Bosses come face-to-face with the harsh reality of running a business in Justworks spots

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"Bossface" is taking over the NYC subway to show small business owners what compliance is doing to them.

Uncomfortable close-ups are coming to a subway near you. Justworks, a startup that provides human resources, payroll and benefits services is rolling out a new campaign from Circus Maximus detailing the ugly side of running a small business.

"Bossface" offers an intimate glimpse into the wear-and-tear inflicted by having to navigate a sea of red tape and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo. The full-color portraits are running in 570 subway cars in New York City, in half-car takeovers for the next four weeks. It will also be running via direct mail and in paid social and digital.

"Fear, loathing and uncertainty are constant bedfellows of anyone running a small business," said Ryan Kutscher, chief creative officer at Circus Maximus. "’Bossface’ is a reflection of the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ rule of business. Sometimes faking it is just another job you’ve got to do at work, and the cracks start to show. Everyone who has run a business will have felt this pain."

The digital executions also include photomorphs, a take on the before/after picture set showcasing the cure for bossface.  "We especially wanted to showcase grit, which is one of our foundational values, both at Justworks and among our customers," said Adam Meisel, head of creative at Justworks.

The "Bossface" campaign comes on the heels of an OOH and social campaign that included pithy, text-heavy spots, colorful holiday-themed illustrations and saturated photography familiar to anyone who’s been on the MTA in the last six months.

"We asked Circus Maximus to go more abstract and use different media than we have in the past," Meisel said. "Text on a colored background on the subway has been effective for our past subway ads but has gotten pretty commonplace, so we wanted to push the bar on this campaign and do something different. This is the first time we’ve used original photography in an ad campaign."

But "Bossface" isn’t just a new campaign for Justworks—it’s been adopted as part of the brand’s identity. The startup has registered the word as a trademark for use in perpetuity. There are also plans to roll out the campaign in other cities later this year, as Justworks expands its footprint.

The relationship with Justworks has caused change at Circus Maximus, too. After winning the business and exploring what the service has to offer, the small agency became a customer, too. "No bullshit, if you're between five and 100 employees, you need to check it out," said Paul Sutton, partner and director of production at the agency. "We switched because the healthcare is dramatically better, and the employee solutions and benefits are great, and super flexible for the way we work."