Volvo goes viral with Web 'mockumentary'

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A new online "documentary" highlights the eerie coincidence of 32 people in a small Swedish town buying a Volvo S40 from the same local dealer on the same day. Eerie if it was true. But the film was directed by Spike Jonze and is actually a viral marketing tool in the style of BMW's online film series.

"The Mystery of Dalaro" can be seen at volvocars.com and shows interviews with the buyers and the dealer in the hamlet of 1,000. A scientist also offers his "collective subconscious" theory to try to explain the strange happening. A popup then links to the site of Venezuelan director Carlos Soto, teased with the message: "The Dalaro story is not true and I can prove it."

Although the site can be accessed from the U.S., the viral effort was designed as a pan-European campaign. The brainstorm from Havas' Euro MVBMS, Amsterdam, was backed by two TV spots that ran in theaters, print, radio and online ads in Europe said Tim Ellis, global advertising director of Volvo. The Ford Motor Co.-owned brand "hired teams across Europe to stimulate conversations in different chat rooms," he said. "For us it's a very brave campaign that has caused a lot of healthy debate."

traffic spike

Carlos Soto is indeed a filmmaker but from Argentina, not Venezuela. MVBMS tapped Mr. Jonze from an A-list of Hollywood directors who were contacted for the project.

The mockumentary has created a buzz and spiked traffic to dealerships and Volvo Web sites. In France, traffic to Volvo's site the first day of the campaign equaled an average month. In the U.K., more than 5,000 people requested a DVD copy of the documentary and 1 million people clicked to see the movie trailer on its one-day appearance on Yahoo!. Traffic to Volvo dealerships in Spain jumped by seven times the normal rate in the first week. A Google search of the terms "Volvo and Dalaro" brings up more than 150 results of various sites and chatrooms. U.S. consumers are also spreading the site to friends.

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