It’s Your Hair vs. Your Commute in This Surreal, Entertaining Hair-Care Ad

Can busy people still feel beautiful?

Headshot of Angela Natividad

The other day over a coffee break, some guy at the office with a massive bouffant admitted he gets up an hour early to do his hair. He also arrives at work way earlier than I do.

I hate him.

Hoping to break the mold of unreasonably lustrous hair advertising, international haircare brand Syoss gives us “The Thief.” Created by Walker Zurich, the piece is narrated by a woman on the run.

Except she’s not the thief. Her daily commute is.

The production here is lovely—postmodern, stress-inducing and vaguely surreal, manifesting the scattered, harried mindset of someone whose life is an existential race. You see without seeing. Things disappear. Time feels like it’s working against you. In one strange instant, an astronaut checks the time on an empty train platform.

But the copywriting drives this home, lending gravity to what our rational selves may dismiss as a frivolous idea.

“My daily commute is a thief, a burglar who steals away my precious time,” the woman says. “A mugger who lies in wait for me, waits until I’m half-awake and then, quite brazenly, robs me of my morning.”

She goes on, “It shows no mercy. It steals my breakfast, my long, hot shower and that priceless me-time I need to do my hair.”

In less careful hands, that tie-in to Syoss could sound foolish, but the brand doesn’t push its luck. There aren’t any product shout-outs. Instead, what follows is a familiar fantasy: That picture of the put-together adult we imagine we could be if we weren’t falling behind—again.

“What witchcraft sets her apart from us mere mortals?” our narrator wonders as a woman floats through morning transit, untouched by grit and stress. Her hair—not unrealistically beautiful—is light as a cloud on her shoulders.

The feeling elicited is ugly and familiar, like the burning rage cloud that hovers over me when I see Bouffant Guy. (When does he sleep?) And though the motivations may be commercial, thoughtful narration strikes chords we feel in ourselves.

“I don’t want to arrive looking like this. I want to strive through the office with a mane of golden fire. I want to turn heads, raise heartbeats, taunt ex-lovers.”

“With this film, we wanted to create something that was different to the usual mould that hair ads stick to,” explains walker Zurich Creative Director, Pius Walker. “We’re lucky enough to have a client who allows us to do this and push away from the conventional.”

If “The Thief” succeeds, it’s because its aspirations are relatively reasonable. Our protagonists in a rush, spilling coffee and struggling into their shoes, are more relatable than a caricature of some haggard soul who’s lost the plot. The most stirring elements of self-actualizing fantasy are said, not seen, like the secret ideal of ourselves we rarely discuss out loud.

The monsters here are not our failure to be better, but time and productivity culture. Our envy-inducing woman is not so much perfect as peacefully unruffled. We’re left not believing Syoss will transform us, but wondering whether the right product might save us some time, even help recalibrate a few priorities. The sell doesn’t promise respite from life’s demands, but it’s sound enough.

The film was directed by Joachim Zunke via Cobblestone, with a score by Lukas McNally and Tim Knapp. It kicks off parent company Henkel’s 2017 “Get Syossed” campaign in Switzerland.


Date: 19.05.17
Title/Project: SYOSS – The Thief
Agency: walker Zurich
Agency contact: Pius Walker
Agency contact job title: Creative Director
Account Director: Cornelia Nünlist
Writer: Roger Beckett
Art Director: Stefanie Huber
2nd Art Director: Franziska Krentzien
Strategy & Concepts: Catherine Elf
CEO (Inhalt&Form): Dominik Stibal
Creative Director (Inhalt&Form): Karin Estermann
Project Manager (Inhalt&Form): Manuela Marty
Marketing Manager (Henkel Beauty Care): Christian Volk
Executive Producers (Cobblestone): Pieter Lony & Juri Wiesner
Director of Photography (Cobblestone): Joachim Zuncke
Director (Cobblestone): Joachim Zunke
Lighting (Cobblestone): Philipp Gerhardt
Styling: Imke Hille
Hair/Make Up/Special Effects: Nadin Wagner
Editor: Alex Kutka
Compositing Artist: Sven Schönmann
Postproduction Supervisor: Tanja Bruhn
Sound design: Michael Krüger & Christopher Szillat
Music: Lukas McNally & Tim Knapp

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.