Reveille, Volvo buckle up for Web ride


A new Web series produced by Reveille about a driving school instructor starring Craig Robinson of NBC's "The Office" and Volvo's new C30 hatchback premieres Aug. 15 on MSN.

Reveille came up with the concept for "Mr. Robinson's Driving School" and took it to MSN, which signed a first-look deal with Reveille about 18 months ago. MSN then pitched the idea to Volvo, a long-term advertising partner typically interested in innovative online marketing campaigns.

Volvo signed up to finance the show, its first Web series in the U.S., and is using it as the lead marketing initiative for its new C30 four-seat hatchback, which is likened to the Mini Cooper and aimed at a younger market than most of Volvo's vehicles.

The Swedish automaker was involved in the earliest stages of the show's development, with the producers working to integrate the C30's marketing themes and "attitude" into the series.

"MSN put Reveille and Volvo together and we jointly developed the concept and the show," said Howard Owens, managing director, co-head of domestic television and head of digital at Reveille. "The car is integral to Craig's mission and his heroic journey, and that journey is ultimately to prove he's the best driving instructor in town. It made sense that his sidekick would be his car."

Owens said Robinson names his car and commiserates with it during the series, mirroring some of the themes of Volvo's C30 campaign, which focuses on style, performance and individuality. "We integrated aspects of Volvo's marketing campaign into themes for the new show without bastardizing the concept or jeopardizing the story," he said. "Volvo put no restrictions on us in terms of the kind of content we could make."

MSN director of U.S. branded entertainment Cameron Death said the show wasn't produced until Volvo, MSN and Reveille sat down and "jointly defined what the show is. It's the unique way we're putting great content together with great brands."

As it does with its other shows, MSN is also featuring a number of interactive elements tied to the show, such as a game that allows viewers to take a driving lesson with Robinson in the C30 and the ability to leave Robinson a voicemail or deliver a voicemail from him to a friend. The funniest voicemails left by viewers will be integrated into future episodes.

Owens said that despite Volvo's deep involvement in the series, neither Reveille nor Robinson believes that the show comes off like an ad. "It still feels to us like it's a very funny and smart show, and I think Craig feels the same way," he said. "We don't feel like it's a commercial."