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Hands Down, This Is The Most Successful Commercial Of 2013

I’m calling it. This commercial for Volvo Trucks that came out today is the best commercial of 2013. What makes it – or other commercial shoots - so successful? Beautiful, simple ideas, a great concept, seamless execution, a bit of good old nostalgia and a pinch of the unexpected all mix beautifully to give us 70 seconds of pure brilliance. With four eight twelve twenty four thirty million views and counting, let's take a look and see why this ad has been so successful. 

For those of us of a certain generation, we will remember the king of kickboxing, Jean Claude Van Damme, from his many action films like “Bloodsport” and “Kickboxer”, and his insane ability to do the split kicks. It’s what he became known for. Volvo played to this brilliantly today with their demonstration of their truck's technical excellence in their new ad, by combining man and machine, in a statement piece that simply says “engineering excellence”.

The opening is a shocker for those of us who still remember Jean Claude from back in his hey day. He looks so old! But by the time the end of the commercial comes up, we’re touched by how he “still has the old magic”. It’s shot so simply and beautifully, all on a one shot take that starts in on a close up, smoothly tracks out to a wide and then tracks off to the side so we are left with a super strong, beautiful composition as the commercial ends.

Like the best commercials, we are left with a sense of awe, wonder, and amazement at what we've just seen - it is memorable. In an age and time where our attention spans are measured in fractions of seconds, this commercial just does everything right. As soon as I watched it, I went straight back and watched it again. It was that good. Today, a successful commercial is one that goes viral, that gets us talking, and makes us want to watch it again. The "stickiness" of commercials - how long we remember and talk about them for - is what makes them successful. Will this sell more Volvo trucks? Time will tell, but as far as a successful, sticky commercial goes, this one is pure gold.

They also filmed a little funny behind the scenes piece (albeit with little to no technical BTS information, it does help set the scene for the actual commercial very nicely).

It just goes to show – success isn’t something impossible or unfathomable or insanely out of reach, but it is about having the right ingredients, mixed properly together and carefully executed. It's about focusing on keeping things simple, not getting unnecessarily twisted up in all sorts of complexity for the sake of it. A simple concept, something that is well thought out, planned properly, shot simply and beautifully, and then has a drop of nostalgia and a little surprise added to the mix provides the basis for an amazing, heart stopping piece of visual media.

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192 Comments

Tam Nguyen's picture

Hold my beer... I can do this.

troλλ's picture

Coors light ?

drewzer15's picture

Coors Light?! We ain't got that kinda money! Old Milwaukee!

Tim Gallo's picture

his nipples was so hard he can hear them! daahahaha! thanks for reminding another great one

rhauck's picture

Famous last words of rednecks everywhere.

Glen Henderson's picture

Nah, man - redneck's famous last words: "Hey y'all, watch THIS!"
Amazing commercial, though.

Matt's picture

Pabst Blue Ribbon

wendy_becca's picture
JVP404's picture

JCVD - Like a boss!

Ray_in_EP's picture

Famous last words: Hey y'all... watch this!

Praverb's picture

haha It is great to see Jean Claude making money again...classic commercial...

Tebo Samaniego's picture

jajajajaja

John MacLean's picture

Incredible!!!

Sean Davey's picture

It looks like they played the film backwards. What do you guys think?....

Guest's picture

Look at the drives, their eyes are constantly looking in the side mirrors.

Dishan Marikar's picture

nup, watch the drivers. That's definitely filmed with the trucks driving in reverse, not reverse playback in post.

Hampus Samuelsson's picture

Look at the drivers eyes, they are constantly looking in the side mirrors.

Nock4Six's picture

No. It was filmed exactly as you see it. This is why the left truck is a straight truck and only the right one is a semi. Also, the straight truck is the only one moving apart. This could not have been done with 2 semis. If they filmed this with the trucks moving forward, they would have used 2 semis because they could have.

gregorylent's picture

and a couple bucks for enya ,, but for sure, the use of cgi is the first thing that came to my mind

Jonas Sundgren's picture

They claim that the only cgi was taking away the safetyline that JCVD was wearing just in case of a slip.

Dafydd Owen's picture

Wonder why they had to do it backwards (and reverse the film). Must be something technical to do with steering.

Dafydd Owen's picture

Ah - I'm wrong - they didn't reverse the film. They are actually going backwards. Mind made me thing they were going forwards.

David Geffin's picture

a pinch of the unexpected ;)

Hampus Samuelsson's picture

This is to show how easy it is to control the trucks while reversing. They have put a lot of effort in to their new dynamic steering.

