Johnsonville Employees Wrote More Ads for Droga5, and These Ones Go to 11

New stories of an epic cover band and a '70s game show

Headshot of Katie Richards

Johnsonville employees are back on the creative grind this week, lending their commercial-making expertise for the brand’s latest wave of “Made the Johnsonville Way” ads.

For those unfamiliar with the brand’s past work, Johnsonville–with help from Droga5–created a series of ads last year that starred Johnsonville “members” (the brand’s name for its employees). The employees also came up with the concepts for the ads.

The first new spot stars ad creator and Johnsonville transportation worker Todd and his cover band Ruben and the Receders. In the ad, which debuts Johnsonville’s new flame-grilled chicken product, Todd’s band reunites for one pretty epic performance involving some mildly risky and terrifying stunts.

“This is the biggest product launch the brand has ever had, so it was important that this feel like a big spot,” said Scott Bell, executive creative director at Droga5. “Reuniting the greatest cover band in the Sheboygan area for an arena rock show, with lighting by Rush’s stage guy, did the trick for that.”

A second spot, delivered by Johnsonville production support member Cole, replicates a ’70s game show–the kind of TV program Cole would watch frequently as a kid with his grandfather. Contestants in the ad are attempting to guess the price of, you guessed it, Johnsonville sausage, and boy are the guesses pretty high.

“The framework of a ’70s game show was a really good framework for us to tell our quality story on the smoked sausage that we make,” said Jamie Schmelzer, integrated marketing director for Johnsonville.

To bring these latest stories to life, Droga5’s team took a trip to Sheboygan Falls, Wis., to visit Johnsonville headquarters. In the course of a few days, the team collected over 70 stories from team members, hunting for the best ones that could be turned into new ads.

Droga5 used the same strategy for its first iteration of the campaign, but this time the employees came to the table a bit more prepared, especially seeing the success of the past work.

The titular star of the “Jeff and His Forest Friends” ad, which rolled out last August, has become somewhat of a company and Sheboygan Falls celebrity. “They just started running Jeff’s commercial again from last year—and it’s been off the air for a few months—the first day it started running again, they started getting email and actual fan mail, people just love him so much,” Bell said.

With that kind of stardom up for grabs, Johnsonville employees brought their A game this time, with “ideas and scripts written out” and one employee even showing “a fully produced commercial that he made with his daughter,” Bell added.

Client: Johnsonville
Campaign: “Made the Johnsonville Way”
Title: “Ruben and the Receders,” “Guess the Price of That Food”

Agency: Droga5
Creative Chairman: David Droga
Chief Creative Officer: Ted Royer
Executive Creative Director: Scott Bell
Associate Creative Directors: Chris Colliton, Kevin Weir
Copywriter: Daniel Litzow
Art Director: Max Friedman
Chief Creation Officer: Sally-Ann Dale
Co-directors, Film Production: Jesse Brihn, Bryan Litman
Senior Producer, Film: Rebecca Wilmer
Associate Producer, Film: Jamil McGinnis
Music Supervisors: Ryan Barkan, Mike Ladman
Associate Director, Business Affairs: Librado Sanchez
Business Affairs Manager: Whitney Vose
Director, Print Services: Rob Lugo
Print Producer: Rick Gutierrez
Global Chief Strategy Officer: Jonny Bauer
Group Strategy Director: Aaron Wiggan
Senior Strategist: Marc Iserlis
Group Communications Strategy Director: Brian Nguyen
Senior Communications Strategist: Kevin Wilkerson
Data Strategy Director: Lily Ng
Group Account Director: Julia Albu
Account Director: Pat Rowley
Account Supervisor: Kate Tyler Monroe
Associate Account Manager: Camille Cheeks-Lomax
Project Manager: Rayna Lucier
Counsel: Sarah Fox

Client: Johnsonville
Senior Group Marketing Director: Ryan Pociask
Integrated Marketing Director: Jamie Schmelzer
Creative Director, Brand Communications: Anthony Rammer
Senior Brand Manager, Commercialization: Val Zanchettin
Senior Brand Manager, Fully Cooked: Kelly Jackson
PR, Social Media Manager: Stephanie Dlugopolski
Associate Brand Manager: Jesse Ehlen
Lead Writers: Todd and Cole

Production Company: Arts & Sciences
Director: Adam & Dave
Executive Producer: Marc Marrie
Managing Director: Mal Ward
Head of Production: Christa Skotland
Producer: Pat Harris
Director of Photography: Toby Irvin

Editorial: Mack Cut
Editor: Ryan Steele
Assistant Editor: Zachary Antell
Executive Producer: Gina Pagano
Producer: Sabina-Elease Utley

Postproduction: MPC
Executive Producer: Camila de Biaggi
Head of Production: Jesse Kurnit
VFX Senior Producer: Elissa Norman
VFX Producer: Aiste Akelaityte
VFX Supervisor: Warren Paleos
Color Executive Producer: Dani Zeitlin
Color Producer: Jenna Gabriel
Colorists: James Tillett, Adrian Seeley

Music: Butter Music
Chief Creative Officer: Andrew Sherman
Executive Producer: Ian Jeffreys
Producer: Kristin Kuraishi

Sound: Mack Cut
Sound Designer, Mixer: Sam Shaffer

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.