Best of 2021: Volvo's 'ultimate' safety test goes way beyond collisions and crash-test dummies

Brand takes its safety measures to a whole new level in environmental push from Grey

Published On
Apr 07, 2021

Editor's Pick

Through New Year's, we will be counting down our picks for 2021's 30 best ads and creative marketing ideas.

At No. 20: Volvo takes the idea of 'safety' in an unexpected direction to highlight its electric ambitions.

Safety has long been the hallmark of the Volvo brand, with much of its marketing and research devoted to keeping its passengers out of harm’s way. That’s led to out-of-the-box ideas like a campaign that encouraged parents to be late for work, a library of shared research aimed at ensuring equal protection for all kinds of passengers and a push asking drivers to take seatbelt selfies. But now, in a new global campaign from Grey, the brand is taking an even more ambitious step to ensuring safety for all.

See the full list of 2021's Best Ads.

The centerpiece of the effort is a film starring a spokesman named Bjorn, who takes viewers through Volvo’s history of safety over the years. We see scenes of cars crashing into walls, flying off buildings, running off roads, as well as crash test dummies being made up with lipstick—not so they look pretty, but to determine where air bags make contact with their faces during a crash. But wait, there’s more. Bjorn then heads up north to icy environs of an arctic testing facility to introduce what he calls “the ultimate safety test.” 

There, we see a Volvo SUV suspended from a crane, about to be dropped onto its nose from 100 feet above. “Is this the ultimate safety test?” Bjorn asks. 

That’s when we start to hear a spectacular cracking sound, and Bjorn becomes speechless when he sees a glacier crumbling into the waters below.

The spot then announces, “Climate change is the ultimate safety test. That’s why we’re changing to all-electric.”

The campaign communicates Volvo Cars’ aim to become a climate-neutral company by 2040. A key part of that journey will be for Volvo to become a fully electric car company by 2030 and have half of its global sales be fully electric by 2025. The brand says that last year, one in three of the cars it sold in Europe was rechargeable. 

“Sustainability is now as important as safety to us, with climate action having the highest priority,” said Mike Johnstone, head of central marketing and brand at Volvo Cars in a statement. “Volvo Cars has one of the most ambitious climate plans in the car industry. That’s why we’re proud to highlight the work we are doing through this campaign taking real action to combat global warming.”.

“By creating the notion of the Ultimate Safety Test, we’ve just crystalized … the menace our planet faces,” added Javier Campopiano, Grey’s chief creative officer Europe and creative chairman U.K. “A collapsing glacier represents the ultimate and biggest threat, the one we all need to tackle to be safe.”

Ivan Zacharias of Smuggler directed the ad under extreme conditions at the Arctic Circle. He and his crew endured temperatures of -10C, with the help of polar expedition suits.