High-end auto manufacturer Volvo Car Corporation wanted to create an effective marketing campaign to tie in with the popular Twilight movie franchise and capitalize on its prominent product placement in that series. It wanted to create an interactive game would engage a global audience. The idea for the game was that users could play to win a new Volvo XC60 car. However, the company’s existing technology infrastructure could not provide the scalability required to fulfill this vision, and expanding it would be cost-prohibitive. After consulting with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner LBi to evaluate options, Volvo selected the Windows Azure cloud computing platform. Using familiar skills and tools, the development team quickly and successfully delivered an exciting gaming experience that scaled to meet demand and cost much less than an on-premises solution.
The Volvo Car Corporation is one of the car industry’s most-recognized brands, with a long and proud history of world-leading innovations. At Volvo, passengers and drivers come first, and the company takes human-centered design seriously, always striving to develop some of the safest cars on the road. The company sells approximately 400,000 cars each year across the globe.
Beyond its impeccable safety record and its culture of innovation in the automobile industry, Volvo relies on marketing efforts as an integrated part of its business operations to help sell its premium automobiles. Over the past decade, the marketing landscape has changed, with a move to digital marketing. However, Volvo has realized that repurposing print media for digital mediums is not enough. Now, more than ever, consumers are in control of what content reaches them, so the company must develop rich digital marketing campaigns that are as innovative as the cars it manufactures if it wants to engage consumers.
||By using Windows Azure, we saved 85 percent compared to an on-premises infrastructure. It is the most cost-effective way for Volvo to implement campaigns like the one we did for the Twilight series.
Digital Strategy Manager, Volvo Car Corporation
An opportunity to launch a new marketing campaign presented itself with the release of the popular Twilight
series of books and subsequent movies, which featured Volvo cars. When the first two movies in the series came out, Volvo implemented digital marketing campaigns that drove a high volume of traffic to the Volvo website. In fact, the company had up to 9,000 visitors every second at the peak of the campaign, which resulted in outages and sluggish performance of the campaign website. Because of the website outages during peak periods of traffic, visitors to the site were left confused or unhappy, which was unacceptable to the customer-centric company. The Volvo team was left scrambling to try and resolve the performance issues, which was a drain on precious IT personnel resources.
For the release of the third movie in the series, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
, Volvo wanted to create a new digital marketing campaign that would further capitalize on the popularity of the series. This time, the company sought to engage potential buyers through a Flash-based game on its website for which the grand prize would be a fully loaded 2010 Volvo XC60 automobile.
Volvo turned to Microsoft Gold Certified Partner LBi, a full-service marketing and technology agency, blending insight, creativity, and expertise to solve business problems, to help build the online game. However, based on the popularity of previous campaigns with the Twilight
tie-in, and subsequent performance issues with the website, LBi was concerned about the technical feasibility of launching a rich, interactive website to a global audience with the existing infrastructure that Volvo maintained. “Based on our previous experience, the vision for the online game was impossible to execute with Volvo’s existing infrastructure,” says Jakob Hedelin, Technical Manager for the project at LBi.
Certain that the campaign would be at least as successful as its previous campaigns, Volvo and LBi knew that they needed an infrastructure that could massively scale up to handle peak traffic. At minimum, it needed to be able to process traffic for 9,000 concurrent users, but they anticipated it needing to handle even more, because of the growing popularity of the Twilight
series and the incentive of winning a brand new car.
In addition, Volvo needed an infrastructure that was globally available. The company serves a global audience, so to deliver the best performance, it wanted a globally dispersed infrastructure that would put compute processing and storage capabilities as close to a user as possible, no matter where he or she is located. “Reliability and robust performance were critical for this campaign, where the grand prize was a Volvo XC60,” says David Holecek, Digital Strategy Manager at Volvo Car Corporation.
Building such an infrastructure was not beyond the technical expertise of either Volvo or LBi; however, to do so would be cost-prohibitive. “Whether we built an on-premises infrastructure in multiple locations or rented physical server space for colocation, the cost was just too high—especially to only accommodate a temporary campaign,” explains Holecek. “Though we don’t want technology to limit our creativity, we also have to balance any technology solution with fiscal responsibility.”
In an effort to address its needs for a cost-effective infrastructure that provided the ability to quickly scale up to handle a high volume of traffic and that would also serve a global audience with high performance, Volvo chose to implement a cloud-based solution. After surveying the landscape of cloud services providers, LBi recommended that Volvo use Windows Azure, which is the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. It provides developers with on-demand compute, storage, and bandwidth, and a content distribution network to host, scale, and manage web applications through Microsoft data centers.
||By using Windows Azure, we can be on the cutting edge of technology and deliver to Volvo and our other customers what they need in terms of scalability and performance at a reasonable cost.
Technical Manager, LBi
Teamed with LBi, Volvo started developing its online, interactive game as part of the Eclipse movie tie-in marketing campaign just three months before the movie premiered. That was no problem, however, as development was simple with Windows Azure. Two developers at LBi used their existing programming skills to create the application, which is based on Microsoft .NET Framework 4 and the C# programming language. By using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Professional development system, the team built the online game in only two weeks and released it on June 3, 2010—in plenty of time for the Eclipse movie premiere on June 30, 2010.
The goal of the interactive game is to navigate a course maze in a Volvo car in the fastest time and using the shortest route. “In some cases, visitors spent more than 30 minutes on the website playing the game and being exposed to content about Volvo cars, which helps increase our brand awareness,” says Holecek. Once visitors completed the course, their contact information and game-play results were temporarily stored for comparison with all the other players. The top 40,000 players were automatically invited back to complete another course and answer three trivia questions about Eclipse and Volvo cars. The top results were then entered into a drawing for the grand prize Volvo XC60 car.
