Hands Down, This Is The Most Successful Commercial Of 2013

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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Tam Nguyen's picture

Hold my beer... I can do this.

Coors light ?

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

Famous last words of rednecks everywhere.

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

Pabst Blue Ribbon

JCVD - Like a boss!

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

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


John MacLean's picture


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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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 ;)

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.

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.

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 :)

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

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