Upwork's zombie boss delivers workplace advice from beyond the grave

Ivan Zacharias directs spots by Alto reflecting the new realities of work

Published On
Sep 28, 2022

Editor's Pick

Since the pandemic and the Great Resignation we've seen a number of campaigns poking fun at the old-fashioned business cliches of the past -- from the likes of HP, Globant and of course, Apple's "Underdogs" crew. A new campaign from the freelancers' marketplace Upwork takes a similar theme, but does it in a completely memorable way, with a former boss who rises from the dead, zombie-like, to tell employees, in song, how to embrace the new ways of working.

Created via Alto, the New York shop founded by Hannes Ciatti which was one of Ad Age's Small Agencies of the Year this year, and directed by the veteran directing talent Ivan Zacharias of Smuggler, the campaign's hero spot is a two minute musical number in which the undead boss appears in a boardroom when a staffer in a meeting refuses a request to hire freelancers, saying they need "butts in seats," and "that's what Jack would have said."

Beyond terrifying the employees as different body parts drop off and water spurts out of his cheeks, Jack's message is that the old ways, like 9-5 and working in offices, "were all made up" so why shouldn't they reinvent them completely? The spot then turns into a full-on musical number, with Jack belting out lines such as "the old way of working is dead-er than me," as we're introduced to freelance workers across the world on screens. The tagline is "This is how we work now."

Beyond the anthem spot, the campaign, which is running across TV, digital and social channels, also includes 15 shorter ads of various lengths that outline some of the other ways Upwork has changed businesses by featuring "Jack" in different situations. For example, in “Nepotism,” he laments not knowing about Upwork when he was alive so that he could have hired talented people from all over the world, instead of talentless people from all over his house.  

“We are in the middle of a ‘Work Awakening,’ where millions of people around the world are reevaluating not just where or how they work, but also the role of work in life," commented Melissa Waters, chief marketing officer at Upwork, in a statement. "Through this campaign, we expose the antiquated ‘rules of work’ as dead and naturally meet the moment with those redefining how and where work can take place.” 

“Most of us treat the old ways of working as if they are sacred and unchangeable, but the real insight behind this campaign is that the old ways of working were entirely made up," said Hannes Ciatti, Alto's founder and chief creative officer. "So why don’t we as individuals make up something better?This campaign is making this point to the world for the first time - at least in terms of musicals with a dead person on the subject.” 

Director Zacharias added: “What attracted me to this project was that it's such a ridiculous, over-the-top story, and yet it's based on a deep human truth. We all feel an overwhelming pressure to follow the rules and traditions of the past, without realizing we have the power to make up new rules, and new traditions. I’ve tried and failed. But honestly the main reason why I did it is, that I love shooting with dead people."




Sep 28, 2022
Client :
Agency :
Melissa Waters
VP Marketing :
Amanda Leach-Rouvi
Executive Creative Director :
Patrick Holly
Creative Director :
Nick Scarlett
Design Director :
Stephanie Muñoz
Executive Producer :
Bernadette Spear
Senior Brand Marketing Manager :
Chanel Jackson
CCO / Founder :
Hannes Ciatti
Managing Partner :
Ed Rogers
Head of Entertainment & Production/ Partner :
Matt Bonin
Head of Strategy/Partner :
Tara Fray
Executive Creative Director :
Jason Bagley
Creative Director :
Brock Kirby
Creative Director :
Jeff Dryer
Design Director :
J. Collins
Group Brand Lead :
Shannon Coletti
Senior Brand Lead :
Ashley Bouldin
Executive Producer :
Kim Cross
Head of Digital Production :
Amber Wimmer
Director of Art Production :
Julia Menassa
Integrated Production Associate :
Marvin Cassell
Comms Planning Director :
Josh Chang
Comms Planning Director :
Charles Lee
Production Company :
Director :
Ivan Zacharias
DP :
Jan Velicky
Producer :
Nick Landon
Founding Partner :
Patrick Milling-Smith
Founding Partner :
Brian Carmody
Executive Producer :
Allison Kunzman
Editor :
Filip Malasek
Editor :
Jim Hutchins
Assistant Editor :
Gino Renzulli
EP :
Jane Hutchins
Colorist :
Ondrej Stibingr
VFX/Finishing :
Music :
Walker Music
Mix/Sound :
Barking Owl
Photo Production Company :
3Star Production
Photographer :
Emily Shur
Photo Producer :
Natalie Campbell
Wardrobe Stylist :
Anna Su
Prop Styling :
Faeth Gruppe
Hair & Make Up Artist :
Erika Parsons
Retouching :
Wet Noodles
Digital Production :
Managing Partner :
Matthias Mentasti
Design Director :
Matthias Mentasti
Managing Partner :
Thomas Ragger
Technical Director :
Thomas Ragger
Executive Producer :
Amanda Schultz

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