Volkswagen is one of the leading advertisers that leverage TV and movie references in their campaigns. In fact, it is quite popular in the car industry in general, with most of the major manufacturers having done the same at one point or another. Usually this means a big media spend, many have launched during Superbowl and other major events. Here are 7 examples of car commercials that leverage clip licensing.

Mini Villain

Year: 2011
Client: Volkswagen
Creative Agency:  Donny Deutsch Advertising Inc.
TV/Movie: Star Wars

For those who aim to create a viral commercial, this is the one to beat. The spot appeared on YouTube a week before debuting on TV, achieving an overnight view count of over 1 million and over 8 million by the time it aired on TV. It held the record for the most shared ad of all time. Today it has over 60 million views and is considered one of the greatest commercials in recent history.

Also featured in 8 Star Wars Clip Licensing Commercials

Spock vs. Spock

Year: 2013
Client: Audi
Creative Agency: PMK*BNC and Paulilu
TV/Movie: Star Trek

‘New Spock’ Zachary Quinto and ‘Original Spock’ Leonard Nimoy team up in this spot which cleverly appeals to Star Trek fans, but refrains from ignoring the non-fans by making subtle references to the show.

Dirty Mercedes

Year: 2014
Client: Mercedes
Creative Agency: Lukas Lindemann Rosinski.
TV/Movie: Dirty Dancing

Here is a great example of how a TV show or movie can be leveraged without existing footage, character likeness or memorable phrases. Developed for the German market, we see the sexual chemistry in Dirty Dancing recreated by a car and a truck. Sounds weird . . . and it is a bit, but its very well done.

Futuristic Ghostbusters

Year: 2009
Client: Citroën
Creative Agency: Euro RSCG Paris
TV/Movie: Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters of the future drive the new Citroën C3 Picasso, The Spacebox! A remix of the iconic Ghostbusters theme is heard as our heroes disassemble and fit all of the monster in the car boot!

I’ll Have What She’s Having

Year: 2010
Client: Volkswagen
Creative Agency: Adam&EveDDB
TV/Movie: When Harry Met Sally

This spot was put together as part of their ‘See Films Differently’ campaign, developed to show their support of independent cinema. The theme is famous movie locations and here we see Katz’s Deli in New York’s Lower East Side. This is where Meg Ryan famously er . . . faked it.

Soup for You!

Year: 2012
Client: Honda
Creative Agency: Mullen
TV Show: Seinfeld

Although only appearing in 2 out of 180 episodes, the Soup Nazi is one of the most memorable characters from Seinfeld. His catchphrase ‘No Soup for You!’ is one of the most iconic from the series. In this commercial for Honda, Jerry Seinfeld tries to leverage the appeal of the Soup Nazi’s soup when negotiating to get his hands on the first Honda Acura.

Also featured in 6 TV Characters that have Returned in Commercials


Year: 2008
Client: Audi
Creative Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
TV/Movie: The Godfather

This is another one that launched during Superbowl, at a cost of US$2.6m per 30 seconds. Over 97 million people were watching Superbowl that year and the feedback received was that this was one of the best of the year.