Ad of the Day: A Man’s Hellish Life Finally Gets Tasty in Droga5’s New Hamburger Ad

A Rustlers burger ends '80 years of torment'

There's no shortage of nostalgic advertising that pines for the good old days. But were they really good old days? Or were they, in fact, pretty shitty old days that lacked the comforts, conveniences and microwavable burgers of the present?

Droga5 London darkly and amusingly suggests the latter in its new campaign for Rustlers, the flame-grilled, microwavable burger brand—with a 60-second spot that follows a beleaguered protagonist from childhood to old age who has the crap beat out of him every step of the way.

Check out the spot here:

The bleakness and monotony are delivered with a weary wink, culminating in the sad-funny final scene and comically hyperbolic tagline: "What a time to be alive."

"Initially we had a number of different approaches to film," David Kolbusz, chief creative officer of Droga5 London, tells Adweek. "But we kept returning to one script which was a piss-take of that overly sentimental, well-worn ad construct where you follow a character's journey from adolescence to old age, shot through rose-tinted glasses, and soundtracked to tinkling piano music. We thought it would be funny if you took a character on the same journey through time, but just kicked the shit out of him at every step along the way."

Somesuch director Steve Rogers helped bring the ad to life.

"As we dug into it with Steve, it moved pretty far from the original vision and kind of became its own thing. Less pastiche," Kolbusz says. "We fell in love with this repeated, metronomic abuse perpetrated on our hero. It became a lot cuttier than we'd originally intended. More vignettes. And we'd actually shot the ad with the intention of aping the look of the film from each different era. But in the end it felt better to keep all of the past in black and white—like a horrible memory—only introducing color in the glorious present."

The product is typically consumed by young men but bought by their parents. So, the ads had to appeal to both.

"We tried to create work that had a bit of spikiness to it and would appeal to our younger audience, but in a way that wouldn't alienate the ones doing the shopping," says Kolbusz. "Poking fun at the hardship our target's parents and grandparents had to endure seemed like a nice way in."

The spot was shot in Budapest—"a great place to shoot if you're looking for a Venn diagram of depressing meets cinemagraphic," Kolbusz says—and a lot depended on the casting.

"Even before the prosthetics, you kind of want your main character to look as similar at every life stage as possible," says Kolbusz. "You always forgive the jump from child to adolescent because most people change so much in those formative years. But we got pretty lucky with our young adult and older man. They were temporal doppelgängers. They both had these sad, tired eyes that made every blow they took all the funnier. In the end, you really don't feel the transition between actors."

The ad's humor "comes from the repetition of abuse, and that's something we were never going to be able to get a sense of until it was all cut together," he adds. "So our evaluative process for whether a scene was working or not came down to us watching our actor being beaten and thinking, 'Yeah, that looks truly horrible.' "

The outdoor and print work also targets young men and their parents, respectively—with the outdoor much more pithy and the print in long-copy format. Check out that work below.