Volvo, a car brand that Ford will spin off to Chinese automaker Geely next year, is launching an ad campaign for its C70 and C30 cars. The effort, via Boston-based Arnold Worldwide, posits the cars as vehicles for open-minded folks who don't mind switching partners now and then. Media for the campaign was by Euro RSCG 4D for online advertising and MPG/Media Contacts for media planning and buying.
The first ad launched in January, and the second will hit the waves in February on cable and in cinema. National print support for the C30 will begin appearing in April publications.
The ads, under Volvo's new brand campaign -- "There's more to life than a Volvo. That's why you drive one" -- posits Volvo as a vehicle for those who live a rich, varied life. This campaign features music from Swedish artists Petter and Miss Li. The ads are also distinctly European in flavor and setting.
One of the two TV spots has a pair of C30 Volvos driving through a European town center, one in Orange Flame and driven by a younger driver who is listening to rock and the other driven by a young metro-sexual professional type who is listening to classical music. A hipster notices the young guy's car, and both cars finally end up at a stop light side by side. The two drivers look at each other, nod imperceptibly and take off in different directions.
The ad for the C70 is a risqué play on how switching partners is a bit like switching the convertible's roof configuration. Two identical, burgundy-hued, versions of the car are parked next to each other. A handsome guy gets out of one and heads into a shop, leaving the two cars parked, with a beautiful woman in the passenger seat of each. The girls eye each other then spontaneously retract the roofs and begin tossing shirts, hats and sunglasses to each other, basically switching their appearances, and finally closing the roofs again. The guy returns, gets into the wrong car and drives off with the wrong girl, who, when last we see her, seems thrilled with the switch. A second guy comes out of a coffee place and pauses, possibly noticing that the girl in his Volvo is now a blonde.
Volvo, which sells 10 variations of its S, V, C and XC cars, wagons and crossovers in the U.S., sold 5,638 vehicles, a 13.8% improvement over December 2008. Year-to-date, Volvo sales are down 16% versus 2008, which wouldn't be so bad if Volvo hadn't seen 2008 sales plummet. "They had already taken a huge hit in 2008, so 2009 didn't look too bad," says Todd Turner, president of L.A.-based auto firm Car Concepts. "The biggest issue they have is packaging value back into the product. People are not perceiving value with Volvo right now."
Turner says Volvo has at least partly abandoned its brand equity. "They had this incredible brand identity around safety that they have somewhat squandered," he says. "They keep trying to explain to people they could be other things too, that safety doesn't have to be boring. Safety is a price of entry now for automakers, but safety is also the number-one item on peoples' shopping list, still." He argues that Volvo needs clear, concise, simple, honest messaging on that brand promise and on value. "That's what the brand is supposed to be. If they stuck with those things, they would continue to draw new people."
The company last year introduced a technology in its XC crossover that automatically applies brakes at low speeds to prevent back-end collisions when traffic is gnarly.
"That's the kind of technology that they should be focused on, that shows they are still pushing the envelope, that they are still on the cutting edge of safety research," says Turner.