Ad of the Day: Droga5 Has Johnsonville Employees Dream Up Their Own (Ridiculous) Ads

With just a little polishing from the pros

Undoubtedly eager to take a break from stuffing ground-up meat into sausage casings all day long, employees at Johnsonville try their hand at creating commercials in a new campaign from Droga5 tagged, appropriately enough, "Made the Johnsonville Way."

"Over the past three months, we interviewed almost 100 Johnsonville members, the people making the sausage, and had them pitch ideas," Scott Bell, agency group creative director, tells Adweek. "Then we narrowed it down to three and put the full production budget behind them."

The spot below sets up the premise, complete with an employee brainstorming session in which a Johnsonville dude named Brett proposes—what else?—a sizzling "sausage meets car chase" concept:

Next, we see Brett's crazy highway hijinks brought to life, complete with semi trucks, bikers, grannies on scooters and an explosive cookout climax:

"I think we get a little jaded to the point that flying out to L.A. to do a shoot can just feel like a job," says Bell. "But the members brought a whole different energy to the set. As soon as Brett saw the motorcycles flying through the air and landing in front of a huge car chase he yelled out, 'This is exactly how I envisioned it!' It was good to know he approved."

In the next ad, Jeff, who's been with the company for two decades, goes the anthropomorphic animals route, starring in a trippy woodland tale:

Whoa, what are they smoking those sausages with? (And who needs a bear with Jeff on the scene. We love ya, big guy!)

"Each commercial is reflective of the member who came up with it, and so they were very different from one another," says Bell. "It was like jumping through movie genres. We really wanted to treat these ideas with the same respect we would give any script we shoot, so we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get them right."

The third spot, a horror movie spoof, drops next month. That work is previewed in the campaign trailer below, along with other hot ideas that could hit the grill as the campaign evolves:

That airborne sausage truck has Cannes Gold Lion written all over it! (Wait, we watched it again—it actually just says "Johnsonville." Sorry.)

Now, coming from agency pros, such silly concepts would have seemed clichéd, playing out like your standard forced wackiness from Madison Avenue. Coming from amateurs, however, the spots seem downright endearing. (Though when you think about it, the Johnsonville folks were clearly "inspired" by standard media tropes like chase scenes and talking animals, anyway.)

Of course, Droga5 has become well known for crafting commercial "parodies" that serve as actual ads for real clients, and amusing campaigns that self-consciously use marketing itself as a plot point. The Johnsonville push feels especially meta, with the employees actually presenting their own ads in each video. (So, we get an ad-within-an-ad kind of vibe.)

That could have been a tad confusing, but Arts & Sciences directors Adam Brodie and Dave Derewlany cook up an appetizing atmosphere, so the central conceit isn't too tough to swallow.

"The campaign works for Johnsonville because it's earnest and it's true and it's tightly linked to the DNA of their company," which prides itself on being one big brat-lovin' family, says Droga5 group strategy director Aaron Wiggan.

Moreover, Wiggan believes consumers will continue to enjoy self-referential advertising that skewers itself, "especially if you have some fun and give them something honest."

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