The effort, in which people in 22 countries can play online games to vie for a chance at the SUV, is being backed by TV and Internet advertising, POP and events. Volvo, part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, recently chose Arnold Worldwide, Boston, and Nitro, London, as new AORs, replacing Euro RSCG.
The new campaign gives the winner of a series of online games a role in retrieving from the sea a treasure chest containing both the keys and $50,000 worth of gold.
Linda Gangeri, national advertising manager for Volvo Cars of North America, says the effort, launching May 4, is similar in cadence to last year's effort, the Volvo Amazing Race. Last year's effort, which also involved online gaming, culminated with a physical competitive treasure hunt for the buried SUV.
"Initially, there will be four weeks of online 'high seas'-themed adventure treasure hunts," she says, adding that over 10,000 people have registered already at volvocarsus.com/thehuntsignup. "And that's based largely on buzz."
She says the online games are a series of puzzles that get more difficult at each step. After the fourth puzzle, players must visit a Volvo dealership and retrieve a "pilot chart" treasure map with a secret code on it that enables players to continue. The next series of puzzles requires the use of the map to find the treasure within each game. "We want to engage consumers with the brand at dealerships and also engage them in a fun, online challenge," she says, adding that the games themselves are not infused with Volvo branding.
On May 30, per Gangeri, the first to complete the final puzzle within each of 22 participating countries is a finalist. Finalists then face off on June 2, with the winner of the game getting a trip to a final challenge: raising the cask from the depths.
"This year, because we have so many countries, we are narrowing it to a single winner online, then he or she will be flown to a secret location, where they will get an experience of the geographic area, and they will be trained to use special equipment to find the chest." Gangeri wouldn't say whether that equipment was a winch, deep-diving gear or a personal sub, but "[he or she] will be trained on it for half a day, then they will go out and work with the ship's crew to retrieve it."
She says a teaser campaign began yesterday on TV, with banner ads on Disney.com since March 17. A 30-second TV campaign launches May 4. Gangeri, who says Volvo got 52,000 participants last year to play the first iteration, says the goal was to create a different brand impression for Volvo, which has been identified with safety for decades. "One of the goals was to get people thinking differently about the brand. We are trying to get the product and brand exposed to a much larger audience of consumers who maybe wouldn't have considered the brand before."
She added that another change this year is that the consumers don't initially have to visit dealerships to get a code allowing game play. "Last year, to start the game you had to pick up the map initially at a dealership. This year, we decided to let people get engaged with the game first."
Volvo dealers have gotten POP kits that, per Gangeri, let them "piratize their showrooms."