Discover the Proud, Pagan, Lovably Bizarre Traditions of the Black Forest Gummy Harvest

Joan Creative gets surreal and suggestive with candy campaign

The bird scarers of the Black Forest don't tackle their job with too much zeal. Joan Creative

Meet the People of the Black Forest.

We’re not talking about the the real Black Forest in Germany, but a fictional locale where folks stroll around in suits of straw, play ginormous alpenhorns, and engage in silly suggestive rituals to harvest gummy candies from trees.

In their wacky world, “So Juicy, Ja!” is the standard greeting, shout of excitement or expression of choice for just about any situation.

It’s also the tagline of agency Joan Creative’s audaciously absurd first campaign for Ferrara’s Black Forest brand. The 80-second spot below fuses Skittles-styles humor with the goofy pastoral vibe of old Ricola commercials, adding a mythic Games of Thrones old-gods sensibility.

It’s self-consciously dumb and mildly NSFW (if your coworkers can’t appreciate the proud, blood-pumping traditions of the gummy harvest).

“When we were casting our ‘pole men’ and giving them direction in callbacks, we started trying different ‘gummy bear harvesting’ movements,” says agency executive creative director Dave Canning. “When we saw this more suggestive motion, we all started giggling. The clients, at first, balked when they saw one isolated person doing this harvesting move but, to their credit, were on board when we asked them to imagine how hilarious it would be to see a group of people sincerely trying to get gummies out of a tree this way.”

Shot on a dairy farm in Auckland, New Zealand, by Imperial Woodpecker director Sam Brown, the spot takes pains to make its woodland society as visually compelling as possible.

The costume designer worked on Xena: Warrior Princess, and the "Juice Horn" was carved from one piece of solid wood.

“It was important to build out the world of the Black Forest in order to bring to life our compelling narrative – which required focus on even the smallest of details,” Canning says. “For example, when deciding what the People of the Black Forest would wear, we discussed in depth the materials and textures that could – and could not – exist naturally for people living in this place.”

“Barbara (Darragh), our phenomenal costume designer — of Xena, Hercules, Spartacus fame — helped us in drawing from a variety of cultures to bring these original costumes to life,” he says. “Our incredible production designer (Neville Stevenson) built the ‘Juice Horn,’ believe it or not, out of wood. We really wanted to ship it back to the U.S., but it was actually one solid piece.”

But … why go freaky in the first place?

“The gummy category is a noisy place, so, we needed to find an ownable way to establish our voice and to showcase what makes Black Forest so special: deliciously juicy confections made with real ingredients,” says Ferrara marketing chief Elena Sukacheva. “While the typical candy advertisement is usually fast-paced and loud, the ‘So Juicy, Ja!’ campaign provides welcome relief, with a focus on storytelling and a more subtle approach towards humor, making it a unique piece of entertainment in its own right.”

"We sought to craft a place that felt both familiar and foreign."
Annie Meyer, senior brand manager, Ferrara

Some might construe the outfits as stereotypically German and the straw-and-flower costumes strongly reminiscent of European pagan traditions. But Annie Meyer, the company’s senior brand manager, says the goal was to create a community that felt completely new, while also referencing multiple real cultures.

“We sought to craft a place that felt both familiar and foreign,” she says. “To create this fictional new place, we borrowed inspiration from a multitude of cultures around the globe. The spirit of the campaign is joyful and fun and our hope is to leave people wondering, ‘Where in the world is this Black Forest?”

The team plans to extend the joke in coming weeks, chronicling the customs and traditions of the make-believe Black Forest People via digital travel guidebook producer Lonely Planet.

Perhaps the pole men will merit a juicy exposé.

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.