Volvo Revisits Emerging Media in “March Madness” Ads

In another validation for the newest interactive media formats, Swedish automaker Volvo is reprising last year’s efforts by again turning to interactive TV, rich media and wireless ads in a marketing push during the NCAA “March Madness” basketball playoffs.

On Thursday, Irvine, Calif.-based Volvo Cars of North America began running basketball-themed television spots that promote the Volvo S60 while encouraging visits to Volvo’s Web site. The ads pose questions — “So what do you think? Good offense or good defense?” — and ask viewers to weigh in at volvocars.com/questions.

The ads also promote a sweepstakes with a grand prize of a new S60, for which visitors can register at the site. They’re also invited to register for more information on Volvo’s automobiles.

The automaker also said it plans to run similarly themed ads across major Web portals and sports sites including AOL Time Warner’s America Online, Microsoft’s MSN, Yahoo , and CBS Sportsline.com . Ads and sponsored polls running across these sites aim to drive sweepstakes registrations.

Using formats developed by streaming media ad firms Unicast, Bluestreak and Klipmart, several online executions will repurpose the campaign’s first TV spot, “One-on-One.”

Meanwhile, some digital cable viewers will also be offered a chance to enter into the Volvo sweepstakes while watching ESPN. Throughout the cable network’s “March Madness” coverage, interactive TV firm Wink Interactive will embed links to NCAA content, accessible via remote control. During commercial breaks, links will offer sign-ups for the sweepstakes.

In an effort to reach wireless users, Volvo is working with content provider AvantGo, to create a special Volvo-branded NCAA news and information channel for personal digital assistants. Additionally, Volvo said it had purchased ads promoting the sweepstakes on another PDA service, city guide Vindigo. Both AvantGo and Vindigo will highlight Volvo in their email newsletters. Volvo also said it would be sponsoring SMS-based “March Madness” updates.

The campaign continues Volvo’s “Road to the Volvo S60” effort, which it ran during last year’s NCAA playoffs. Like the current promotion, “Road” was centered on an integrated, emerging interactive media campaign.

Both efforts stand as relative rarities among recent advertising campaigns by major brands, with only a handful of top advertisers having experimented with emerging media like interactive TV. Fewer still have rolled out campaigns tying in wireless, iTV and online executions.

“The success of our 2001 promotion led to an even more comprehensive campaign this year,” said Phil Bienert, manager of CRM, e-business and future product strategy at Volvo Cars of North America. “As new technologies emerge, likely Volvo owners are among the first to adopt them. Our experience has shown that, by combining all these media touchpoints, we create opportunities to opt in and begin engaging in a substantive dialogue with Volvo and its products.”

As with the previous effort, the ads were designed by Volvo’s agency of record, Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer Euro RSCG. Again, MVBMS and its integrated marketing unit, FUEL North America, worked with New York-based convergent media production firm Cylo.

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