Volvo goes from "safe" to "cool"

Volvo, known for decades as the "safe" car, is riding on the coat tails of pop culture in their new ad campaigns for the S40, in order to portray a "cool" image and to reach their target audience. First they did a spoof in Europe of the "mystery of Dalaro," and a spoof within a spoof regarding Carlos Soto, the fake director of the mockumentary (the ad was directed by Spike Jonze).

Now, in the US, a mock-hip-hop video style ad featuring L.L. Cool J has hit the airwaves, along with another spot which is a cross-promo with XBOX. The first ad is directed by music video director Dave Meyers, features the music of Dilated Peoples, and L.L. Cool J as a spokesman.

The second ad is video from the new, not-yet-released video game Rallisport Challenge 2 by XBOX. It features music from Atlas Plug titled "2 Days or Die" composed/produced by Tom Salta. You can listen to a music clip of the song featured in the ad here.

(Keep on reading...there's more) has an article that devels into the campaign as a whole.

The marketing campaign is multi-faceted, covering television, movie theaters, magazines, billboards, the Internet, direct mail, partnerships with Virgin Megastores and Bloomingdale's, and even video games.

The television aspect of the campaign will focus on national cable stations such as Comedy Central, E!, ESPN, The Learning Channel and VH1. It will also include TV ads in Volvo's top 20 markets on prime time shows such as CSI, Friends, Alias, Third Watch, ED and Will & Grace. In May, at the start of summer, ads will also be seen in movie theaters across the nation.

Magazines are an important part of the print launch strategy. Ads will appear in publications that are essential to young and diverse audiences, with genres that reflect lifestyles, entertainment, pop culture, sports and technology. Those magazines include, among others, Details, Entertainment Weekly, In Style, Marie Claire, Vanity Fair and Wired.

The Volvo web presence started in September of last year and the online media campaign began in January with a "Four Friends, For Life" promotion where people can sign up to win an all-new Volvo S40 and trip for themselves and three friends to their fantasy destination. The online advertising media placements are the first of their kind in the automotive industry, with advertising designed to reach the all-new Volvo S40 target consumer, not just on automotive sites, but also where they are spending time online -- on travel sites, social sites, such as Friendster and, and other special interest sites, like Daily Candy, Time Out and Atom Films.

A DVD mailer to 500,000 potential customers supplements the online campaign. The interactive DVD features product highlights, an exclusive "behind the scenes" video of the filming of the all-new Volvo S40 music video, and previews of other all-new Volvo S40 launch activities.

VCNA has also started a relationship with Virgin Megastores and are offering day and nighttime drive sessions, coupled with live performances by the hot new recording artist Gavin DeGraw -- an industry first. One lucky participant will win a trip with their friends to the EuroRock concert on Virgin Atlantic, backstage passes and an all-new Volvo S40.

And Bloomingdale's customers will have a chance to win an all-new Volvo S40 through a sweepstakes designed around the ultimate weekend getaway with friends -- along with high-end premiums designed to make those getaways unforgettable. The all-new Volvo S40 will be on display in Bloomingdale's stores around the United States starting March 11.

Why such a big campaign?

"It's not enough to just reach people with a campaign," says Thomas Andersson, VCNA Executive Vice President, Marketing. "We want to go beyond that and touch and move people as well. The campaign is surprising, refreshing and cool, yet reassuringly Volvo at the same time. The tone we are using is youthful and confident, but not arrogant. With this campaign we will show that Volvo can be sexy and fun."

In addition, reports on the reasons for these two specific ads:
"The scenarios were selected because they were two areas of pop culture that fetishized cars the most, said Kevin Roddy, executive creative director and partner at the New York agency. RalliSport game developers created footage for the video game commercial, and music video director Dave Meyers directed the music video-style spot. The latter was shot in Barcelona, Spain, and features music from hip-hop group Dilated Peoples. Ernest Lupinacci served as art director and copywriter on the campaign."

It will be interesting to see how successful this whole campaign is with the 20-30somethings. It's hard to believe that Volvo has strayed away from their USP that has set them apart from all other automakers. I find it surprising that they haven't built upon that, instead of throwing it away and ignoring it. A campaign that said it was cool to be safe might have been a better way to go, rather than just cool on it's own.