Published on .

LONDON -- Last week Volvo broke a pan-European ad campaign for the new S60 sedan, the first from a start-up ad agency that's using a novel structure to service its sole account.

The TV and print campaign is the first from MVBMS Fuel Europe, which last July was named Volvo's agency for pan-European advertising. The neophyte Amsterdam agency, which only officially opened its doors in February, is a division of New York-based Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmettere/Euro RSCG, which has handled the Volvo account in North America for a decade. Because Euro RSCG Worldwide handles the PSA Peugeot Citroen account in Europe, it was necessary for a new agency to be created by parent company Havas Advertising.

For now, MVBMS Fuel will only be working for Volvo and is adopting an unusual structure, mirroring that of the client. Most of the agency's two-dozen staff will be based in the Amsterdam office. But an agency account director will be working alongside Volvo communications managers in each of the carmaker's regional offices. Those offices are Germanic (Germany, Austria Switzerland), Latin (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy,) Beneluk (Benelux, U.K.), Eastern Europe and Nordic.

These agency account directors will split their time between the Volvo regional offices, making local visits and working in Amsterdam with the rest of the creative team, says Chris Donkin, the new managing director of MVBMS Fuel Europe. Donkin recently left WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson Co. in London, where he was the global operations director for Jaguar Global Communications, which last week lost the global Jaguar account to sister agency Young & Rubicam.

"What that [structure] does is bring input from each of the markets into the center. It allows you to have the best of both worlds. The way most regional or global advertising in the past has often been done is either Ivory Tower marketing communications, where there's a global HQ sitting in splendid isolation dictating to the rest of world. Or you have consensus marketing communications, where every single market has input on every single project and you end up with bland, lowest common denominator marketing," Donkin said.

Although MVBMS Fuel Europe is responsible for developing pan-European work, Volvo managers in individual markets continue to work with local ad agencies to develop tactical ads and adapt European campaigns. As recently as March, Volvo handed a $30 million advertising account for German-speaking markets to Berlin shop Gramm. Likewise, Gothenburg-based agency Forsman & Bodenfors, which last year resigned the $50 million pan-European Volvo account, continues to work for Volvo in Sweden.

The new S60 campaign, internally dubbed "The World," attempts to change consumers' perception of Volvos as safe, boring boxes. The ads, shot in Cape Town, South Africa, shows the sleek S60 traveling through a stylized boxy, square world, with square clouds, squarely trimmed poodles and a child blowing square bubbles. The tagline is "It's not just a new shape, it's a whole new world."

"The boxy world, which by way of implication is the past, is contrasted with the sexy, sporty shape of the new car," Donkin said. "Safety will always be the core of the Volvo brand. But now it's safety plus styling, safety plus performance."

The campaign carries forward the "ReVolvolution" campaign introduced in the U.S. last fall, according to Ron Berger, New York-based CEO of Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmettere/Euro RSCG.

Last year Volvo received widespread press coverage for the S60 launch in the U.S. because it was the first major car launch that relied entirely on banner advertising on America Online.

Peter Rask, Volvo's global communication vice president, acknowledges the importance of the S60's European launch.

"The S60 is leading the bold new direction of Volvo," Rask said. "This breakthrough campaign will help spread the word to our most important audience, the European auto buyer. The ReVolvolution continues."

The European campaign includes national TV, magazines, outdoor, direct marketing and interactive media. WPP media agency MindShare handles media buying and planning. -- Bill Britt

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

Most Popular
In this article: