A New Agency Spreads Its Wings
By Carrie Cummings on Mar 14, 2014
Don’t feel too ashamed if you haven’t heard of Argonaut—you’ve probably heard of their founders, though. When Goodby alumns Rick Condos and Hunter Hindman opened the San Francisco-based shop in March 2013, they had zero clients. None.
Ten months later, they rallied around a TV to watch the Super Bowl—for the commercials, of course. Specifically, their commercial for Volkswagen. Naturally, eyebrows were raised about the new shop that in under a year went from no clients to creating a spot that ran on the year’s biggest advertising night. The answer is pretty clear: While Argonaut may be in its infancy, its heads are seasoned veterans of adland. Also, it didn’t hurt that they had spent time at Goodby working on the Chevy account and nurturing long-held industry relationships. So, when Argonaut got the call from VW eight months after opening, they knew they could handle it.
All of Argonaut’s respectably sized staff of around 30 pros was enlisted to work on the campaign.
“It’s not often that you get a Super Bowl ad to work on in advertising, let alone for a small, new agency that's growing to get an opportunity like this,” says Condos, “So we literally threw everybody at it at the beginning. It was all hands on deck.”
VW gave them an idea and a tight deadline.
“VW came to us with a really cool claim that they had more cars on the road with over 100-thousand-miles than any other brand in the world,” says Condos, “and they gave us 10 days to tackle this, so it was a pretty quick turnaround.”
“It was a cool claim and there was something interesting about taking on Super Bowl advertising, but having a real point behind it,” says Condos. “This wasn't a pure brand building thing. It was something where we had this key takeaway form the ad, but it had to be memorable, entertaining and it had to live up to a legacy of great VW work that has come before in the past couple of years, so the bar was really high.”
The bar may have been set high, but the duo’s track record and work with top brands ensured that they would do great work. The two met in the early naughts while at Goodby. They became fast friends and partners and relocated to Amsterdam to work at Wieden + Kennedy where they pitched and got Coca Cola. After some time there, they went back to San Francisco to Goodby where they spent the last 7 years running Chevy, TD Ameritrade, Cisco and Dickies.
The spot’s tagline, “every time a Volkswagen hits 100 thousand miles, a German engineer gets his wings,” (a play on a line from Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”) was one of the first pieces of creative to up.
“It was just one line written on a page from one of our creatives,” explains Condos. “For some reason, just that one line…without the spot, without the story around it yet…we all just kind of fell in love with that. It just took our imagination to this amazing place, made all of use smile, made all of use laugh.”
As a result, Argonaut created one of the most talked about and well-received ads of the evening. The 60-second spot, entitled “Wings,” was cheeky, slightly subversive, a little pervy (we’re talking about the urinal scene) and, most of all, informative.
So how has this spot changed things for the young agency?
“It’s kind of amplified what we think we're about,” says Hindman. “Rick and I started Argonaut to do this kind of stuff—to be able to take on these challenges from the world’s biggest brands. We have a great track record of doing Super Bowl work from everyone from Coca Cola to Doritos to Chevrolet, and we always knew we wanted to continue to play in this kind of land.”