Kris Josef's picture

Other than to show off the engineering brilliance, I imagine one of the biggest reasons they filmed it backwards was so that if by some fluke the safety harness JCVD was on snapped or broke and he fell between the trucks, that they wouldn't risk running him over like they would if they were going forward.

rspkt's picture

It's to illustrate the precision of the steering which is the point of Volvo's ad. Driving backwards is more difficult for the average person especially with any precision so presenting the concept in this fashion is the perfect way to illustrate it visually in a way really anyone can relate to.

Sean Shimmel's picture

Besides the video itself... your review is thoughtfully and gracefully worded.

David Geffin's picture

thanks Sean, very nice of you to say so :)

Ms. Morganna Bramah's picture

Although I have to point out Dave, that Jean-Claude looks amazing for His age, especially considering He's on very powerful life-sapping medication for BPD. <3

Tatiana Saiapina's picture

agree, I enjoyed reading the review, and I am not a person with interest in commercials or/and reviews. So, "Bravo!" from me.
Thank you.

David Geffin's picture

you're welcome Tatiana, thanks for your nice words!

Wayne Walters's picture

I agree, this is a well written review of the commercial.

Owain Shaw Photo's picture

I hope that's a Volvo truck in the background of the BTS video. (It could be an early 90s one, my knowledge of out-of-focus commercial vehicles isn't what it used to be, for better or worse.)

Dejan Smaic's picture

Ok, reversing the vid appearing driving backwards...brilliant!

Dishan Marikar's picture

watch the drivers - that's not shot driving forwards and then reversed in post. That's legit!

Dejan Smaic's picture

Yes, closer review, I now can see VD shirt reacting to a backdraft....

Tebo Samaniego's picture

Amazing spot

Dishan Marikar's picture

I've never driven a truck, but I have towed a large trailer. Reversing is incredibly difficult in order to keep the trailer straight (I'd say impossible for a novice to do.) Not wanting to take anything away from the simplicity and gracefulness of this advertisement, nor the expertise required in driving these trucks, but the truck on the left of screen is not towing a trailer (it's a long wheel base truck) and is therefore able to move out more easily to enable JCvD to do his splits.

Compare that to the one on the right which tracks straight the whole way. If both were towing trailers then I can only imagine how disastrous it could have been! I'm intrigued to know if this steering system would make it possible.

I see why they have chosen to use these 2 trucks specifically, and why they filmed it the way the did, closing off by showing the short wheelbase truck (prime mover) with its long trailer and obscuring the shorter long wheelbase truck. Very cleverly planned and executed, and indeed memorable.

Richard Silver's picture

Interesting! This makes me even more impressed with the actual execution (the advertised steering doesn't interest me as much though! =P)

dusko pilic's picture

I'm clearly not as observant as you... cleverly done by Volvo. good eye.

Ordonormanus's picture

Good eye!

Ryan Peterman's picture

The point of the video is to sell trucks. Why would 2 identical trucks have to be used to demonstrate this? Both could have had a trailer and it would have worked. Just wouldn't have shown to truck drives this is available on a 5 ton (best guess) and semi. I will give you props for noticing, and pointing out the fact. I will agree the semi was the best choice to close with, after all at 1/4 mil plus plus plus, that is the one they want to sell more of.

Dishan Marikar's picture

Sorry, I didn't mean that 2 identical trucks needed to be used. I was just stating that using that truck without the trailer removed some of the danger and made it easier to predict and manoeuvre for the drivers and stunt person (JCvD) involved.

I am taking a guess here, but I feel that those who devised this knew that changing the path of one truck was all that was required. Keeping the truck with the trailer on a straight path was the safe option so that the stable long wheelbase truck could diverge instead. Why should they complicate things unnecessarily?

In effect they 'hid' the smaller truck behind the longer semi, and most people would be none the wiser. When I first watched it I too didn't realise that 2 very different chassis were being used, after all the front of each truck appears identical. I actually assumed that both were full length semi trailers! Seeing it the second time I noticed that details differed on the trailers, which is when I began to look more closely.

I'm tipping this campaign will be seen by haulage companies globally, if they weren't already aware of what Volvo have achieved, so I hope it helps them sell some product :)

Redbird's picture

Still impressive for the long trailer to reverse without doing a jackknife.

Dishan Marikar's picture

Most definitely :)

sdd's picture

Yeah the Short base did make it easier. But I think the commercial for anyone really into the business would see that the precision of going in reverse without much effort because of the steering system.

Jonathan Cleur's picture

Never Driven a Trailer or never reversed it..??? Play some GTA won't you..!!

Savi You's picture

This is just a wild ass guess, but I'm sure they didn't want to cripple or maim JCVD, so they chose the safest options.

Dishan Marikar's picture

well, that's what I was hinting at

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