WTF Is Happening in This Crazy, Sweaty, Surreal Ad for Hornbach?

The answer lies within

Headshot of Angela Natividad

Today marks the start of spring.

To celebrate it, German home improvement store Hornbach and its agency Heimat give us this mind-boggling piece of work.

At first glance, it’s a mishmash of chaos and screaming, like a nightmare fueled by spaghetti westerns, Jean-Pierre Jeunet movies and a bad day at work.

“Sweat It Out” depicts a wacky group of “rubber cowboys” living inside a man’s body. Faced with nerve-wracking everyday problems—including angry bosses, unchecked media consumption and wild adolescents—they transform stress into sweat as the man toils over a personal gardening project.

“We quickly saw potential in the ‘rubber cowboys,’ which were developed in collaboration with director Andreas Nilsson and production designer Peter Grant,” says Guido Heffels, Heimat’s creative head and campaign lead. “We immediately got to work on developing a story for our own ‘rubber cowboy’ format.”

It’s a jarring departure from Hornbach’s most recent work, the Werkstück Edition Lounge Chair—a pretty piece of furniture you have to build from scratch, created in partnership with architect/designer Sigurd Larsen. And while it’s just as packed with symbolism, it lacks the constrained dignity of “Smashing the Clichés,” released in the middle of the #MeToo movement.

But it’s an almost triumphant return to Hornbach’s roots—naked men tumbling through the wilderness, or the weird ecstasy of DIY defeat. The brand’s always had a way of conveying the physical and metaphorical in intense, thrillingly brutal ways. Six years ago, it released an ad in which a man literally feels his house’s pain.

“The campaign is a typical Hornbach invitation to be both active and creative outside in your garden during this spring,” says Hornbach’s German/international marketing head, Thomas Schnaitmann.

“Anyone who has ever dug out a garden pond, planted a flower bed or built a patio knows that a project which makes you sweat is the perfect way get rid of stress that has built up over the day.”

The “Sweat It Out” campaign will appear on TV, online, via social, outdoor, radio, on display ads and in points of sale.

Client: Hornbach
Agency: Heimat, Berlin
Production: Czar, Berlin
Director: Andreas Nilsson
Director of Photography: Lasse Frank
Art department: Peter Grant

@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.