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Rustlers 'The Rustlers 2017, 360°, 1952 VR experience' / Droga5 London

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If advertisers utilise the past as a focus for their campaigns, it is usually used as a romanticising nostalgic tool, however Rustlers have thrown us back to the good old days of London’s Great Smog of 1952 in their latest ad. A weird choice of setting, some might say, but, cleverly, the microwavable burger brand uses this historical event to juxtapose with the present day – coincidentally a time when tasty burgers that are ready in 90 seconds are rife.


The 10-minute long, 360-degree video takes the viewer on a tour of London during the Great Smog. The video allows the viewer to move the picture around in order to see from all angles, however, the catch is that what they actually see is nothing. As the voiceover of a cheery tour guide directs the viewer to see different London landmarks from St Paul’s Cathedral to HMS Belfast, all that the viewer can see, no matter which way they turn, is clouds of smog – plus their ‘feet’ if the camera is panned down.



Rustlers have done something humorous with the VR medium, which is growing in popularity, in that they have taken something that is intended to expand our viewing experience and, instead, condensed it. It could be seen as a swipe at the saturation of VR by marketers since its emergence, with companies trying to include the technology any way they can in order to keep up with the latest trend.


The unusual ad certainly stands out from the crowd purely due to how unique it is. Along with the strange use of VR, the ad is distinctive in that there aren’t many campaigns including depressing historical events to tell a story about their current brand. Droga5’s creative director, David Kolbusz, said of the campaign, “VR is the future. Rustlers is the present. London’s Great Smog is the past. We’ve taken past, present, and future and fused them together to bring you one of the most technologically advanced experiences you’re likely to have all afternoon.” 


Despite the lack of sights during the experience, the brand has paid special attention to one of the other senses; sound. Using a binaural 360 soundbed that recreates the workings of the human head, users can hear sounds from the left and right at different times creating the illusion of three-dimensional audio. With VR campaigns heavily focused on the fact that we can now see in 360 degrees, it is interesting that this ad puts the full emphasis on what we can hear in 360, overturning the hierarchy of the senses in which spectacle prevails. 










The 1952 VR experience is a continuation of the brand’s ‘What a Time to be Alive’ initiative which, back in November, launched with the ‘80 Years of Torment’ ad that saw a man living a difficult life. From working as a chimney sweep and being punishing by the cane as a child, to having to cope with fast-paced modern life as an senior citizen, the man seems to have had it pretty rough until, in the 80th year of his life, he tucks into a Rustler’s burger which he cooked in 90 seconds and realises what a time it now is to be alive.


In the latest installment of the campaign Rustler’s hopes to target the 16-24 year old market, with their taste for fast food, by putting into perspective how good their lives are compared to a smoggy 1950s London. However, with the full video at 10 minutes long, the questions remains whether an impatient young generation will stick it out – particularly when they realise that the visuals of the VR experience are not going to give them what they expect. There’s also the chance that people just won’t ‘get it’ - or is there even anything to ‘get’? Does the notion Rustlers puts forward – that life is better now as we have burgers not smog – deliberately not make sense, in that it has been recently widely reported that the UK is still breaching air pollution limits in the present day? In terms of breathing in polluted air, it is not necessarily ‘the time to be alive’ in 2017, but by plugging the novelty of having a speedy burger anyway, Rustler’s comes out on top here. After all, it’s the little things in life. The real genius in Droga5 and Rustler’s work is in its peculiarity itself and will certainly be appreciated by forward-thinking youngsters for its unique use of subject matter and VR technology.


The new work is running for two weeks from 15 February across social channels and will be supported by additional activity.