Cannes winner case study: How Volvo epic split got 73m YouTube views

23/06/2014

Scooping joint top honour at this year’s Cannes Festival, this Volvo video featured movie star Jean-Claude Van Damme doing an improbable-looking split between two moving trucks. This case study looks at how the ad married celebrity and the 'wow' factor to drive home a message about precision steering (and get 73 million YouTube views in the process).

Each leg is set on a truck that is driving backward, while Van Damme keeps a calm expression on his face. In his voiceover, Van Damme talks about having "a mind-set to master the most epic of splits." The ad was designed to show off Volvo truck's precision steering.

Cannes Juror Al Mosely, chief creative officer at 180 Amsterdam, said, "It kind of had everything. It had the product at the heart of the story, it was a fantastic demo. But it was more than that. It was a spiritual meditation, had a huge emotional punch as well as the product message, which we found extraordinary. Obviously, it's not just confined to our jury, as it's certainly been the most successful piece of film at least over the last 12 months."

Volvo has been running a new series on YouTube to promote its Truck range all year, with previous death-defying entries featuring a bull run in Spain and the company CEO Claes Nilsson standing on a truck dangling from a crane by just its front hook.

Anders Vilhelmsson, public relations manager for the Volvo Trucks brand, insisted that it was a 100 per cent real.

He told the Wall Street Journal: ‘The stunt is real and is performed in just one take. It’s a daring stunt but we had full control. There was never any real danger involved.’

Van Damme reportedly did use safety equipment during the shoot which took place at a closed-off airstrip in Spain.

The stunt had to be completed within just 15 minutes after 8am on the day when the sunlight was just right.

Director Andreas Nilsson said: ‘The film you see is the first take. But obviously we had tons of rehearsals. The tension was really high. I saw a tough stunt coordinator well up after we nailed it. That might actually be the nicest memory from the shoot.’

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