German for flight day, Flugtag is a Red Bull international event that invites 40 teams to launch a homemade, human-powered flying contraption off of a platform and into a body of water. For one of their 2017 Flugtag events, Red Bull chose Pittsburgh as a host.

Within 30 minutes of finding this out, a group of our ambitious, enthusiastic and borderline delusional employees had convinced the Smith Bros Executive Management team that this was a must-do. And with their almost immediate approval, “Project Launch a Co-worker into the Allegheny” was in full swing by the end of the week.

Why Flugtag? It was a no brainer. Our teams are always coming up with weird, out-there ideas, concepts and plans. It’s what we do for a living. But to pour that energy into something that was purely for fun –well, it’s a creative’s dream come true.

And we’re a bunch of colleagues who already work 50+ hour weeks together and then, for some reason, also hang out in our spare time, be it helping with side projects or playing tournament after tournament of beer ping pong. Why not build a giant flying machine together?

The Idea: We wanted to tell the story of a small agency that thinks big and the tale of the small yet big thinking city in which we’re base. That’s how the idea for the Polish Spill came to be. We wanted to bring every stereotypically Pittsburgh-Polish tradition onto the Red Bull Flugtag stage at once. From grandma-made pierogis at church basement fish-frys to the borscht and haluski at S&D Deli in the Strip. Smith Brothers wanted to celebrate the heritage that helped shape Pittsburgh into the authentic and eccentric place it is today. Smith Brothers wanted to launch a pierogi and kielbasa into the Allegheny River.

How We Flugtag

We approached it just like any other project here at Smith Bros. We worked as a group, assigned roles, and kicked off with a creative brief and a brainstorm session. We even set up a dedicated Flugtag office chat channel. It got weird in there sometimes. But it kept us on-track and inspired.

Once we came up with the idea for the flying pierogi, it was time to build. Two weeks of advertising professionals using power tools. We’re surprised it turned out as good as it did.

Stephen's concept art

Jon's Concept Art

top: Stephen, Josh, Jon. Bottom: David, Shawn

Zach S. Dave D. DH Laura F.

The Big Day

We assembled a “launch team” of dedicated employees dressed in babushkas as Polish Grandmas. Associate Creative Director Shawn Smith, Art Director Jon Nicholson, Web Developer David Johnson, Cinematographer Stephen Hicken and Editor Josh Eisenfield brought the craft to the Red Bull Flugtag Craft Hangar and buttered up the judges and public by handing out homemade pierogis and butterscotch candies.

And when it came to launch time? While we’re better at designing effective campaigns for our clients, it turns out we’re not too shabby at engineering flying pierogis. The launch team was able to send our 16 foot by 16 foot, 300 pound pierogi flying over 36 feet.

We didn’t win but, as you can see, our campaign for agency collaboration, culture and celebration of our hometown had incredible results. Just seeing the face of co-founder Lindsey Smith as the craft hit the water was all the ROI and KPIs we needed.

Smith Brothers
Smith Brothers

Tinker. Meddle. Find what works – this time! While most agencies stand behind a single, definitive approach to developing work, we reject the notion of process as a static thing. We consider a deep understanding of the client’s business, their consumer and especially their category to be fundamental to our process. Non-negotiable. But getting to the best work is seldom a straight shot – a linear path. And it shouldn’t be. When you kick off every project by asking, “What are the category conventions and how can we break them?” you have to be open to a fresh approach.