Two (Very) Old Friends Recall the Glories of 1934 in Charming Ads for Steak ‘n Shake

Percy and Walter's journey through the past

Nothing sells fast food like cranky old people reminiscing and/or bickering with each other.

That's what GSD&M is hoping, because their three new spots for Steak 'n Shake depend on it. The three ads star Percy and Walter, whose recollections of 1934 (the year Steak 'n Shake was founded) are dim at best. All three spots were directed by Joachim Back, who won an Oscar for his short film The New Tenants back in 2010.

In "You Can't Trust Machines," Walter goes on a measured rant about powdered milkshakes and veers dangerously close to bringing up the onion on his belt before the ad cuts to the official Steak 'n Shake pitch.

"Steak 'n Shake 'n Shave n' Shoeshine 'n Suit" makes fun of exaggerated stories about how cheap everything was when our grandparents were young, as Percy explains what $4 got him back in the '30s. (The visual of the unbalanced sign falling down is great.) His anecdote totally ignores the brutal reality of segregation at that point in history, but that's a heavy topic for a fast-food ad, so I get it.

"Breakfast" is another winner, as Percy—who is really driving the comedy team by this point—explains his role in coining the term "homestyle breakfast."

Now that they've got my attention, the polite thing for Steak 'n Shake to do would be to open a Maryland location that isn't in BWI airport or Glen Burnie.


Client: Steak 'n Shake

Campaign: Done Right Since 1934

"Smiling Contest" – "Shoeshine" – "You Can't Trust Machines" – "Breakfast"

Agency: GSD&M

Chief Creative Officer: Jay Russell

Group Creative Directors: Kris Wixom/Alisa Wixom

Art Director: Erin Stevens

Creative Director: Brett Baker

Director of Production: Jack Epsteen

Executive Producer: Bill Wine

Account Service: Mark Durein, Lauren Paver

Marketplace Planning: John D'Acerino, Nick Howard

Business Affairs Manager: Jillian English

Project Manager: Maria Roepke

Production Company for Video

Prod Company: Anonymous Content

Director: Joachim Back

Editor: Cartel/Andy McGraw

Food Stylist: Alyssa Sarfity

Production Company for Food

Prod Company: MacGuffin Films

Director: Kevan Bean

Stylist: Nir Adar

Sound Design: Doug Darnell/Robot Repair

The Fans. The Brands. Social Good. The Future of Sports. Don't miss the upcoming Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience on Nov. 16-19. Early-bird passes available until Oct. 26. Register now David Kiefaber is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak.