November 16, 1990 at 05:00 AM EST

Remember last week’s ruckus over Volvo’s recent advertisements? The ads showed one of those steroid-tire ”monster” trucks squishing a row of autos in Austin, Tex., as if they were so many roaches-except for the Volvo, which supposedly survived uncrushed. But that’s not what really went down during the car- crunching contest-as some of the 400 audience extras caught on film. As it turned out, the contest was as bogus as a pro wrestling match, and Volvo later admitted that three cars had been used to create the illusion. The first was squashed as flat as the competitors beside it. The production crew then tried propping up the roof of a second Volvo with two-by-four wood beams. Crunch. Finally they put in steel beams and, to heighten the contrast, the Volvo crew weakened the roof supports of the other cars. It worked, but Volvo had to pull the ad after Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox weighed in. ”The competition was a hoax and a sham,” says Mattox. To avoid a deceptive- advertising lawsuit, Volvo agreed to pay the state $316,250 for ”investigative costs” and run newspaper ads apologizing for the spot. ”The agency never authorized any alteration,” says Marvin Sloves, chairman of Scali, McCabe, Sloves, Volvo’s ad agency for 24 years. ”This has been the worst day of my life.” Another new Volvo ad has also hit some bumps. It shows a human fetus-viewed in a sonogram-apparently waving, as an announcer asks, ”Is something inside telling you to buy a Volvo?” The spot is, predictably, drawing protests from both sides of the abortion debate. Volvo insists the wave wasn’t faked.

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