VOLVO'S WAGON INTRO RIDES ON $35 MIL IN AD SUPPORT : ALL-WHEEL-DRIVE V70S TO TAKE ON RIVALS' SUVS

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Volvo Cars of North America today begins its biggest launch in five years-a $35 million national campaign for its first U.S. all-wheel-drive station wagons.

Volvo, which doesn't offer a sport-utility vehicle, is targeting the three V70 wagons at buyers of SUVs.

FASTEST-GROWING SEGMENT

"One thing we learned is that the SUV market is the fastest-growing segment of the car market," said Bob Austin, director of marketing communications at Volvo. "To even talk to that segment, you must offer all-wheel-drive."

The ad campaign continues Volvo's shift to reposition itself as more fun while keeping its core safety image.

"It is perhaps our most impressive safety advance ever-a Volvo that can save your soul," says the voice-over of actor Donald Sutherland in three new TV spots that spotlight the V70 Cross Country with Volvo drivers kayaking, downhill skiing and mountain biking.

Agency Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, shot the 30-second commercials in New Zealand.

BLITZ RUNS THROUGH YEAREND

The multimedia blitz will run through December, with the biggest push in September and October, Mr. Austin said.

The all-wheel-drive debut is "on par with our biggest successful launch ever, which was the launch of the 850 in the fall of 1992."

Volvo's luxury-positioned all-wheel-drive line will compete head-to-head with Mercedes-Benz of North America's new M-Class SUV and Audi of America's A6 wagon and upcoming 1998 A4 Avant wagon.

The launch marks Volvo's first appearance in magazines this year. The print buy includes big-circulation titles such as Newsweek and Time; lifestyle books including Gourmet, Conde Nast Sports for Women, Men's Journal, Martha Stewart Living, This Old House and Yachting; plus auto buff books.

EIGHT-PAGE INSERT

Virtually every magazine will feature an eight-page insert playing off the TV executions. Other units are spreads using art from the insert.

The push includes a direct mailing already out to 200,000 Volvo owners and 200,000 non-Volvo owners, all expected to be shopping for a new car in the next 90 days.

Banner ads will appear on Web search engines, including Excite, InfoSeek and Yahoo Local, plus on several magazine sites, including Outdoor and National

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