Volvo Taps Emerging Media in Car Promotion

Seemingly working to up the ante after its online-only launch of a new car last fall, Volvo Cars of North America debuted a new promotion on Thursday designed to continue the effort using several forms of emerging media.

The Rockleigh, N.J.-based auto manufacturer earlier had hinted to internetnews.com’s Internet Advertising Report in January that it was “in talks” to continue with a Web or emerging media element in the launch of its S60 sedan. Apparently, those talks have resulted in a new campaign combining interactive TV, wireless devices and email.

For the new effort, Volvo’s old team of agency-of-record Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG and MVBMS’s integrated marketing communications unit FUEL North America worked with New York-based emerging media producer Cylo.

The resulting work, dubbed “The Road to the Volvo S60,” builds off of Volvo’s existing presence as a sponsor of the NCAA basketball tournament to encourage potential customers to register for contests and get more information on the S60.

A new S60 TV spot, aimed at driving viewers to enter the contest through Volvo’s Web site, will begin airing with CBS’s March Madness game coverage, and will run through the Championship.

CBS Sportsline.com will host banner ads that linking to a specially created Volvo “microsite.” In addition to registering users, the microsite will give information on the Volvo S60 and links to Volvo’s online car configuration Web page.

A special arrangement with Microsoft’s WebTV will include interactive Volvo ads and banners across the WebTV service, which will allow WebTV users to enter the S60 contest. The work also includes a promotional video for the S60 that runs during log-in.

Volvo’s agencies also developed a full-color promotional video that will run on PacketVideo’s PVPlayer software for PocketPC-based PDAs. Users of other PDAs and WAP-enabled devices can also access a Volvo-sponsored NCAA contest through mobile versions of CBS Sportsline.com and Go2.com. Volvo will also deliver sponsored SMS messages to users who register at these sites for NCAA updates.

Each entry into the contest will be confirmed via a personalized, rich media email, which will invite entrants to visit the S60’s flagship site, revolvolution.com. Revolvoution.com also includes additional contests that encourage visitors to register and “enter into a dialogue with Volvo,” the company said.

For instance, filling out a survey registers a user into a drawing for tickets and a trip to the “Final Four” in Minneapolis on March 31.

The winner of the Volvo S60 will be announced during a live, Webcast “event” on April 2, the day of the NCAA Championship game.

Not only will Volvo be advertising on these various media, it said it would also be watching to see which performs the best — with an eye to future promotions. According to Volvo, the company will aggregate data from each of the interactive entry points for analysis.

“Volvo’s target customers are among the earliest adopters of new technology,” said Mark LaNeve, Volvo Cars of North America’s chief executive. “Just as we created the first automotive Web site back in 1994, we’ve continued to use new technology in a practical, targeted way to qualify potential buyers and initiate a deeper relationship with them.”

“This program, like our recent online launch of the S60 on AOL, is designed to not only let Volvo interact with a new group of tech-savvy consumers, but to provide us with actionable learning about the various forms of new media that we’re using — and how consumers are using each of them,” said Phil Bienert, who oversees Volvo’s e-business and CRM unit. “What we learn from this program will clearly inform our future decisions regarding these technologies.

Bienert said that, like the earlier online-only launch of the S60, there’s a real purpose behind the effort.

“This isn’t about throwing dollars at a new medium just for the sake of being in the space,” he said. “It’s about going to the places where our customers are, testing how they react to this integrated approach, and leveraging the learning to communicate better with them.”

However, the new work comes despite some criticism of whether Volvo sold itself short by launching the S60 online. Several dealers said their sales were hurt by a lack of major TV and magazine media spend.

Volvo, however, maintains that the car launch effort was a success, and seems determined to reiterate its commitment to the Web for marketing.

“Forward-thinking companies like Volvo have always tapped the power of emerging media in a strategic, thoughtful way,” said MVBMS CEO Ron Berger. “We’ve developed a viable, appropriate use of [Cylo’s iTV] technology for one of our most forward-thinking clients.”

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