Musings on the Motoring World

Volvo Subverted the Advertisement Game in 2017

It’s that time of year again when titles around the world begin their cavalcade of awards for all the good little cars – and some rotten ones – of this year. There is no shortage of awards out there to be handed out as brands themselves lap as many laurels up to add every bit of prestige to their products.

Though insignificant in the grand scheme of things, it would be remiss of The Motor Muse to not give the least bit of recognition to Volvo this year. Not for their XC60 or XC40, but for their two stand-out advertisements, “The Get Away Car” and “Moments”.

From a technical standpoint these two advertisements are masterpieces with excellent cinematography, brilliant scripting, and a stirring musical score, but so are there a myriad of other advertisements that have come out this year. What makes this two stand out, however, is the way they subverted the car advertisement formulae.

You see no matter what the advertisement’s message is, whether it be funny, ironic, or a heartful tribute to their own past, an advertisement is all about selling an idea, a lifestyle by pandering to its target demographic’s ego. That’s why compact cars are usually portrayed as predictably exciting, trendy, and banging on the “fits your lifestyle” gong to entice those avocado toast eating hipster millennials to trash their student loans for a new set of wheels. Whereas luxury cars will usually feature some insufferably smug, picture-perfect person driving without a care in the world around a private coast or high-end neighbourhood while (presumably) tossing leftover foie gras at poor people off camera.

No matter who is it, most, if not all, advertisements appeal to the ego, enticing you with an image that the product on show will complete the life you aspire for.

And this is where Volvo’s “The Get Away Car” V90 Cross Country advertisement veers off from the norm.

Instead of using the shots of various cityscapes and penthouses to conjure up the image of living at the pinnacle of success in the rat race of life, the narrator shoots down the whole illusion and show it for what it is, a slog, and then questions “what is the point of it all?”

Of course, it is, at the end of the day, there to sell a jumped-up luxury station wagon, but in a world jostling to show off who has the biggest…assets in their portfolio, Volvo’s message is rather liberating. That is, perhaps, the intended message for a jumped-up luxury station wagon I suppose.

With the XC60 “Moments” featurette, however, Volvo applied the same approach to the boring subject of highlighting the SUV’s autonomous safety features.

Usually, autonomous features are paraded around like the latest gadget to make all the boys in the yard jealous. They are pictured as the must-have accessory and something that will save you from other people’s mistakes because in the perfect world invoked in every advertisement, why would you be prone to mistakes? In ad world you are perfect, only plebians make mistakes.

And here is where Volvo took that advertisement stereotype and flipped it on its head. In the normal advertisement formula we expect the child, who is imagining her whole life ahead of her, to grow up to be successful and own an XC60, but she nearly doesn’t as the advertisement pulls a twist ending where it turns out the supposed hero of the advertisement, the person we are often expected to project ourselves upon, the owner of the fantabulous XC60, isn’t in control.

And the duality is laid bare at the end as the hero isn’t the one in order, while the child, the outside persona in the advertisement, has her life in order.

There hasn’t been an advertisement whose message has been as precise as a scalpel and as hard-hitting as a sledgehammer as Volvo’s “Moments”. Sure, these might be a superfluous way of selling a feature or product but by gum, we cannot enter into 2018 without recognising what an art form these two advertisements are.

So to Volvo, you might not have a car that I can reasonably afford right now, but you have made a believer out of me. And that is what I call great advertising.

2 replies on “Volvo Subverted the Advertisement Game in 2017”

And who would’ve thought the greatest automotive article read by the great Bobby Ang in 2018, is an article about two ads made by the greatest car company in the world now? What a brilliant read.

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