‘Scared clients need massive platforms’ says planner behind Volvo’s Van Damme Epic Split

The strategist behind the most awarded campaign of 2014, Volvo Trucks’ Epic Split, has urged clients to lose their reliance on big brand platforms saying they do not “put the glue between consumers and the brands”.



Tobias Nordstrom, head of planning at Swedish agency Forsman & Bodenfors, told Mumbrella’s BEFest conference in Sydney how the agency had overhauled its structure, putting creative teams at the top, in a bid to adapt to a content-led way of thinking which led to the Epic Split success.

“I know it’s really good to have brand platforms but that doesn’t help you get connected to the consumers – it doesn’t put the glue between consumers and the brands,” said Nordstrom.

“We have a saying, ‘when the train leaves the platform gets left behind’. Scared clients need massive platforms – clients who want to go further don’t need that.”

The agency is based around a model of ‘content, presentation, support’ according to Nordstrom, who explained how they had purposefully decided to invert the pyramid structure giving power to creative teams, with everyone there to support each other.

He explained: “We tried everything to get rid of hierarchy in our office. We don’t have any creative directors or global creative officers.

“We have two formal roles CEO and CFO, we need that according to the law. But then we’re grouped into mish mash of teams. They’re able to take full decisions by themselves.

“That was a big difference for us, it changed the game completely. Management is there to support the teams.”

He added it was written into people’s contracts they were expected to “go out there and help other people without being recognised for it – otherwise you won’t last long”.

Talking about the Epic Split, which dominated global award ceremonies and has had 81m views on Youtube, he said their mission was to make a “Gangnam Style for trucks”, but came after several other campaigns which had started with the idea of making the brand a media house to fight competitors Mercedes Benz’s much bigger media spend.

He admitted: “After doing the epic Split you slowly die a little bit – we get a call a week asking for another Epic Split. We worked for several weeks trying to deconstruct how it was done.

“We had all the newspapers and bloggers explaining how this is how you go viral, and we thought maybe that’s how it was done. But no, it’s not.”

He said their first viral hit was a ballerina walking between two trucks on a wire, which got good play in the mainstream press.

But for the next campaign they wanted to target more of the business press, so they got the CEO of Volvo Trucks to stand on a truck, hanging from a crane, despite being scared of heights.

The next campaign centred around ground clearance of the truck, so they buried the chief engineer and had the truck drive over him.

And then came the Epic Split, which has had more than 20,000 editorial pieces on it, as well as hundreds of parodies which Nordstrom said strengthened the brand’s presence.

He concluded: “Now you can come in as a small challenger on the market and overtake the big ones. Even though Volvo is a massive campaign they’re really small compared to Daimler, Chrysler, Mercedes and all those others.”

Examples he gave of campaigns the agency – which has 51 creatives and is based in one office, included H&M’s ‘Close the Loop’ campaign voiced by Iggy Pop.

He also talked on the pro bono ‘805 Million Names’ campaign for the UN which used football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic to raise awareness of world hunger.

Alex Hayes


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