As the ad world turns: Male activist group pesters Volvo to portray fathers better

Poor Arnold Worldwide. They were mining advertising gold for Volkswagen in the late 1990s with clever spots and print ads. Apparently the relationship went cold, and VW moved on. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Boston, but now, Arnold has found themselves in the crosshairs of father's advocacy groups as they vie for Volvo's ad money.

Arnold is in contention to win the $150 million account for Volvo's advertising, but they're drawing fire for past work that's denigrated fatherhood. Men's-issue advocate Glenn Sacks is leading the charge, along with the groups and Fathers and Families. Sacks cites Arnold's recent work for clients such as Fidelity and Verizon as evidence the advertising agency is "anti-father."

For its part, Arnold has been dragged in far enough for CEO Fran Kelly to rebut Sacks's claims and point out that the client has the final say on any creative before a campaign leaves the concept stage. It must be a little bewildering. One day, you're sitting there in the Pru, doing your agency thing, and the next thing you know, they're outside with a cauldron and pitchforks. While Sacks has a point that portrayals of fathers on television is a caricature at best, most of what's on the tube is hyperbole. The efforts of these advocacy groups may be better directed at the brands and companies that are approving the campaigns that offend. With a little sensitivity training, the end customers may start making more considered decisions. We won't be holding our breath, but hey, it could happen.

UPDATE - Volvo has provided us with a statement regarding its current ad agency search:

"Volvo has four outstanding agencies vying for its advertising account, and it is our intention to select the agency that we think has the best understanding of our brand, the best creative and that can best communicate our brand and product attributes to the public. In the end, Volvo will be the ultimate decider on the advertising that reaches the airwaves or the printed page."

[Source: Automotive News - sub req'd]

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