Buckle Up, Because Delta Is Coming for You With Another Intense and Lofty Ad

W+K aims high once again

Edgy airline commercials. Who wouldn't want more of those?

"Tell the World," the latest excursion in Delta Airlines' "Keep Climbing" campaign from Wieden + Kennedy New York, delivers an intriguing but turbulent ride. 

Last September, the carrier's "Take Off" spot, which focused on a single plane's departure as it sped down a runway, accompanied by narration from Donald Sutherland, veered into territory that was poetic, and a bit unsettling. The flight path now continues even further in that direction. 

As in last year's commercial, Smuggler director Adam Berg bypasses soaring planes with sunlight glinting off their wings, and smiley flight staff … in favor of less predictable fare. Here, the emphasis is on destinations, as opposed to the journey. We see lovers embrace in a storm, a skier on a mountaintop, and some folks on a boat observing sharks.

Though riveting in their way, these dramatic, brooding visuals seem strangely ominous, especially in context. Are we flying into bad weather? Toward those icy peaks? Does that shark look hungry to you? 

This effect is heightened by the persistent whine of a jet engine and Sutherland's intense, breathy voiceover: "Once you get out here, that's all there is. There's just one direction: Forward. One time: Now. And there's just one sound: You and us, together, with a mighty roar, that tells the world we're coming for you." 

Such elevated language is clearly intended to sound spirited and adventurous, but the word choices could easily be construed as negative. That's all there is? Delta's coming for us?! It's easy to imagine Sutherland as a grizzled gremlin, delivering lines while perched on the wing and waiting to feed upon stray limbs … especially after The Hunger Games. (I'm kidding. Sort of.) 

"The thought behind this spot was, how can you take everything you know about an airline commercial and move it from where you typically are into a much more emotional space—something that viscerally really stopped you in your tracks?" explains W+K New York executive creative director Karl Lieberman in a behind-the-scenes clip.

While it's admirable to aim high and steer clear of category clichés, Delta might consider a more grounded approach. We're starting to miss sun-kissed flight footage and those smiling stewards, always so reassuring and eager to please. (Take those nice people on British Airways, for example.)

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@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.