Volvo Trucks has had good success with its series of viral videos illustrating the precision steering on its European trucks, but it hit the ball out of the park with its most recent effort, "The Epic Split," which became the most viewed automotive commercial on YouTube ever.
I know the ad was the subject of conversation on an editorial conference call shortly after the ad debuted. HDT Equipment Editor Jim Park, who was a driver for 20 years, expressed skepticism that such a stunt was possible.
In "The Epic Split," actor Jean-Claude Van Damme does a split between two new Volvo FM trucks -- while they drive in reverse -- all to the background music of artist Enya. The idea is to demonstrate the precision and stability of Volvo Dynamic Steering.
Park had no problems with the split -- it was the driving backwards that raised his eyebrows. But Volvo assured me that it's absolutely real and filmed in just one take.
Since the launch of "The Epic Split" commercial on YouTube, it has created a massive engagement all over the world, with more than 59 million views in only four weeks.
“It is quite overwhelming. Sure, we were hoping for a success, but we didn’t expect it to be this big or come this fast,” said Per Nilsson, PR director for the Volvo Trucks brand in Europe.
7 million views
"The Epic Split" was released on YouTube on Nov. 14. On the first day, the film was viewed over 6.5 million times and shared over 32 thousand times. It quickly became the most shared film on YouTube. On the best day so far, "The Epic Split" had more than 7 million views. The launch of the film sparked activity on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.
“People shared and commented the film over and over again. This level of engagement is more important than the number of views on YouTube,” Per Nilsson says.
To me, you know you've hit the mark when people start satirizing your creation. In Volvo's case, the video has even been spoofed by a group of Palestinians comedians trying to highlight the plight of people in the Gaza Strip.
The response in the first four weeks can be summarized in numbers, Volvo says. According to the company, "The Epic Split" and the story about it have been shared over 6 million times on social networks.
The video has received extensive media coverage from all over the world. It's been the subject of approximately 20,000 editorial pieces online so far (and here's another one!) Some, like this one and this one, look at the behind-the-scenes details of how it was done.
The video is the latest in a string that started in August last year, when world record-holding highliner Faith Dickey battled in the wind to cross the line between two speeding trucks on an unopened highway in Croatia.
Why is Volvo doing these videos?
”People pick up on and start to talk about all these stories. The more emotions and reactions the film evokes, the more conversations are started, which makes the film spread and we reach out with our message effectively and in a spectacular way,” Nilsson said.
An important aspect of the success of ‘The Epic Split’ is that it builds a fan base for the future, Volvo says.
“For instance, Volvo Trucks’ YouTube channel has more than tripled its number of subscribers since the launch, subscribers who will be reached by new films in the future,” said Nilsson.