Have a look at this. Really, seriously, watch it.
This is what’s known in the advertising industry as a “demonstration” commercial. The simple point being made – unmistakably, single mindedly – is that Volvo trucks have good steering. Which one supposes is quite important when one is manoeuvering something weighing roughly the same as a small planet around congested roads.
But you know what? Almost every single truck and car executive I have ever met in Australia (and I have met more than a few) would have rejected this idea as “too cutesy, too clever, too obscure”.
They would have gone, instead, for some mind-numbing boring crap about trucks barreling round the Great Ocean Road while the 200lb nugget-jawed driver didn’t spill his coffee. And they wouldn’t let you make a 60 second commercial, either. Not enough rotations on the media buy. Oh dearie me, no.
So anyway, embracing a sudden and delightfully unexpected attack of advertising genius, instead Volvo went out and made this ad with resurrected martial artist and movie star Jean Claude Van Damme, famous for doing the splits between a pair of chairs and so on, and they stuck it onYouTube.
In an instant – well, in exactly one week, actually – 33 MILLION people have viewed it, (how’s that for a media buy, for free, huh?) and as a result will have re-evaluated Volvo in their mind into something approaching quite a cool brand, really, and they’ll have got the message about their trucks’ suspension, and, by the by, have revived their interest in JCVD himself.
Which is good, because the much-admired Belgian has beaten a severe cocaine addiction, a spell as a homeless derelict, and is getting his life back on track. If you’ll pardon the pun. So well done him, too.
And most of all, well done a courageous Volvo marketing manager, who just deservedly became a hero. The clip is called “The Epic Split”. I call it the Epic Idea.
All other truck companies, take note. Actually, all other advertisers take note, full stop. Pay your ad agencies to come up with truly creative ideas, and then get the hell out of the way and let them execute them for you. Stop writing your own tedious ads, and asking ad agencies to produce them, and then wondering why they don’t work.
One of the most famous “demonstration ads” of all time is regularly shown to advertising trainees, to encourage them to push and prod their clients for facts that they can actually include in their ads in an interesting manner, to make powerful messages that both excite and educate.
But in my certain experience, many companies then and today simply do not think hard enough about their competitive advantages, and encourage their ad agency to discover them and communicate them. They are risk averse, and unimaginative. Or their multi-million dollar ad budget is actually administered by a “marketing manager” whose status in the company is low – way behind the bean counters and lawyers – and who is straight out of an academic marketing course, and therefore cheap to employ, and very unlikely to “shake the boat” internally to argue for breakthrough creative work..
Marketing should lead a companies’ activities. It should be their ever-present obsession and treated with fanatical seriousness. For those where that is true, greatness beckons.
And if you’ve never been involved in advertising and marketing, (or, perhaps, especially if you are), we warmly recommend you take ten minutes and watch this genuinely hilarious skewering of the whole agency/client so-called creative process. Colin Mochrie’s character as the ultimate decision maker on the campaign is just a marvellous vignette. Mochrie is still going strong in the ever-fascinating ever-evolving world of Improv in which Mss Wellthisiswhatithink Jnr is now taking great strides. Funny, funny man. It was made in 2000, but was just as poisonously accurate in 1960 as it is in 2013.
Needless to say, and I hasten to add, no client or agency or production company I have EVER worked for or with in my 25 years in the ad industry has behaved like this.
Never, ever, ever. Ever.