Volvo Shows the Nightmare of Consumerism and Says Maybe You Shouldn’t Buy Your Next Car

Subscribe to it instead, says F&B's grand spot for the XC40

Volvo Cars

Against the backdrop of the world’s looming environmental disaster, as well as the advent of self-driving cars, Volvo has unleashed a bleak yet grand new global commercial in which it sees a future where people no longer buy cars—but subscribe to them instead.

The 2:30 spot, by Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors, opens with an already classic image of modern consumerism—a drone flying to deliver a package. We quickly shift to a woman, who turns out to be the spot’s protagonist, walking through a house.

Over the next two minutes, she bears witness to the darker side of capitalism—the endless piling up of packages; the irresistible pull of advertising; the claustrophobic crush of a crowd pushing through a retailer’s door for a one-day sale. Our hero, meanwhile, drives through each scene, baffled by the sadness and desperation on display.

In the end, it’s a pitch for the new compact premium XC40 SUV, and the “Care by Volvo” program that lets you “subscribe” to the car instead of owning it. But it makes a larger philosophical point by framing it in broader terms, as captured in the onscreen line “By not owning things, you are not owned by things.”

It’s unusual for a car company to suggest you might not want to buy your next car, but that’s all by design. Volvo simple took an honest look at the future of automobiles, Louise Ahlström, project manager at Volvo Cars, tells us.

“The message might seem controversial at first,” she says. “But when we look at the future of cars, we see that people are more and more looking for access instead of traditional ownership. And looking even further into the future, self-driving cars will change the automotive industry at its core, altering the way we look at access versus ownership altogether. Already today we are used to subscribing to products and services. The campaign is about conscious consumption, that we should reflect more on the things we surround ourselves with. Do we need to own everything, or can we subscribe to them instead?”

"The campaign is about conscious consumption, that we should reflect more on the things we surround ourselves with."
—Louise Ahlström, Volvo Cars

Directed by Johnny Green, with photography by Max Goldman, the film was shot in Toronto in mid-October. A lot of its power comes from the music, which is a brooding version of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, presented ironically here.

“Everyone knows the classic song from The Sound of Music,” says Ahlström. “It’s a happy song from a time when society could only get better. A time when we could and would get happier by acquiring more material possessions—a stark contrast to our modern world, where more and more people are starting to discover that access can be just as good, if not better, than ownership. This is addressed in the new, more reflecting version of the song.”

The campaign launches in Sweden at the end of this week, followed by the rest of Europe, the Americas, Asia and China.

“This campaign is developed based on the insight that we see a changing consumption behavior across the world,” Ahlström says. “So it is a global campaign, with local adaptations to ensure local relevance. But the core concept is the same.”

Advertiser: Volvo Car Group
Client: Louise Ahlström
Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors
Art Directors: Andreas Malm, Karl Risenfors
Copywriter: Gustav Johansson
Account Supervisor: Lena Olander, Alison Arnold
Account Executive: Jenni Füleki
Agency Producer: Mats Wolgers
Music Supervisor: Jenny Ring, Johan Nordqvist
Artwork: Martin Joelsson, Ingrid Arnsand Jonsson
PR Strategist: Bjarne Darwall
Title: Things
Director: Johnny Green
D.O.P: Max Goldman
Production Designer: Jay Pooley
Editor: Thomas Grove Carter
Production Company: Anonymous Content
Executive Producer: Eric Stern
Producer: Aris McGarry
Grade: Oskar Larsson, Chimney
Sound Design: Sam Ashwell, 750mph
Post Production: Chimney
Music: My favorite things
Music artist: Jennie Abrahamson
Composer: Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein

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