It’s Superbowl time on Sunday, and that means another raft of pretty awesome adverts is being released. Volkswagen got the jump on things today with their offering – “The Power of the Force meets the Passat”. It’s an awesome ad – and really connects with a generation who grew up on Star Wars. That’s Generation X (born in the 1970s and 80s).

I am one of the older Gen Xers, and remember as a primary school kid that we stopped playing “cowboys and indians” or “cops and robbers” and started playing “dark side, light side”. I have been a life long Star Wars fan (I even stand for the opening bars of the Star Wars theme tune – even in a public cinema!). Over Christmas, I introduced my pre-teen daughters to the joys of Star Wars (yes, I did start with episode 4), and am thrilled that they got into it. One of the highlights of my adult life was the evening after watching The Empire Strikes Back I went into each of my girls room, did my best Darth Vader impression and said, “I am your father” (PS – as all true Star Wars anoraks know, Vader never said, “Luke, I am your father”, he said, “No, I am your father”).

So, Volkswagen have got it spot on with their advert this year. They’re targeting Gen X, and tapping into a shared Gen X memory. And nearly 2 million YouTube hits in a day says they got it right.

This is the advert:

Volkswagen have a habit of doing this. They try and tap into generational values and shared memories. One of the all time best examples of this is a little known South African Volkswagen advert which was released over 20 years ago, but perfectly captured the Baby Boomer generation’s zeitgeist:

A part of me wishes I lived in a universe where the kid from the Boomer advert has grown up to be the father in the Vader ad. However they do it, Volkswagen has once again created an advert that (almost) perfectly connects with the 30-something generation of car owners.

I have to credit Penelope Trunk’s “Brazen Careerist” blog for starting this line of thinking for me. Read her musings on this advert at her blog, or an extract below:

This [advert] makes me happy to be part of Generation X. … It’s our heyday because Gen X values are front and center. And we’re about family. We don’t earn as much as Baby Boomers did because we work such fewer hours. We’ve downsized our careers to take care of our kids. We’ve taken back the dignity of working part-time. We’ve deconstructed stay-at-home parenting a respectful career alternative.

So I love this commercial because it captures the shared experience of Generation X. We like being home to make our kids peanut butter and jelly. You could not sell Baby Boomers with this. They think it’s lame to sit in a kitchen waiting for your kid to be hungry. We like having a male breadwinner and we’re not afraid to say it.

And we are surrounded by little boys in love with Star Wars.

When we look back, we will see that Gen X redefined family and work. We are the first generation that gave women a choice to do anything they want. So we’re the generation that reveals that what women really want is to be with their kids. Maybe not all the time. But more than men. That’s for sure.

The woman in the kitchen is not glamorous. She’s efficient, self-confident, and she knows what her child needs. She looks like she was vice-president-of-something before she had kids. And she appears to have managed to keep a marriage together, which is something Generation X works harder at than their parents did….

The moment at the end of the commercial is so intimate. The father knows his son so well that he can participate in the Darth Vader game that he hasn’t even been home to see unfolding. And as a husband he can talk to his wife with a raise of an eyebrow.

The family has a car that is not too expensive, but it does the job. That’s what I want from my life: Intimate, fun, and not too expensive. God bless Volkswagen.

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