By now, everyone has seen the Volkswagen Super Bowl commercial featuring Max Page as a pint-sized Darth Vader. You know, Max Page — the kid who plays Baby Reed on The Young and The Restless. You mean to tell me you don’t watch a little Y&R? Yeah, I don’t either, and I also hadn’t heard of him until the ad came out.
If you are one of the four people in the world who hasn’t seen this commercial yet, check it out here (first ad). The minute-long video features Page dressed in a Darth Vader costume trying (and failing) to use the Force on everything from his dog to the washing machine to his sandwich, with the Imperial March theme playing throughout in the background. When his father comes home in his shiny Volkswagen Passat, Page runs out not to greet him but to attempt to use the Force on the car. As he focuses all of his energy on it, the Passat suddenly starts.
The audience is quickly made aware that the car started not because of this little Vader’s supernatural abilities, but due to the father starting it remotely from the kitchen. Although Page is wearing a mask, you can imagine the look of surprise on his face as he turns in astonishment toward his parents. As I read online from one random commenter, the commercial managed to capture the spirit of Star Wars better than Lucas did in his last three prequels.
What many people don’t know is that Volkswagen used some of the Force itself with its social-media marketing — and that campaign may provide useful marketing lessons for attorneys. The company managed to not only create one of the most popular commercials during the Super Bowl, but also saved itself at least $3 million dollars in the process.
Is there any way lawyers could implement something similar?
Now, I’m not real big fan of “social media strategists,” mainly because they seem to come a dime a dozen nowadays. Make the wrong move, and you could end up like David Fuller on this website. I made a similar point a little over a month ago in a previous ATL post. But as far as marketing goes, Volkswagen’s use of social media was really well done.
A few days before the Super Bowl, Volkswagen leaked its ad for the Passat, with mini Darth Vader Max Page playing the lead role, on YouTube and other various sites. The commercial was quickly picked up by various news stations, and even displayed on the front page of Yahoo, which is where I saw it. My parents even saw it, and they aren’t exactly the most avid Web surfers.
Once the Volkswagen commerical finally aired, however, there was something different about it. It went much more quickly than I had remembered. In fact, the ad did not go for a minute but only 30 seconds.
Volkswagen had pulled off a coup of sorts. The company managed to get more than 10 million people to watch its minute-long ad, generating enough buzz that many people would anticipate seeing it during the Super Bowl, and then cut the ad’s time in half and played the shorter version during the game. Since a thirty-second spot during the Super Bowl ran for $3 million, Volkswagen saved itself another $3 million by playing just the thirty-second ad. The next day, as millions more would search the Internet looking for the commercials from the night before, they could see the ad in its entirety.
Something I neglected to mention in my post earlier this week about LegalTech was that news of social media was almost nowhere to be found, as a couple of bloggers noted. This was strange since social media featured so prominently in prior conferences. In fact, there were more panels on what to watch out for in social media than there were on how to use it as an effective marketing tool. This makes sense, since social media has entered some dangerous territory when it comes to the law. But it’s also somewhat unfortunate, especially considering the availability of so many social media resources online for lawyers to use.
So, I began to wonder, what are the lessons learned from what Volkswagen accomplished, and how could they apply to the legal industry? How could a lawyer maximize his/her publicity for a minimal amount of cost? How could this translate to lawyer advertising, whether it be about a certain niche, qualification, or accomplishment? And how would that be executed (besides needing $3 million for a Super Bowl commercial)?
Here are a few lessons that I drew from the Volkswagen campaign:
1. Be creative. Last year, I mentioned the legal technology company logik on my blog. They have always come up with the craziest marketing ideas, but that is what sets them apart. Their latest venture back in October was to create their own wine. Yes, wine. It was a Red Zinfandel called “Redaction” named for both “red action” and the term redaction (withholding of privileged material). That’s just one idea that I thought really stood out among their marketing campaigns.
2. Keep it simple. When most Super Bowl ad makers were getting CGI-happy, Volkswagen chose to keep it simple. They also chose to cut their original commercial in half to save the extra dollars.
3. Take advantage of what’s free. Most attorneys use *shock* blogs to market their abilities. But there are other outlets as well. Volkswagen took advantage of a ton of free media prior to the Super Bowl. Most lawyers I know that promote themselves via the Internet use a variety of sources. Most use the three most popular formats: blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. But there are others who use Tumblr, StumbleUpon, YouTube and other websites.
4. If possible, center your marketing around an event. Obviously, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest events in the world, but there are a million events and conferences around which a firm or a lawyer can develop a marketing strategy. For example, there is the Association of Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting and numerous ABA meetings for pretty much any area of the law.
A funny example: Although I personally would not recommend anyone doing something similar in Biglaw, I have always gotten a kick out of this ad from DivorceEZ. It certainly gets your attention and is very well-targeted toward a particular audience.
I am not suggesting that some law firm will be putting together a Super Bowl commercial anytime soon. But lawyers and law firms might benefit from thinking more like the marketers at Volkswagen did in this instance.
Gabe Acevedo is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and the publisher of the e-discovery blog GabesGuide.com. His articles on legal technology and discovery issues appear regularly on Above The Law. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter.