Discovery Channel’s Shark Week might be bad news for seals, but it means great things for Beetles.
Last year, Volkswagen and Discovery transformed a Beetle into an underwater shark cave. Now the companies have partnered up again, and raised the stakes by turning the cage into a convertible.
“Calling it a shark cage is kind of tongue-in-cheek,” Luke Tipple, the shark wrangler and marine biologist in charge of driving the “car,” told Business Insider. “It’s pretty open.”
But taking the top off isn’t the only adjustment made on the car, which will take a subterranean road trip in Florida and the Bahamas surrounded by Caribbean reef, lemon, and tiger sharks.
“On top of creating a groundbreaking vehicle, this year we planned to make it fly,” said Tipple, who is also an executive producer at What We Do Media. “We created a lift with ailerons in the front — it actually flies like a plane.”
That means that rather than driving 15 feet underwater on the ocean floor, as it had last year, the VW flew through water that was 60 feet deep at 4 to 5 knots. It had three thrusters, instead of two, with 20 more horsepower per engine.
“If the vehicle falls, it will drop like a rock,” said Tipple, who was behind the wheel. But he and VW execs weren’t too worried.
“Well, we don’t pile shark bait around him,” VW advertising and marketing communications manager Justin Osborne told BI. “We aren’t going to deal with a great white. We’d make the evening news … not in a good way, though.”
He said that when Discovery and VW first began its partnership last year, the company pitched various ideas for brand-integrated stunts. “A lot of them they threw out because it wasn’t true to the science Discovery promotes.”
The shark cage idea stuck.
“We were a little surprised — we didn’t understand the popularity of Shark Week,” which now has a cult-like following, Osborne said. “People were starved for more content and behind the scene footage. They also wanted some more underwater scenes.”
So now, through a highly planned social component, viewers can take a subterranean road trip with Tipple, seeing what he sees through 360-degree underwater cameras.
“For me, I’m a complete gadget and gear geek,” Tipple said. “I love looking at the controls of things and seeing how they work.”
The Shark Week obsessed can watch the shark cage explore actual underwater shipwrecks and follow shark highways where the sharks feed and mate.
“This relationship touches every aspect of Discovery and all the entities of Shark Week,” Discovery VP of ad sales Harold Morgenstern added. “It was very natural for us to repeat a champion combination.”
Meet Luke Tipple. He's a shark wrangler, marine biologist, and the driver of Volkswagen's convertible Beetle shark cage.
Don't worry, Tipple has had a lot of shark experience. His company, What We Do Media, pairs him with brands all the time. He even cut himself shaving — surrounded by bloodthirsty sharks — for Gillette.
... and there's a lot more power. The engines have more horsepower than they did last year, and there's an additional thruster.
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