The interactive game was hosted in web roles in Windows Azure, which also handled the web-service requests that were triggered during game play. As needed, Volvo quickly added new web roles and scaled up to meet traffic demands. Data from those service requests was stored in Queue storage in Windows Azure. Worker roles in Windows Azure processed the service requests, while user and game-play data was stored in Windows Azure Table Storage. Volvo also could quickly scale up its storage, adding new tables to store data for as many game participants as it attracted.
To meet system performance goals, Volvo took advantage of strategically placed Microsoft data centers across the globe, all of which are SAS 70 Type II compliant—the highest industry standard for data security. The company deployed instances of its online game at multiple data centers across the United States and Europe so that customers who played the game accessed it from the instance closest to their physical proximity.
The marketing promotion ran from June 3 to July 14, 2010, during which time more than one million unique visitors went to the website, more than 400,000 of whom actively played the game.
By using Windows Azure, Volvo quickly developed and launched its campaign website in time for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
movie premiere. The company was able to scale up its website to handle large volumes of traffic during the global campaign, at a fraction of the cost of an on-premises solution and with the high performance the company required. Both Volvo and LBi now look forward to using Windows Azure for future digital marketing campaigns, and are excited that they are not limited by the technology constraints that can accompany other solutions.
Used Existing Developer Skills for Quick Time-to-Market
Developers at LBi used their experience and existing skills with the .NET Framework and Visual Studio tools to quickly develop and deploy the cloud-based solution—a critical factor in the success of the time-sensitive campaign website. “We had to launch the website in time
||As a result of using Windows Azure, which is a geo-distributed solution, we minimized any latency issues. In fact, we did not experience any downtime or other production-related disturbances with the campaign website.
Digital Strategy Manager, Volvo Car Corporation
for the Eclipse movie premiere to capture an engaged audience and maximize Volvo’s brand exposure,” explains Hedelin. “By using Windows Azure and the familiar environment, the development process was straightforward, and we were ready in just two weeks.”
Achieved Critical Levels of Scalability
Previously, Volvo had difficulty supporting a high volume of website traffic during other digital marketing campaigns, especially those tied to the popular Twilight
series. The company expected even larger volumes of traffic for the campaign that would run with the third movie in the series, and had trepidations about its ability to scale up to meet demand. However, by using Windows Azure, the company easily and quickly added new web roles and tables to handle the more than one million visitors to its website. “In the past, it has been nerve-wracking to launch a new campaign,” explains Holecek, “but with Windows Azure, we rested easy, knowing that we’d be able to dynamically scale to handle any amount of traffic.”
Reduced Technology Costs
At the same time, when the company did not need as many computing resources during slower periods of the campaign, it easily scaled down the number of Windows Azure instances it ran. “When we didn’t need the resources, we quickly scaled down the number of instances we used,” says Hedelin. “By optimizing its computing resources and not over-building its infrastructure, and by using the pay-as-you-go model that Windows Azure offers, Volvo reduced the costs of its campaign compared to previous initiatives.”
“By using Windows Azure, we saved 85 percent compared to an on-premises infrastructure,” says Holecek. “It is the most cost-effective way for Volvo to implement campaigns like the one we did for the Twilight
Improved Performance with a Globally Dispersed Infrastructure
Volvo delivered a high-performance game on its website, even for customers located outside of the European Union. By using Windows Azure, Volvo can deploy instances of the online gaming application to multiple Microsoft data centers around the world. This ensures that when visitors access the game, their requests are automatically routed to the nearest data center to their physical location, reducing the latency that client computers typically experience when accessing servers that are physically located across the world.
“As a result of using Windows Azure, which is a geo-distributed solution, we minimized any latency issues,” explains Holecek. “In fact, we did not experience any downtime or other production-related disturbances with the campaign website.”
Eliminated Technology Limitations and Freed Creativity
Volvo and LBi found success by using Windows Azure for its digital marketing campaign. Both companies now know that they can rely on Windows Azure for a scalable, high-performance, cost-effective solution for future initiatives.
Volvo is excited that it can bring its creative marketing visions to life, without being limited by technology. “It can be disappointing to dream up an exciting campaign that will generate tremendous interest in Volvo automobiles, only to find out that there isn’t a cost-effective technology available to support that vision,” explains Holecek. “With Windows Azure, we’re not limited by technology—our only limits are what we can come up with creatively.”
LBi is also thrilled with the prospects of using Windows Azure in the future. “By using Windows Azure, we can be on the cutting edge of technology and deliver to Volvo and our other customers what they need in terms of scalability and performance at a reasonable cost,” says Hedelin. “When we use Windows Azure, I sleep better at night, knowing that we’ve delivered what the customer has asked for.”
Windows Azure Platform
The Windows Azure platform provides developers the functionality to build applications that span from consumer to enterprise scenarios. They key components of the Windows Azure platform are:
• Windows Azure. Windows Azure is the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. It provides developers with on-demand compute, storage, bandwidth, content delivery, middleware, and marketplace capabilities to build, host, and scale web applications through Microsoft data centers.
• Microsoft SQL Azure. Microsoft SQL Azure is a self-managed, multitenant relational cloud database service built on Microsoft SQL Server technologies. It provides built-in high availability, fault tolerance, and scale-out database capabilities, as well as cloud-based data synchronization and reporting, to build custom enterprise and web applications and extend the reach of data assets.
To learn more, visit:
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
For more information about LBi products and services, call (46) (31) 760 0000 or visit the website at:
For more information about Volvo Car Corporation products and services, call (46) (031) 59 00 00 or visit the website at: