Volvo Defends Purported Giveaway

DETROIT Before you sit down and pen the tear-jerker essay about a friend or family member’s compelling need for a new Volvo, as some feel is implied by the automaker’s new “Who would you give a Volvo to?” campaign, check the FAQ on the campaign’s Web site. It reads in part: “Is there a Volvo vehicle being given away as part of the ‘Who Would You Give A Volvo To?’ campaign?”

Volvo’s answer: “No. The WWYGAVT campaign is intended to make people think about the safety initiatives Volvo has taken in vehicle development and therefore why they would consider a Volvo for the special individuals in their lives.”

Bloggers are decrying what some perceive as a misleading promotion. It has elicited promises to steer clear of the luxury brand and requests to drop the campaign, which began in mid-September via Euro RSCG.

Comments posted at advertising.about.com include several tales of disenchantment.

“… The campaign title is deceiving and makes me happy to not give Volvo my time in checking out their Web site,” reads one. “It’s only giving them disappointed, potential customers. And damn did I want my mom to win a Volvo! She’s only driven lemons since 1974.”

“… Volvo—my advice: change this commercial!!! It makes you look really BAD!” reads another.

Yet another poster said, “… It is a very silly campaign to have without even so much as a handful of cars being given away.”

Volvo can’t imagine how such a misconception began. True, during research, a small group of people got the impression that a free Volvo was part of the campaign. But that group was a “subset,” said John Maloney, vp, communications for Volvo Cars of North America.

“We are comfortable going forward and there is no intent to deceive,” Maloney said. “It’s very clear from the ads that this is about love. It’s about who do you want to protect in your life.”

The broadcast spots are tinged with sentiment sweetened with mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses and children riding in Volvos.

In one, a father is giving a driving lesson to his teenage daughter, who is learning to drive a standard version of the Volvo S40 sedan. The car lurches, then catches, as both subjects go through the familiar tension of learning and the relief of grasping.

“Who would you give a Volvo to?” asks the narration as the spot ends. “Tell us at Volvocars.us.”

Volvo has received e-mails supporting the campaign, Maloney said.

“I am a Cadillac owner, and I really like my car, but I did want to let you know how much I enjoy your commercials, especially the one with the little girl telling the story and the one with the dad teaching his daughter how to drive,” said one. “No matter what I’m doing at home, I always stop to watch them. They are really great. I don’t know much about advertising, but I do know that I rarely remember ads or even bother to watch them. I do watch yours. Thanks for a commercial that brings back good memories and focuses on what really matters.”

The campaign’s Web site has received 11,000 posts from people who would like to give cars to their husbands, wives and even dogs.

Maloney acknowledged that some of the entries looked like overtures to win a car, but said, “We have no intention to suck anybody in.”

The campaign, which features no print element but includes billboards in five major markets including Los Angeles and Chicago, will likely extend into next year, Maloney said, and be part of some new product launches.