Upwork tells us the old ways of working are dead

(Courtesy Alto)

From the advent of electricity and automobiles to mobile phones and computers, humanity has always pushed forward when it recognizes some entrenched facet of life is now obsolete. The latest campaign from the world’s work marketplace, Upwork, and lead creative agency Alto New York address what is arguably the biggest change in how we work since the invention of the assembly line. 

“This is How We Work Now” emphasizes the new ways of working that have emerged just in the last few years, but were a long time coming. 

The campaign boldly states that the old ways of working are dead – quite literally – and encourages viewers to reinvent work so that it serves us all. 

Reinforcing Upwork’s brand belief that work should free human potential instead of limit it, the two-minute anthem film (supported by unique :60, :30, :15 and 6 second spots) opens in a traditional boardroom where an undead founder and CEO named Jack pops into the meeting to proclaim that he and the finance guy, Alan, made everything up: “These old ideas, working in an office, commuting, 9:00 to 5:00, Alan’s job. We all made it up! Right, Alan? So, what’s stopping you from making something better?” 

Cue musical ensemble, which you have to watch to fully appreciate. Watch below:

Beyond the two-minute musical, the campaign includes 15 different spots including the :60  :30s, :15s and 6s, each with unique narratives in which Jack espouses many of the ways Upwork benefits business owners, in most cases as a body part falls off.

In “Nepotism,” Jack 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.  

World-renowned director and Czech filmmaker Ivan Zacharias of SMUGGLER directed the campaign.

Zacharias shares, “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.”

In “Handshake,” Jack explains that, back when he had a working circulatory system and before he knew about Upwork, he had to give his right arm to find great global talent. Ironically, while sharing this life lesson, he loses both arms. 

Melissa Waters, Chief Marketing Officer at Upwork: “We are in the midst of a ‘Work Awakening,’ where people around the world are innovating their careers and exploring new ways of working. This isn’t the future of work, it’s happening now. Leading companies realize that ‘whom’ you work with is a much more powerful work transformation than ‘where’ work gets done. At the same time, skilled talent are finding the freedom to work on their own terms. ‘This is How We Work Now’ exposes the antiquated ‘rules of work’ as dead and naturally meets the moment alongside the businesses and professionals redefining work as we know it.”

A declarative statement of a new reality, “This is How We Work Now” serves as an invitation to a party that’s already happening.


Patrick Holly, Executive Creative Director at notes, “For this campaign, we set out to make something that reflects not only the new world of work, but also Upwork’s evolution. Our brand has grown in tandem with, and arguably ahead of, the pulse of professional culture, so we want to do our part to lead whoever we can into a better way of working. This campaign celebrates a world of work where good talent and opportunity are abundant, and the fact that work is different, and better, than what it was before.”

Hannes Ciatti, Founder and CCO at Alto, adds, “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. 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.” 

Work launches with a significant media plan across linear TV, CTV, OLV, streaming audio, digital, and social today, September 28th. A further media push will follow in Q1. 

It’s not often that society as a whole makes massive leaps forward, but, when it does happen, it’s because there’s a shared belief that the old ways of doing things just don’t work anymore. Upwork and Alto get it which is why this campaign is REEL AD OF THE WEEK.


CLIENT: Upwork

  • CMO: Melissa Waters
  • VP, Marketing: Amanda Leach-Rouvi
  • Executive Creative Director: Patrick Holly
  • Creative Director: Nick Scarlett
  • Design Director: Stephanie Munoz
  • 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


  • 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


MUSIC: Walker Music

MIX/SOUND: Barking Owl

PHOTO: 3Star Production

  • Photographer: Emily Shur
  • Photo Producer: Natalie Campbell
  • Wardrobe Styling: Anna Su
  • Prop Styling: Faeth Gruppe
  • Hair & Makeup Artist: Erika Parsons


  • Digital Production: Wild
  • Managing Partner, Design Director: Matthias Mentasti
  • Managing Partner, Technical Director: Thomas Ragger
  • Executive Producer: Amanda Schultz

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at colin@reel360.com or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1