The Spot: Airline to Heaven

McCann Oslo brings the magic back to air travel with a spot for a Norwegian carrier

Headshot of Tim Nudd

IDEA: It's a sad irony that flying, literally the most aspirational of human pursuits, has become synonymous with pure hell. Customer-service failures are the norm, to the point where one major U.S. airline now openly likens the industry to a violent game show almost no one can win. Now and again, airlines attempt to claim a loftier purpose—United's animated spots from the mid-2000s come to mind—but the typical customer experience can make a mockery of such ads. Now, however, a regional carrier in Norway called Widerøe has produced something transcendental for the category: A quiet spot from McCann Oslo that simply and beautifully recaptures the sense of wonder about flying through a subtle, delightful metaphor that makes the ad itself a minor miracle. Flying is magical, it indelibly claims. So, in its own way, is the ad.

COPYWRITING: A boy on a farm implores his grandfather to repeat a magic trick, which the viewer has yet to see. The grandfather keeps resisting—until suddenly, he begins furiously rubbing his hands together, turns to one side, puts his hands to his mouth, and appears to blow out an airplane with a whoosh. (It's actually taking off over the mountains in the distance.) The ad, gorgeously shot, is deceptively simple. "I guess every magic trick has an element of surprise, but maybe this story has two," copywriter Stein Simonsen and art director Torstein Greni told Adweek in an email. "There's the trick itself, and then there's the trick of making the magic relevant to an airline's frequent flights to remote places."

The setup slyly accomplishes this—they're in the countryside, yet the flights are frequent enough that the boy is always clamoring to see the trick again. "We also liked Widerøe's role in the trick," the creatives added, "being out of focus in the background and still, in some way, playing the main role. Then, of course, there's also the magic of flying." "All over Norway. All the time," says the onscreen tagline at the end.

ART DIRECTION/FILMING: The scenery is majestic, while the characters are dressed simply. Director Marius Holst shot the ad in mid-August near Åndalsnes on the west coast. "The weather was actually almost too nice on the shooting day, so we had to desaturate the colors of the sky, the fjord and the grass quite a bit in order for it to even look real," the creatives said. The airplane was done with CGI. "It actually took much more time to get it right than we expected," they added. "Getting the plane to look real was one thing, but finding the right focus points, speed and course was not as easy as it may sound." The camera work subtly establishes the point of view as the boy's. He is looking slightly past the camera, while the grandfather looks right at it.

TALENT: The script "had almost too many element of cuteness, so we wanted an execution pulling in the opposite direction," the creatives said. "Like Marius said, 'Nine out of 10 kids in TV ads look like actors or models. We need a real kid, someone who is probably not even listed at a casting agency.' So the boy was street cast, and we immediately knew he was the one we were looking for. It was impressive to see how Marius made him feel totally relaxed in front of the camera." The grandfather is a professional actor with "just the right combination of wisdom and playfulness," they added.

SOUND: The quiet guitar music is from the song "Youth" by British band Daughter. There is some minimal sound design—most prominently, the whooshing plane sound.

MEDIA: The ad "comes around slightly less frequently than Widerøe's flights," said the creatives, "but runs quite broadly, both on TV and in cinemas."



Client: Widerøe

Agency: McCann Oslo

Copywriter: Stein Simonsen

Art Director: Torstein Greni

Agency Producer: Beril Holte Rasmussen

Project Manager: Camilla von Borcke

Planner: Svein Saelid

Production Company: 4 1/2

Director: Marius Holst

Director of Photography: John Andreas Andersen

Producer: Magnus Castracane

Editing and Post Production Company: Storyline Studios

Music: Daughter

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.