Arnold Responds to Blog Attack

BOSTON Arnold CEO Fran Kelly defended his shop as “an agency with strong values” in the face of an unusual challenge from a blogger who blasted some of its recent work as “anti-father”—and has called for Volvo to select Euro RSCG for its account rather than Arnold.

Both agencies are contenders in the Swedish automaker’s ongoing review.

Glenn Sacks, on his Web site, yesterday wrote, “We are asking Volvo not to award the contract to Arnold and instead award it to one of the other agencies, preferably Euro RSCG.”

He objects to several of the agency’s recent commercials, notably an execution for Fidelity Investments, in which a dad jumps up and down after besting his daughter in a game of Ping-Pong.

Sacks derided as harmful the portrayal of men in general, and fathers in particular, as “stupid” and “insensitive.”

Kelly, in a statement, responded: “On the one hand I feel silly even commenting on a story like this, on the other hand, Arnold is known as an agency with strong values and relationships with our clients and important prospects like Volvo. We take our responsibility to be insightful, honest and aspirational brand communicators seriously. Our track record promoting family vacations for Royal Caribbean, driving down teen smoking rates by 22 percent with ‘Truth’ and raising funds to help put musical instruments in children’s hands via Fidelity’s Music Lives program speaks for itself.”

Volvo and Euro RSCG officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Boston-based Arnold (pitching with Nitro in London) is a contender for the $150 million Volvo business along with Havas sibling Euro RSCG (which is the principal incumbent), Publicis Groupe’s Fallon in Minneapolis and Omnicom Group’s 180 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. (Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco had teamed with 180, but exited the process on Monday.)

“This is the perfect time to intervene,” as Volvo plans a decision in March, Sacks said late Wednesday. “The main concern is to let Volvo know we’re unhappy, not helping Euro RSCG” prevail, he said. (Sacks applauded a Euro RSCG Volvo spot, “Rosi,” for its positive portrayal of fathers.)

Won’t the attack just garner sympathy and publicity for Arnold? Sacks conceded that could be the case, but stuck by his call for Volvo to bypass the agency.

Advertising has served as a lightning rod of late for those with social agendas. Following protests, General Motors altered a spot in which a robot committed suicide, and Volkswagen recently withdrew a similarly themed commercial that showed a man on a ledge. Some groups also complained about a “manly kiss” in a Snickers ad that the client subsequently pulled from the airwaves.