A singing cracker shines a light on the serious problem of ad industry burnout

Who: nabs and Cossette, with Skin & Bones for production, Tantrum Studio for animation, Pirate for audio and Outsider Editorial for offline editing.

What: A new video short and original song that sends a powerful message about poor mental health in the industry (including a literal “F-You” to unsympathetic bosses).

When & Where: Timed for World Mental Health Day, the video is out now and is being pushed through industry influencers and executives who will be sharing their own stories about mental health. The original song—written by Jacob Greer, Nicole Ellerton, Ari Posner, and Chris Tait—will be available on Spotify starting Oct. 11.

Why: Poor mental health has long been a problem in the ad industry—infamous for its work-hard and sometimes party-hard attitude. But according to nabs, the industry has been forced to “face uncomfortable truths” over the past year about excessive workload and unrelenting pressures, all leading to stress, depression and anxiety.

Nabs wants the video to start a conversation about tackling the challenges of overwork and poor mental health across the industry. “During the last 18 months alone, the demand for our services has skyrocketed, with over 3,600 people reaching out to us for various reasons including mental health issues, unemployment, illness and financial difficulties,” said Mark Neves, director, central at nabs, in a release.

“During the pandemic, the lines between work and home blurred, and many of us—myself included—have found ourselves working harder and longer than ever before,” added Cat Wiles, chief strategy officer at Cossette. “A lot of us are still working from home and still trying to find the right balance, which makes this film incredibly important and timely.”

How: The nearly three-minute video opens on a woman working alone late at night in a darkened ad office. Clearly exhausted, she’s visited by an animated cracker named Crumbles, who acts as the video’s “loveable voice of reason.”

Crumbles delivers a rousing rendition of “This job can break you if you let it,” a theatrical song and dance about life in the ad industry. The tune and the performance feature a bright and cheerful tone, but Crumbles is actually delivering a pointed message about how unhealthy the industry is, as well as a sharp-tongued rebuke to ad bosses who demand too much of their staff. “You can tell him a cracker just said ‘fuck you,'” sings Crumbles.

His performance ends with a chorus line and confetti, but rather than being inspired by Crumbles’ performance, the woman seems even closer to breaking down. Crumbles’ smile fades, he puts his hand gently on top hers. “Let’s go,” he says, and the woman finally gets up to leave the darkened office with Crumbles perched on her shoulder. The super “This job can break you if you let it,” appears on screen, followed by “We’re here to help,” and the nabs logo.

“When we read the brief, we knew our biggest challenge was going to be creating something for an audience whose tolerance for BS is pretty low,” said Jacob Greer, Cossette’s creative director. “If we wanted to really get through to our colleagues, we had to come at it from an angle that was brutally honest, but also funny in a very relatable way.”

“Crumbles is here to tell it like it is,” added Nicole Ellerton, Cossette creative director. “Sometimes this job can take more than it gives, so as an industry we need to make more of an effort to take care of ourselves and look after each other.”

And we quote: “We hope that this campaign encourages people within the industry—from all levels of seniority—to recognize the signs of mental burnout and distress early and take advantage of the many services and resources that nabs has available. No one needs to go through this alone.” —Mark Neves, director, central at nabs.

David Brown