It promotes Life Paint, a spray that can be applied to clothing and other surfaces to make them glow in the dark, increasing the visibility of cyclists at night.
The product, developed with Swedish start-up Albedo100, was initially distributed on a trial basis but received a full retail release in October 2015. The ad remained online for almost two years until the Advertising Standards Authority received a single complaint, prompting the investigation.
The member of the public suggested the ad was misleading because it showed the spray being applied to a bicycle frame, which glowed just as brightly as the clothing, bag and bike helmet it was also sprayed onto.
In actual fact, the effect had been achieved with a different, oil-based product designed for metal surfaces – a fact acknowledged in a disclaimer underneath the video on Volvo’s website.
The auto brand told the ASA that Life Paint was mainly intended for textiles, and while it was possible to achieve the effect shown on a bike frame, it would not be as long-lasting.
It offered to reword the disclaimer, to make it clear that Life Paint was not primarily meant for metal, and also post this on YouTube, where the original disclaimer had not appeared.
But the ASA ruled that even if this disclaimer had been included in the video itself, the prominence the ad gave to the product being used on bike frames clearly suggested it would work just as well on these surfaces.
The film was launched in March 2015 and three months later won the top prize in that year’s Design and Promotion & Activation Lions at Cannes. Jonas Roth and Rasmus Smith Bech, the Grey creative team behind the ad, were poached by Adam & Eve/DDB last November.
A spokesman for Grey London stressed that the ruling does not affect the Life Paint product itself, which remains available.
He said: "While all further, post-launch comms around Life Paint haven’t featured the offending scenes, we have accepted the ASA's decision and apologise for any confusion caused."