The Mystery of Carlos Soto: how the Dutch put Dalarö on the map

At first it seemed like just another ordinary day on a small Scandinavian island. But something very strange was afoot. According to witnesses, no fewer than 32 residents of an otherwise normal Swedish town made their way to their nearest Volvo dealer and parted with good money for the new S40 model.

It may have been a freak coincidence. But perhaps they were propelled into their purchase by some unknown force?

Renowned documentary-maker Carlos Soto is called out to make a film about the events. His previous work on “Tears of Bethania” seems to make him the perfect choice for the car-maker. He flies to Sweden and shoots footage proudly displayed on an official Volvo website.

And then the rumours start flying around.

Some people say that Soto has been questioning the whole purpose of the project on his own web pages and feels he’s been somehow misled. Others have gone one stage further and questioned the existence of Mr Soto himself.

The truth is out there. But we have to travel to Amsterdam to find it.

The innovative spoof campaign is apparently the brainchild of Volvo’s rostered European ad agency, MBVMS Fuel Europe. One of the interesting aspects of the project is the way it breaks new ground in terms of mixed media platforms. The mockumentary itself can be viewed on the web or by DVD and is supported by television ads that simply give a flavour of the subject matter and a URL for Volvo Cars. Meanwhile, the creation of the Soto website adds a strong viral element to the campaign. Creatively, it’s one of the most intriguing and elaborate ideas I’ve come across in recent months and I suspect it could run and run. Perhaps the “Mystery of Dalarö” will join the JFK assassination as a perpetual talking point? The creatives are certainly having too much fun to let go of the idea.

© Phil Woodford, 2004. All rights reserved.

Phil Woodford is a creative director at a London-based advertising agency and a lecturer in advertising theory.

Read more:

The Mystery of Dalarö

Carlos Soto