A Kids’ Choir Viciously Taunts Work-Obsessed Parents in Dairy Queen’s Sweet Summer Ads

Classic tunes get a snarky twist

Dairy Queen

A children’s choir dishes out the guilt in Barkley’s snackable #SummerSkipDay ads for Dairy Queen.

With their red robes waving in the breeze, the youngsters congregate on a baseball diamond and at a lakeside beach to belt out some familiar tunes, with tweaked lyrics that encourage their parents to skip a day a of work and take them out for frozen treats.

The ads also promote a new DQ app offering fans a free DQ Blizzard with their first download.

In the clip below, an updated “Ode to Joy,” immortalized in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, ditches the original’s elevated language about starry canopies and gods in favor of, “Guilt trip, guilt trip, guilt trip, guilt trip, guilt trip—this is our guilt trip. We could spend some time together, but you did not take off work.”

In your face, Friedrich Schiller. (He’s the German poet who composed the classic “Ode” in 1785—d’uh.)

Barkley drew inspiration for the campaign from a 2017 study by Project: Time Off that found 24 percent of Americans don’t skip a single day of work all year long.

“So, on the first official day of summer (today, June 21), Dairy Queen, the quintessential brand of summer, wanted to inspire parents to finally take off work and spend it with their kids,” Katy Hornaday, executive creative director at the agency, tells Adweek.

“The challenge was how to get a nation of parents to take a day off? The answer: guilt,” she says. “Sweet, melodic, in-your-face guilt. We got an adorable children’s choir to sing classic songs with a twist.”

The clips below put fresh DQ twists on “Frère Jacques” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” respectively:

In just 24 hours, that last clip garnered more than 10,000 views, 700 likes and 600 shares—even before paid-media support across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter kicked in. That’s a pretty chill performance.

Though maybe if those kids weren’t singing their heads off for ice cream every blessed minute, their parents would spend more time at home.

The Kansas City Children’s Choir appears in the ads and on the soundtrack.

“All the kids participated in singing, but it was nearly 95 degrees, with a 15-mph wind when we filmed on location,” says agency cd Matt Pruett. “The sound wasn’t ideal, so we captured them in a studio the next day.”

“We shot these ads in beautiful, but desolate summertime locations that would ordinarily be filled with families – if mom and dad weren’t working all the time.”

“Wrangling 15 kids under the age of 9 is much easier with the promise of Blizzards,” he recalls. Even so, “As you can see in the videos, their attention spans were shorter than our takes.”

As it turned out, the occasional fidgeting played well in context, enhancing the jokey atmosphere.

“We chose to embrace their short attention spans in the content,” Pruett says.


Client – Dairy Queen
EVP U.S. Marketing – Maria Hokanson
Integrated Marketing Manager –  Lisa Jesser
Public Relations Manager –  Bri Bauer
Content & Social Media Marketing Manager – Jenell Lammers

Agency – Barkley
Executive Creative Director –  Katy Hornaday
Group Creative Director – Berk Wasserman
Creative Director – Matt Pruett
Associate Creative Director – Joe DeSalvo
Associate Creative Director – Kyle Anthony
Executive Producer – Melany Esfeld
Producer – Shawn Wallace
Art Director – Chris Larberg
Copywriter – Justin Smith
Project Manager – James Prideaux
SVP Brand Leadership –  Stephanie Parker
VP Brand Lead-  Andy Pitts
Brand Supervisor –  Julia Unverfehrt
Group Strategy Director – Chris Cardetti
Strategist – Scott Roberts
Engagement Director – Chris Mason

Production Company –  RW2
Director –  Kevin Schowengerdt
Production Company Producer –  Marie Dougherty
Director of Photography –  Jason Cantu

Editorial / Post Production Company –  Barkley Films
Producer –  Lauren Alexander
Editor –  Josh Dubois
Audio Mix –  Patrick Meagher
Colorist –  Tyler Roth
Color Producer – Lauren Roth

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.