When VW released its teaser for its upcoming Super Bowl spot, feelings were mixed. The ad involved German engineers doing their mathy best to calculate what would make a great Super Bowl ad. The engineers were funny. The rest was a collection of well-worn clichés. Would VW’s agency on this spot, Argonaut, pull out a winner following Deutsch LA’s back-to-back Super Bowl blockbusters, "The Force" and "The Bark Side"? Or were we in for a parade of tired tropes?
Thankfully, Argonaut’s debut for the German carmaker kept the engineers and ditched the rest. What we end up with is an amusing play on a classic movie, with a fun, colorful twist.
The concept for "Wings" borrows heavily from the 1946 classic It’s a Wonderful Life. In it, a father describes to his uninterested daughter that when a VW reaches 100,000 miles (which his car just has), a German engineer gets his (yes, his; the be-winged engineers appear to be all male) wings. Cut to a German car factory where employees are sprouting plumage left, right and center. Feathers fly on the assembly line. Wings burst from open sunroofs. Appendages emerge in elevators. And we even discover, in a bathroom sadly, that wing envy is a thing.
Argonaut was awarded this high-profile job after being invited to pitch on VW’s return to the Super Bowl. Agency co-chief creative officers Rick Condos and Hunter Hindman say the brief was simple: tell the world that VW has more cars on the road than any other brand. "Oh, and make sure it lives up to VW’s legacy of iconic Super Bowl ads. No big deal," says Condos.
Hindman says it all started with the simple line, every time a Volkswagen hits 100,000 miles, a German engineer gets his wings. "It wasn’t even a script yet. But it sparked our imaginations. And we knew it had the makings of something that would be memorable on the Super Bowl."
Argonaut worked with director Tom Kuntz and puppeteers from Legacy and the Mill for visual effects. In all, around 30 engineers were "winged". But Hindman says one of the coolest things about making the spot was the opportunity to shoot most of it in VW’s Transparent Factory in Dresden, Germany. "It’s a true work of art. Just the sheer look of that factory reinforces the power of German engineering and gives the spot a legitimacy and gravity that couldn’t have been achieved on a set."
While the wings conceit is cute and works as a spot, this is the Super Bowl, so Argonaut took it one step further. When the daughter looks at her father’s assertion of ethereal engineers with complete incredulity, she cheekily questions what happens when a VW reaches 200,000 miles.
Rainbows come from their backsides, naturally.
"We knew we needed to end the commercial with a surprise that people would talk about," says Hindman. "It is the Super Bowl after all. And it only made sense that if something as unbelievable as wings sprouting from German engineers happened at 100,000 miles, then something even more outlandish would have to happen at 200,000 miles. From there we just set our minds free and rainbows shooting out of a rather unexpected place just kind of stuck."