Letter From Dealers Contained Vitamin Powder

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COLOGNE, Germany ( -- Ford Motor Co.-owned Volvo has become the latest victim of the worldwide anthrax scare.

The Swedish automaker was forced to terminate a direct-mail campaign in Germany after Volvo owners complained they had received letters from their dealers that contained a suspicious-looking powder.

2,000 letters
An estimated 2,000 letters were part of a Volvo campaign created by Munich-based DCM Dialog Creation that has worked for Volvo dealers for the past four years. (Volvo's Germany agency is Grey Global Group-owned Gramm, based in Duesseldorf, which was not involved in the campaign.)

Sent on Oct. 10, the aim of the direct mail push was to remind Volvo clients that their one-year guarantee for new cars was expiring within four weeks and to urge them to get a diagnostic check of their cars free of charge.

'Volvo for Life'
Colorful envelopes bore the slogan "Volvo for Life." Inside, customers were told: "We check your Volvo's heart and kidney to keep it in peak condition." As part of the campaign, the agency had inserted a four-gram packet of a soluble multivitamin powder.

Volvo was contacted by police after one customer panicked at the site of the powder. After reassuring the police that the substance was not anthrax but vitamin powder, the automaker decided to allay any public fears and to suspend the campaign.

Admission: Bad judgement
A Volvo spokesman admitted the campaign was ill-judged. "Such advertising does not fit in at the current time, and that's why we stopped it straight away," he said.

In the light of the ongoing anthrax scare worldwide, the German Post Office has held talks with advertising agencies nationwide asking them to refrain from gimmicky mail shots. Several German Post mailing centers have been closed temporarily as a result of anthrax-related alerts.

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