The Deconstructed Brief



Brand: Volvo
Agency: Forsman & Bodenfors


Contrary to popular belief, Millennials purchase cars at rates comparable to any other generation; however, many make this decision later in life in lieu of loan payments and other responsibilities. Researchers foresee this generation as being the largest group of car owners by 2020. Volvo needed to intersect these consumers at this critical juncture and inform them of a third option outside of ownership or leasing: subscription.

One Thought:

Don't be owned.


Volvo created this new spot to advertise the launch of its subscription service program, “Care by Volvo.” The brand purports that this new program makes purchasing a vehicle as simple as upgrading a smartphone. Fees for the all-inclusive service begin at $600 per month.

While Millennials may have killed a number of classic societal institutions, they’ve also helped create a few — namely, the sharing economy. High levels of debt and economic uncertainty have transformed their consumption and spending behaviors. Experts predict that the sharing economy will grow from $14 billion in 2014 to estimates of $335 billion by 2025. Sharing services now represent a quintessential cornerstone in Millennials’ daily lives, as businesses such as Uber and Airbnb allow users to utilize assets with minimal expense.

Volvo’s latest advertisement presents a nightmarish glimpse into a future dominated by autonomous technology and the dangers of unchecked capitalism. Delivery boxes pile up outside of houses, and individuals are inundated with psychedelic advertising at every opportunity. As with any good dystopian film, one character rises above the environment to embody Volvo’s tagline: “By not owning things, you are not owned by things.”

A number of these visual cues speak to Volvo’s chosen demographic. They serve as the main purveyors of the apocalyptic media that Volvo embodies due to feelings of concern about the future. The current political and technological climates serve as two of the many factors that have helped Millennials earn the moniker, “The Most Anxious Generation.”

What they told Adweek:

“This campaign is developed based on the insight that we see a changing consumption behavior across the world,” says Louise Ahlström, project manager at Volvo Cars. “When we look at the future of cars, we see that people are more and more looking for access instead of traditional ownership. And looking even further into the future, self-driving cars will change the automotive industry at its core, altering the way we look at access versus ownership altogether. Already today, we are used to subscribing to products and services.”

Lessons to be learned:

  • Be the solution. — Millennials want to purchase cars; however, many are mired in debt and consider it beyond their means. The advertisement presents a literal and metaphorical solution to the problems presented by consumers’ unchecked purchasing habits as the heroine speeds away from dystopian scenes of capitalist chaos.
  • Embrace the apocalypse. — The apocalypse is trending. A cursory examination of current television and cinematic offerings reveals our anxious fascination with apocalyptic dystopias. All of the major streaming services now support some variation of this trope, ranging from “The Handmaid’s Tale” to Netflix’s version of “Black Mirror.” Volvo’s spot addresses our technological concerns by providing an accessible exit to viewers, with the message: You don’t have to save the world — just run away from it.
  • Use cinematographic cues.Volvo’s advertisement is far from subtle in its nods to modern technology gone awry; however, a number of visual and auditory cues help elevate the advertisement beyond a simplistic retelling of the classic cautionary tale. A muted color palette dominated by black and grey highlights the mechanical hopelessness of the future and differentiates the stark white of the Volvo. Not even our protagonist wears white — in this story, the car plays the role of hero. A well-known and cheery tune, transposed into a minor anthem, accompanies the visuals.
  • Follow the money. — Volvo had a good reason for opting for a female protagonist (as opposed to the traditional male figure). Women purchase over half (54%) of the cars in America,and influence the majority (84%) of all automobile purchases.