Male Activists Want Volvo to Award Ad Account to Euro

Slam Work of Review Contender Arnold as Being Anti-Father

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- In what appears to be a first, a male activist group is petitioning Volvo not to choose Arnold Worldwide, Boston, as its new global agency of record, claiming that the shop has created ads for other clients that denigrate fathers.
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A scene from Arnold's purported anti-father work for Fidelity.

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National newspaper columnist and talk-show host Glenn Sacks is behind the push that started Feb. 27. His website, glennsacks.com, has a form letter to Volvo urging the Ford Motor Co.-owned brand "not to award the contract to Arnold Worldwide and instead award it to one of the other agencies, preferably Euro RSCG." The website lists names and contact information for Volvo officials in the U.S. and Sweden.

Mr. Sacks told Advertising Age this afternoon that 1,000-plus e-mails and faxes on the matter were sent to Volvo in the past 24 hours. Other male groups, including HusbandsandFathers.org and Fathers and Families, are supporting the effort.

'Idiots and clowns'
Mr. Sacks said "a lot of us in the fathers' movement are upset" that dads are portrayed in advertising as "idiots, clowns," while "the wife is always right."

His site criticizes Arnold's purported anti-father work for Fidelity -- for example, a spot showing a man going to great lengths to parallel park in an empty parking lot -- while praising a TV ad that Euro RSCG did for Volvo. Mr. Sacks discusses his 2004 blitz against Verizon on the site, claiming success for getting the telecom giant to pull a TV commercial showing a bumbling father trying to help his daughter with her homework.

Richard Smaglick, co-founder of HusbandsandFathers.com, said Verizon pulled the commercial, although he added the advertiser explained at the time the campaign had run its course.

A spokesman for Volvo Cars of North America confirmed the arrival of an undisclosed number of e-mails, faxes and a "handful of voice mails" on the matter. "All were very polite," he said.

Client has final say
The spokesman said he didn't understand why the pro-male groups were approaching Volvo about ads Arnold is doing for other clients. "It's not the agency that has the final say to determine what goes on air. It's the client."

Mr. Sacks said he's targeting Arnold because of the financial bounty involved in the review. If the effort is successful, "I believe it would have an impact on how other agencies portray men and fathers."

He stated that he couldn't predict what his chances were. "It's hard to say. They may go with Arnold in spite of this or may not for other reasons."

Fran Kelly, Arnold's president-CEO, was mystified by the attack on his agency. "Arnold is known as an agency with strong values and relationships with our clients and important prospects like Volvo," he said in a statement. "We take our responsibility to be insightful, honest and aspirational brand communicators seriously."

Contenders in review
The Havas agency is in the race for the $150 million account teamed with independent Nitro, London, vying against three remaining finalists: sibling and incumbent Euro RSCG; Publicis Groupe's Fallon, Minneapolis and London; and Omnicom Group's 180, Amsterdam. Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, a late entry in the review, withdrew last week.

The finalists are working on creative for their presentations in a few weeks, the Volvo spokesman said.
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