

RAZ: The logo just flashes very briefly at the end. The thing is, this ad, it's actually an online teaser for another ad, one they'll also pre-release online before the Super Bowl. So it's an ad for an ad for an ad.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HUNTER: I mean, this really is a creative sort of arms race when it comes to the Super Bowl. We know that a lot of the competition who were just waiting - and maybe even thinking that they would pre-release four days ahead instead of three day have now seen, you know, this thing out a full two weeks in advance.

RAZ: We asked Mark Hunter if this is the wave of the future, if this is the way ad agencies will operate from now on.

HUNTER: I wish I could tell you we have that answer right now, but I certainly can promise you we will 12 months from now. It's a yearlong Super Bowl ad next year. It will run a second a day, 365 days.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RAZ: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.