Volvo to buckle up African-Americans

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Volvo cars north America is readying its first advertising campaign targeting African-Americans.

The estimated $6 million print, radio and in-school educational push will promote seat-belt usage by children less than 14 years old. Research revealed that car crashes are the leading cause of death among African-American children, who are half as likely to use seat belts as other youngsters, said Mark LaNeve, VP-marketing at Volvo.

The buy is in very targeted magazines and radio stations, including minority-owned media. The campaign includes posters for inner-city elementary schools as well as ads on African-American-targeted Web sites.

Volvo's agency of record, Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, is handling the program. One print ad shows an African-American child looking out from a shattered car window. The headline and copy recap the high risk of deaths among youth in the community and the importance of seat belt usage. The tagline is "Volvo for life."

Expected to break late this month or in early March, the effort will run through year-end.


Volvo insisted the move is not in reaction to negative publicity last year that the car marketer shunned minority media. Bob Austin, director of marketing communications, said that, as a niche marketer, Volvo had always bought media that reached its target of educated, affluent, family-oriented consumers. "We look at race and religious background, and we discovered these people have more in common vs. differences," he said. Before now, Volvo's media buy reached more than 12% of its minority targets.

Volvo spent $40 million in measured media during the first nine months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

In January 1999, the Federal Communications Commission named Volvo's New York regional dealer ad group and BMW of North America in a report on minority media. The report cited the two as shunning minority media outlets despite research that showed those outlets reached the marketers' target audiences.

Last April, Mr. LaNeve formed a minority diversity business council, made up of African-American and Hispanic business and community leaders. Mr. LaNeve meets with the panel at its quarterly meetings. He said the group has given Volvo valuable advice on the upcoming ad campaign as well as multicultural community relations.

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