Screencap from Volvo's 'Naughty' website for the 2010 S60
2011 Volvo S60
The internet is pretty good at selling naughty things, and Volvo is hoping to prove it with a "naughty" web campaign for the sexy, stylish, all-new 2011 Volvo S60 sedan.
In Volvo's book, "naughty" roughly translates to "stunt driving". That might not be how others on the web would define the word, but given Volvo's established reputation for quality and safety, it's probably about as edgy as we can expect. The campaign currently features two series of videos (sadly, none are embeddable), each featuring the S60 doing increasingly dangerous stunts.
In the "Slalom Test" series, for example, things start off tamely, with the S60 easily maneuvering around a set of slalom posts. At the end of the clip, viewers are invited to click through to the "next level", which leads to another clip of an S60 -- this one in candy apple red -- running the same course. This go-round, however, something delicate and breakable is perched atop each post: a jar of candy, a goldfish bowl, and everyone's favorite arm-waving maneki neko. Bump to the third level, and the car runs the course again, but this time, in reverse. There's a similar dynamic at work in the "Elk Test" series of clips, though that one isn't nearly as clever or interesting as "Slalom Test".
Perhaps the best element of the campaign -- and one that's a great fit for the web -- is that it culminate in "naughty" stunt dreamed up by Volvo fans. After the first three clips in either series play, viewers are asked to submit their ideas for an even bigger, better test for the Volvo S60. The possibilities are nearly endless, although Volvo says that the stunt should be completable in a single day and that they'd rather not damage the car. They also say that stunts can't involve "offensive, illegal, or inappropriate behavior", which would seem to be the very point in a "naughty" campaign, but you know: Swedes.
With this campaign, Volvo is clearly pitching the S60 sedan to luxury car buyers with a sporty edge -- the same sort of consumers who might also look at rides like the Audi A4 or the Mercedes C-Class. It's a fun campaign, just edgy enough to appeal to well-heeled performance enthusiasts, but not so out-there as to turn off traditional Volvo moms. All in all: well played.
That said, we do have some issues with the campaign's format. The web interface isn't wholly intuitive, and as we mentioned above, the videos aren't embeddable -- the only way they can be shared is on Facebook and Twitter. And the day that someone explains to us why every automaker thinks that amorphous Flash blobs make for great websites will be a VERY happy day, indeed. (There's a reason Steve Jobs denigrates the technology.) But otherwise, this may earn the S60 some very naughty looks.
P.S. There is a non-web piece of this campaign: John Maloney, the VP of marketing communications for Volvo, says that a limited series of closed-course events featuring the S60 will take place in key markets later this year, so some of you lucky Volvo fans may get to see these stunts enacted in person.