Volvo Cuts Euro; Eyes 2

NEW YORK Volvo has confirmed inviting back Havas’ Arnold and Publicis Groupe’s Fallon for another round of presentations in the review of creative chores on its $150 million ad account, cutting incumbent Euro RSCG and 180 from contention.

Volvo global ad director Tim Ellis said final presentations and an agency decision are slated for the week of April 16.

Havas’ Euro RSCG here has been Volvo’s principal agency and will keep local duties in the Asia-Pacific and Latin-American regions. Those chores were not part of the ongoing review. 180 is an Omnicom Group shop in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

“All four agencies were very strong,” Ellis said. But the creative and strategic presentations of Boston’s Arnold (pitching with Nitro in London) and Fallon in Minneapolis were a cut above, he added.

The cut was somewhat surprising, as Volvo had previously indicated it would select a single shop from among those contenders without trimming the field further. Agency executives either could not be reached or declined comment.

Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, a late entrant in the review, exited in order to pursue another car account, which sources identified as Hyundai Motor America, which recently put its $600 million business in play.

Volvo heard presentations March 20 and 21 at the company’s global headquarters in Goteborg, Sweden. Roth Associates in New York is managing the process. Volvo is a unit of Ford.

During the review, evp, marketing Hans Krondahl said he would leave Volvo to become president and CEO of an automotive parts company in Sweden, through he remained with the automaker through the decision process.

Euro RSCG has worked on the account since 1991, handling Volvo in the U.S. and elsewhere, though the automaker does work with several other agencies on various assignments.

The competition was spurred by disagreements about creative direction, with Volvo executives unable to agree on whether North American work or concepts created for overseas markets should be used worldwide, sources said. Volvo senior management in Sweden wants a single global concept, and decided a review would best address that need.

Media duties, handled by various agency partners, are not affected. Neither is the interactive Volvo work handled by Euro RSCG 4D.

During the Volvo pitch, Arnold has faced an odd attack from blogger Glenn Sacks, who blasted some of its recent TV commercials as “anti-father”—and called for Volvo to retain Euro RSCG. Arnold CEO Fran Kelly defended the shop as “an agency with strong values” in the face of the unusual challenge.

Both Arnold and Fallon are seeking returns to the automotive category. Each lost a major nameplate in 2005, as Volkswagen swung from Arnold to Crispin Porter + Bogusky and BMW left Fallon for GSD&M.

This story updates an item posted earlier today with client confirmation and comments.