Ad of the Day: W+K’s Grand New Delta Spot Is Very Poetic, and a Bit Unsettling

Donald Sutherland's voiceover imparts an indomitable spirit

Headshot of Tim Nudd

This new Delta commercial from Wieden + Kennedy in New York spends 45 of its 60 seconds staring at the ground, yet it's the most high-concept airline ad in a while.

It's also either quite inspiring or a bit dismaying, depending on your level of comfort with airline ads that focus on the actual terrifying physics of giant machines hurtling along at great speeds. It aims for the former, naturally, but leans toward the latter at the outset, as Donald Sutherland intones, in a gravelly voiceover, "What's happening here is not normal."

That's a bit of a funny line to open an airline commercial, even if Sutherland quickly follows it up with the disclaimer, "It's extraordinary." And the rest of the poetic voiceover—combined with visuals that are hectic and claustrophobic until almost the very end—doesn't exactly lighten the mood.

Later, in another part of the voiceover, Sutherland takes stock of a Delta jet furiously in motion—"291 people, 350 tons, 186 miles per hour"—and then suggests, bluntly, "There is no stop in us. Or you. Only go." That's meant to be a good thing, though it risks conjuring imagery of not being able to stop—and might have you pining for one of W+K's famously inventive safety videos for the same carrier.

As a grandiose mini manifesto, though, it works well enough—saluting Delta's indomitable spirit and its passengers' sense of adventure. And if it overreaches here and there—e.g., comparing today's travelers to "the pioneers … in canoes and covered wagons, with wild eyes and big-fevered dreams"—it sure beats focusing on the reality of today's air travel.

The visual approach is pretty brave, too, and unique—not showing a single airplane—even if it's not totally clear why it took two directors (Smuggler's Adam Berg and Joost Van Gelder) to shoot it. The first half of the spot almost evokes space travel, as the close-up of the runway lines flying by gives a sense of lifting. The final shot is lovely, too, bringing a calmness to what's been a bit of a bumpy ride.

The sound is notable, as well—a deep roar that pulsates more and more quickly as the plane gathers speed, making the spot even more intense (which is plenty engaging, though for the reasons mentioned above, doesn't always feel entirely pleasant).

This work is part of the "Keep Climbing" campaign but takes a slightly new direction to show how Delta enables the pursuit of opportunity, connecting flyers to great experiences, adventures and opportunities in the world.

Just, you know, buckle your seatbelt first, and be willing to help in case of an emergency.


Client: Delta Air Lines

Spot: "Take Off: Why We Go"

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, New York

Executive Creative Directors: Jaime Robinson and David Kolbusz

Creative Directors: Eric Helin, Erik Norin, Sean McLaughlin and John Parker

Creatives: Eric Dennis, Molly Jamison

Head of Content Production: Nick Setounski

Broadcast Producer: Cheryl Warbrook, Nick Setounski, Kristen Johnson

Brand Strategist: Sam Matthews

Account Team: Liz Taylor, Meghan Mullen, Lauren Smith

Business Affairs: Sara Jagielski, Keri Rommel, Sonia Bisono, Andy Hume

Production Company: Smuggler

Director: Adam Berg, Joost Van Gelder

Director/DP: Joost Van Gelder

Partner: Patrick Milling Smith

Partner: Brian Carmody

Executive Producer: Shannon Jones

Head of Production: Andrew Colón

Producer: Leslie Vaughn

Editorial Company: Cosmo Street

Editor: Mark Potter

Producer: Maura Woodward

VFX Company: MPC

VFX Lead Flame: Marcus Wood

Senior Producer: Armand Weeresinghe

Sound Studio: Sonic Union

Sound mixer: Steve Rosen

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.
Publish date: September 24, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT