Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
At the time of writing, the ad had been viewed 59,153,712 times since it was published on YouTube on 13 November.
Putting that in perspective, John Lewis’ Christmas ad, "the bear and the hare", which was released on 8 November and was one of the most talked-about ads in the UK this year, has been viewed 10.5 million times on YouTube.
To date, the Volvo ad has not aired on TV as a commercial. A spokeswoman for Volvo Trucks declined to comment on how the ad has affected sales figures, but said: "We’ve had an incredible upsurge of interactions and awareness among our target groups, noticeable in social media and online, as well as via our global network of dealers."
The campaign, which shows van Damme straddling two reversing trucks and then performing the splits as the vehicles move away from each other, was created by the Swedish independent agency Forsman & Bodenfors.
Two creatives who worked on the project, Sophia Lindholm and Martin Ringqvist, told Campaign that they had no idea the ad would be so popular.
Ringqvist said: "We thought it might be the most interesting ad of the campaign [it was the sixth ad in a wider campaign advertising the new Volvo FM]. But we didn’t imagine that would be as huge as this.
"When you work on something for a long time, after a while, you’re not impressed. You get sick of hearing Enya [who provides the soundtrack] and when it comes out, you think ‘it’s okay’."
Forsman & Bodenfors has been working with Volvo Trucks for three and a half years.
The agency initially declined to work with Volvo because it did not believe it had the right credentials for a business-to-business push. But after the third approach, Forsman & Bodenfors agreed to create a campaign.
Lindholm and Ringqvist said that, like the other ads in the campaign (which include a spot where a truck takes part in a bull run), the starting point for "the epic split" came from talking to Volvo’s technicians. The idea was then developed by working with director Andreas Nilsson.
Ringqvist said: "We started talking about someone doing the splits to show the precision of the steering and after that it was not too far fetched to start thinking of van Damme.
"The basic idea for the campaign was that it would work on two levels," said Lindholm. "Most people will think ‘wow, Jean-Claude van Damme’ but the core audience will think ‘wow, two trucks are able to drive like this’."
Ringqvist added that van Damme was keen to do the project. He said: "When he realised what the test was all about, he was really excited. He really wanted to do it."
Although there may be an element of humour in the ad, Lindholm said for her it was about "showing appreciation for both Jean-Claude van Damme and Volvo Trucks. Also, Andreas was strong on portraying van Damme as a hero, not some comical guy."
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk