Nothing Says Home Improvement Quite Like a Naked Man Tumbling Through the Wilderness

Latest lunacy from Hornbach

Headshot of Angela Natividad

Many people are familiar with the feeling of dread that accompanies Dad deciding to fix the sink, or build a garden pond, on his own. He crawls under the house, or he starts digging a trench in the yard. No logic can sway him. He is unstoppable in his quest. What often follows are days of hijinks, horror and inevitable self-harm. 

Apparently this problem is universal. But maybe it isn't so much a problem as an affirmation of existence.

In an ad titled "You're Alive. Do You Remember?," German home improvement chain Hornbach makes its case, using a naked man, an uncomfortable tumble, lots of mud and one strategically placed nail.

Created by agency Heimat, which has done lots of quirky work for Hornbach over the years, the ad seeks to convey all the emotions one feels when undertaking a DIY project. Our man—who is preparing to dig his own pond—first appears on a summit, ready to take on the world as the wind whistles through his hair (and his liberated genitals). His tip forward is a metaphor for reality, where he lifts a pickaxe into the air and heaves it decisively into the ground.

The tumble follows. There are ecstatic moments, when his eyes close under warm sunlight and his skin vibrates over grass. There are harrowing moments when he swims, majestic, through stones. Clouds of sawdust will make your eyes sting, even as he relishes in it, rubbing unvarnished wood in ways we wouldn't even dare handle chopsticks. 

And there is pain. But there is also glory—delicious, mud-caked, triumphant glory.

"Creating something with one's own hands is a unique feeling that every DIY-er knows," says Thomas Schnaitmann, Hornbach's head of German marketing and international communications. "This is the time of the year when all those projects around the house and garden that need to be done invite people to touch, feel and experience." 

Australia's Tom Noakes directed the film with production company Partizan. Almost everything was shot "in camera," on a set that took weeks to build, without major special effects. 

"This is what the spa effect of a comprehensive, Hornbach-style spring project may feel like, a place beyond the increasing urbanization and digitization of our world," says Heimat creative director Guido Heffels. 

The ad is accompanied by a Spring Experience app, which uses haptic technology and the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) principle to "get our hands dirty," so to speak. In other words, unique sounds are used to "tickle" the brain, giving digital users the feeling of "touching" grass, wood, bark, flowers and more. 

It also links back to the online store, and is marketed as "the world's first tangible online store and sales platform." 

Perhaps what we fail to understand about these sometimes star-crossed DIY projects is that, for the makers, the end result is only incidental. It's the journey—the raw, vivid experience of battling elements with one's hands—that makes them worth undertaking.

"DIY is a haptic journey that makes people aware of life at the level of their physical senses. You could say it stands in opposition to modern, highly rationalized everyday life," Schnaitmann says.

As in life, it remains unclear whether Hornbach's hero succeeds in completing his pond. We leave him in his yard, tearing out roots and swinging a shovel, his houseclothes covered in mud. But he's happy. He is alive. 


Agency: Heimat, Berlin, Germany

Executive Creative Director: Guido Heffels

Agency Producer: Kirsten Heffels

Copywriter: Marlon Fischer

Account Director: Tim Holtköetter

Production Company: Partizan

Director: Tom Noakes

Executive Producer: Moritz Merkel

Producer: Swenja Babucke

Director of Photography: Antonio Paladino

Production Designer: Fiona Crombie

Editor: Nils Landmark

Composer: Thomas Berlin

Visual Effects: Ted & Flo

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@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.