It's not often the world goes nuts over a B-to-B campaign, but that's exactly what happened when Volvo Trucks resurrected the career of action hero Jean-Claude van Damme in its "Epic Split" online film. Part of the brand's "Live Tests" campaign promoting its commercial vehicles, it showed the star with his legs perched -- and moving farther and farther apart -- on two backwards-driving trucks -- just one in a series remarkable stunts that have included everything from a driving hamster to the Volvo trucks company president -- standing atop a 15-ton Volvo truck suspended from its own towing hook above Gothenburg Harbor in Sweden.
Over the last two years, four creatives (pictured above, from L-R) from Swedish shop Forsman and Bodenfors, Anders Eklind, Martin Rinqvist, Sophia Lindholm and Björn Engström, have worked hand-in-hand with the client, including Volvo engineers, to pinpoint the capabilities shown off in the campaign.
The four had been at the agency for some time before teaming on the Volvo campaign more than two years ago. Art director Mr. Eklind joined the agency in 1991, and Copywriter Mr. Rinqvist signed on in 1997, both straight out of Berghs School of Communication. Art Director Ms. Lindholm joined in 2006 after stints at Ogilvy and production company B-Reel, while Copywriter Mr. Engström, the vet of the bunch, started in advertising in the '70s and arrived at F&B in 1988.
The team described their work style as "very Swedish," said Mr. Eklind. "We're very fluid, always floating. We bring up a lot of good ideas, bad ideas, and if someone in the group isn't happy, we start doing something else--and most of the time, that new idea is better than the old one."
All throughout, the "Live Tests" ads have sought to entertain the general public as much as engage the truck driving target. "When truck drivers see 'Epic Split,' they see the fantastic feat of two trucks driving in reverse, but the broader audience sees Van Damme," said Mr. Engström.
The Van Damme film is perhaps the finest example so far, of what, in essence, has been a series of compelling product demonstrations -- an unlikely harmony of action star, amazing vehicular choreography and Enya's "Only Time" -- the 2000 pop track serves as the bizarre, but oddly perfect sonic backdrop. "One of the Volvo engineers had explained how he was reversing at very high speed, and how impossible that was," Mr. Engström said of the spot's origins. "So one day we thought, Wow, we need to have two trucks reversing. We're always thinking of real 'live tests.' In fact, they're not stunts, we're demonstrating the products in a relevant way."
The "Live Tests" campaign so far promise to be an industry-awards favorite for 2014. It recently picked up multiple accolades, including Best of Show, and helped earn F&B the Agency of the Year nod at the Art Directors Club's annual awards show. But perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the work so far happened on set. "We shot the film in one take," explained Mr. Engström. "In the morning, the sun was rising for eight minutes and we had to get it right. We practiced months beforehand with a stunt director, Peter Pedrero, who worked on blockbusters like 'Braveheart' and 'Harry Potter.' When Peter came and saw the perfect take, he went away crying. That was the moment we realized we had something special."
See the rest of the 2014 Creatives You Should Know.