Johnsonville Hits The Factory Floor To Find Quirky New Ad Campaign

To shine a spotlight on its family business bonafides, the brand turned to its employees to come up with new commercials.

The star of Johnsonville’s newest commercial is actual 18-year company employee, Jeff. He also thought up the ad’s premise of talking animals chatting about tasty sausages.


Last year, the brand used a twisted sense of humor (and sausage) to tie its brand to the idea of family. For its new “Made the Johnsonville Way” campaign, by agency Droga5, the company looked to its own family, far beyond the marketing department, to find ideas for new commercials. One spot explains how the people who work at Johnsonville are responsible for everything, whether it’s spicing the sausage, prepping the smokehouse, taste-testing the products, or this year, coming up with advertising concepts.

Johnsonville’s senior director of marketing Ryan Pociask says his brief to the agency was to differentiate Johnsonville from the publicly traded, mega-meat companies that worry more about profit than people. “Our direction to this was telling our real story that spans across the entirety of our family-owned business,” says Pociask. “And we didn’t want to be boring.”

Pociask says that, even though the spots are funny, it still illustrates how serious the brand is about its image as a company that cares. “We think consumers today take great pride in knowing they are buying products from a company that does right by people–their employees, their customers, their suppliers,” says Pociask. “That’s who we’ve always been. We don’t have to make up some story about authenticity, we just have to do a better job of letting the world see who we really are.”

Droga5 group creative director Scott Bell says over the past three months the agency interviewed almost a hundred Johnsonville employees and had them pitch ideas for commercials. “Then we narrowed it down to three and put the full production budget behind them,” says Bell. “We flew the members out to LA and had them on set with us as we brought their ideas to life.”

Sure, getting ideas and shooting ads starring real people from the company is a clever marketing gimmick in its own right, but Bell says it also ties closely to our increasing demand for transparency.

“It’s important because people want to know who’s making the food they eat,” says Bell. “And we wanted to remind people that Johnsonville is a family run company that puts its people first. We shot most of the campaign on the same property that once served as the small family butcher shop that’s grown into the Johnsonville people know today. While they sell a whole lot more sausage now, at its core it’s still the same family owned company it started out as years ago.”


About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.