I tend to focus most of my posts on photography, but those of you that know me well know that I love film and video production. Which is what prompted me to write about this commercial. I myself dabble in corporate video production and the thought of this commercial has me as excited as when I first saw Bloodsport. Kumite! Kumite! Kumite!
This is a stunning example of advertising. It is pleasurable to watch, picks at that nostalgia factor, and actually demonstrates a marketing message.
First of all it is beautifully shot. You have soft beautiful light. Nice flowing, simple, and precise camera work. This clearly was not shot by Michael Bay. It rhythmically flows to the surprisingly effective Enya music. Clearly the camera work was very complex in execution but simple in result. The best kind of cinematography as it becomes invisible to the viewer.
Like many great pieces of advertising it plays on our emotions. This commercial is obviously not aimed at everyone. But everyone can recognize former 80s and 90s action star Jean Claude Van Damme. For some reason nostalgia tugs at our emotional heart strings. Memories of our not too distant past seem to always bring up positive emotions. We connect to this man we knew. The voice over monologue is also extremely powerful. It speaks of the ups and downs of a superstar. We all witnessed the rise and fall of this man. We now connect to him emotionally because he is no longer that larger than life figure. He is just a man, who like us has made mistakes, and aged. We often put these Hollywood stars on a pedestal. The opening close up shot is so effective because it shows how he has weathered with age.
The music is incredibly effective as well. It is almost comical at first because it is sort of tacky and has been associated with cheesy emotion for some time. But the longer it plays, and the more times you see the video it becomes shockingly emotional. It works so well with the beauty of the camera work, and the nostalgia factor with JCVD.
Thus we come to the actual marketing message. So often in these types of stunts the message is lost and the whole piece becomes more about sensation than an actual message. Here we get the message loud and clear. Precision! We get that message because as an audience we understand the ramifications if the trucks were not handled with precision. JCVD would take a nasty tumble and this would end up as more of a TMZ video.
We also make the connection of powerful engineering. We understand how difficult it is to achieve the precision of the splits. We appreciate what a feat of strength and power it takes to balance on two mirrors while driving backwards. All these subtle cues drive home the message that this is an incredible achievement.
Volvo also does a great job of gracefully inserting themselves into the message. It is not in your face that it becomes distasteful. It’s also not so subtle that what the ad is trying to sell is lost like a pair of jeans on the bathroom floor with a girl showering. You remember those ads right? Do you remember what brand of jeans they were selling?
In the end Volvo nailed this commercial with absolute precision. They got their message across perfectly. The commercial is clever, beautiful, and simple. It makes it irresistibly sharable.