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Sonic Drive-In Gives Your Taste Buds a Workout in Faux Fitness Video


IDEA: T.J. Jagodowski and Peter Grosz have been comically patronizing the same Sonic Drive-In restaurant in the same minivan for more than a decade as spokesmen for the fast-food chain. Now, Jagodowski breaks out of the van in flamboyant style to promote its new Salsa Verde Breakfast Burrito.

The spicy burrito will give your taste buds a workout in the morning, and so Jagodowski is here with a goofy 90-second, faux-'80s fitness video called "Train Your 'Buds" to get your mouth in shape.

The idea came from a TV script. "We just thought it would be a cool thing to take into a different place: What if T.J. had this taste-bud workout video that was inspired by this burrito?" said Jon Wolanske, associate creative director at Sonic agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. "Knowing what T.J. is able to come up with on the fly, it was too tempting not to do something longer."

The video, also cut into bite-size clips for Instagram, features the kind of over-the-top aerobics that would make Richard Simmons proud—and is timely, too, given the New Year's rush to get all your body parts, not just your mouth, in better working order.

COPYWRITING: Wolanske and his creative partner Evan Schultz went through loads of vintage aerobics videos, from Jake Steinfeld's "Body by Jake" to Gilad Janklowicz's "Bodies in Motion." Then they sat down and brainstormed dozens of silly burrito exercises.

"We wrote down anything that made us laugh that was even tangentially related to the product," said Wolanske. They took the best ones—bacon bends, tot lifts, "a little kick" from the salsa verde—demonstrated them for Jagodowski on set, and let him improvise his banter.

The video, organized into a montage of exercises, takes place in the car slots at a Sonic but is not overly branded. The end shot has the "Train Your 'Buds" title rather than the Sonic name over the chain's familiar yellow logo.

FILMING/ART DIRECTION: The video was shot by Clay Weiner at the same Pleasanton, Calif., location where almost all the TV spots are filmed. (Weiner has directed all of Goodby's work for Sonic. At this one-day shoot, he shot some TV spots with Jagodowski and Grosz in the morning, then filmed "Train Your 'Buds" in the afternoon.)

The costumes are all cheesy '80s fitness outfits—sweatbands, short shorts, Lycra and Spandex—in the brand colors of red, blue and gold. "There's a surprising amount of this kind of workout gear in thrift stores around Pleasanton," Wolanske said. "We were not at a loss for finding what worked for the concept."

Diagrams of the different exercises, in the style of those found in fitness magazines, will be posted to Instagram as well.

TALENT: Jagodowski was "really fired up" to try something new for the brand, as was the agency. "We're only with these guys for a few hours every couple of months. But every time we think, one of these days, it would be great to do something long-form," Wolanske said. Grosz, the other member of Sonic's Two Guys, did film some faux testimonials for the workout video, though they didn't make it into the final piece.

The two women exercising with Jagodowski—he calls both of them "Gloria"—were found in extras casting. They gave Jagodowski, a longtime Chicago improv comedian, more to riff on than if he were on his own.

SOUND: The music, an absurdly bubbly stock track, was played on set to get the actors' adrenaline pumping. "It's pretty terrible, and intentionally so," said Wolanske. "It's upbeat and motivating in all the wrong ways."

MEDIA: The 90-second video has been cut into a few :30s but is only on YouTube for now. A bunch of short clips (15 seconds or less) will be gradually posted to Sonic's Instagram feed.


Client: Sonic Drive-In
Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
Executive Creative Director: Margaret Johnson
Associate Creative Director: Jon Wolanske      
Art Director: Evan Schulz
Copywriter: Jon Wolanske
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Clay Weiner

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