You don’t need to sell anyone at Tor.com on Star Wars. But the current crop of Star Wars commercials being rolled out for The Force Awakens are doing a surprisingly good job of tapping into our nostalgia. While we all grew up with ads for the original and prequel trilogy action figures, Taco Bell meal toys, and inexplicable Shadows of the Empire marketing (“It’s Prince Xizor!” …So?), they were all heavy on the merchandising. And yes, the new ads are for Campbell’s Soup, and Target, and Volkswagon, but they’re imbued with a genuine sense of family. The Star Wars advertising of decades past was directed at whatever age group was old enough for it at that time; these commercials are about legacy, the Star Wars fandom passed down through generations.
Here are a few of the recent commercials that have warmed our Hoth-frozen hearts… plus some vintage ones thrown in for extra WTF factor.
I hate most manipulative advertising, but I’ll cop to being impressed with the latest round of Star Wars ads; they do a great job of showing the multi-generational appeal of the series, and focus on sharing it, rather than jealously guarding it. But even so, a commercial for a battery is never the first thing I’d expect to put on my list. Then I spotted this gem somewhere on the Internet, and my insides melted into a gooey puddle.
For starters, C-3PO and R2-D2 showing up in my room to help me save the galaxy was pretty much the only dream I had at the age of ten. The encouragement from the parents is endearing as all get-out. But really, it’s about the finish; the narrative appears to be about this little boy saving his sister, only to find that she doesn’t need any saving whatsoever. Brother and sister play Star Wars together and kick the butts of all bad guys everywhere. I’m not saying that there have never been Star Wars commercials that featured boys and girls, but one that features a girl who is such a total boss, and never gets made fun of for loving Star Wars as much as her brother? That’s something that would have meant the world to me when I was at a tender age.
And then there’s this Underoos commercial… because nothing assures you of the coolness of Boba Fett quite so well as his posing with underwear-modeling preteens, right? I mean, right?
Sorry, I know it’s not heartwarming. I’d just feel bad if this list didn’t haunt your dreams a little bit.
My favorite ad in recent memory happens to be a Star Wars ad. It isn’t an ad for the toys, or a real working BB-8, or a new lightsaber, it’s a simple advertisement for Campbell’s Soup. I love it for a couple of reasons. First, my mom and I used to have soup almost every night for dinner when I was very small, so Campbell’s tends to call up some sort of Prousto-Warholian associations for me. Second, after hearing countless variations on the classic “Luke, I am your father” moment, and seeing tons of compilations of kids’ reactions to that moment, it was wonderful to see the line put into a new context. Plus, the two dads in the ad have just been voted People’ Sexiest Pitchmen Alive, and the controversy around the ad gave Stephen Colbert an excuse for a great bit on The Late Show.
My other favorite Star Wars ad is a little more vintage:
That Wampa just straight up murdered that Tauntaun. This was considered solid marketing for a children’s toy. The ’80s were a different time.
Leah got to the Campbell’s Soup commercial before I did! And to be honest, I forgot what product it was even for, which according to my dad (an advertising executive) means it wasn’t that effective of a commercial. Clearly, what stuck with me more was the father/child bonding, since my advertiser dad was the one who introduced me to Star Wars in the first place. To that end, I nominate the Toys ‘R Us commercial with the dad trying to get his reluctant daughter into Star Wars. Members of my family have the tendency to excitedly want to share something they love with other people, to the point where we have trouble discerning when someone else just isn’t interested. And even though the ending of this is kinda cheesy (and the Campbell’s commercial is a far better use of the “I am your father” trope), the overall story is still sweet.
Then there’s this Superbowl ad from 2011:
Little Natalie definitely didn’t sit up in bed concentrating on her open door and trying to move it with the Force, nope. She wouldn’t relate to this commercial at all.
I’m being told this isn’t a Star Wars commercial, but whatever.