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.