Every year, many different companies from many different industries spend millions upon millions of dollars in creating the most interesting, most fun, and (usually) most hilarious television commercials. And these commercials air during the prime time of the year: the annual Super Bowl football game. Moreover, the majority of these ads are for the automotive industry. And every year, car manufacturers spend millions of dollars (an average of $4.5 million for a 30 second spot this past Super Bowl, to be exact) to create these television commercials. However, there is one subtle albeit important and vital problem: most of the commercials (for car manufacturers, at least) are for the most part the same, in both content as well as production style. It goes something like this: a (sometimes) vague introduction is shown where most viewers are not aware that it is the beginning of a commercial for a car, the car of interest comes into view, drives unrealistically quickly and makes unrealistic maneuvers, some features of the car are shown, something funny happens and/or something witty and quippy is said, possibly more features are shown off, and the commercial ends after 30 seconds with the terms and conditions (either for purchase or lease) and local dealership information where you can purchase or lease said car. Done. $4.5 million, please.
So, as one can witness, there is not much variety in terms of both content as well as production techniques when it comes to car commercials (or at least the ones that air during the Super Bowl game). However, one car manufacturer did something different during this year’s Super Bowl game. Quite different, in fact.
Volvo, the Swedish premium car manufacturer of wagons, SUVs, crossovers, and luxury sedans, did not even create let alone pay to air a television advertisement during the Super Bowl. Instead, Volvo created a quite innovative but simple, understandable, and straight-forward marketing campaign. Cleverly dubbed “The Greatest Interception Ever” (official contest page can be found here: http://www.volvointerception.com), Volvo asked viewers of the Super Bowl to tweet its hashtag (#VolvoContest) not at random times but when commercials for OTHER car brands were airing. The prize? The chance to win a brand new Volvo XC60 crossover. Volvo said it would give away five XC60s. “Participants will nominate a friend or loved one to win a new Volvo XC60 luxury crossover, with the idea being that the company wants to focus on real people rather than its own marketing message,” says AdWeek. “Selected tweets will get a response from Volvo, asking why each nominee was chosen. Five winners will be selected.” “‘People have always been at the heart of Volvo, inspiring the products and experiences we create,” said Bodil Eriksson, executive vice president, product, brand, marketing & communications, Volvo Cars of North America. ‘We want to bring that mindset front and center and celebrate the people and passions that inspire us and our customers,'” quotes AdWeek. With seven different car manufacturers (down from 11 in 2014) purchasing spots during the Super Bowl (Fiat Chrysler, BMW, Kia, Nissan, Toyota, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz), air time during the Super Bowl has become quite competitive not to mention lucrative. However, and possibly even more importantly, a whopping six car manufacturers have decided not to air any commercials during this year’s Super Bowl. General Motors (which includes brands Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac), Acura, Volkswagen, Audi (part of the Volkswagen Group), Jaguar, and Lincoln did not show any advertisements whatsoever during this year’s game.
With stiff competition from seven other manufacturers who are paying big bucks to have their brands appear in front of hundreds of millions of viewers for a half a minute to a spread of manufacturers who went silent with their advertisements for this year, Volvo had its work cut out for it. By straying away from the mainstream mode of advertisement delivery (aka television), I believe that Volvo took an ENORMOUS risk. It was a risk because something like this (having viewers/participants tweet during a major sporting event to win a car in a car manufacturer-sponsored contest) has never been done in the past. Viewers/participants could have not bothered with this since it involves user interaction and therefore the viewer/participant must divert their attention from whatever is on screen at that moment (in this case, a car advertisement from another manufacturer) just to tweet something. In addition, instead of just tweeting something simple (such as, but not limited to, one’s name, hometown, school, whether they are rooting for the Patriots or the Seahawks, etc.), the participant has to actually engage, think, and come to a decision on who they thought deserved a new Volvo prior to tweeting. Again, this is VERY risky on the company’s part. Many people do not want to be bothered let alone forced to have to think and released private/intimate information, ESPECIALLY publicly. Nevertheless, Volvo hit the nail on the head. They offered a potentially large incentive (a brand new car) for just a few moments of one’s time. Moreover, they also were able to successfully accomplish one more thing: redirecting the viewer’s attention from a leading competitor’s advertisement to theirs. And do not forget that Volvo (most likely) spent NO funds on this (apart from a YouTube video they released a few days before the big game, which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntMit7V27LI). Again, no advertisements were posted on television and twitter is free, as we all know very well by now. And judging by the response on twitter (which can be found here: https://www.twitter.com/hashtag/volvocontest), Volvo’s strategy seems to have been extremely successful. So successful, in fact, that Volvo ran the contest not just on game day, but all the way until 11:59 PM on 2/8/15.
A great interception, Volvo. A great interception, indeed.