Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
As delivery platforms expand into new verticals — from groceries and retail to alcohol and flowers — and continue to make bigger forays into advertising with big national buys and Super Bowl plays, Postmates decided to swim upstream with a campaign that revolves around the original offering of the category: food.
"For Postmates, the goal was to get more specific and double down on what we deliver — buzzworthy local food — and just be very narrow in who we're approaching: younger, art-leaning, culture-leaning people," said Biz Anderson, strategist for Mother in Los Angeles, the brand's creative agency.
Rather than focus on the range of offerings or convenience of the platform, Mother in LA keyed in on food itself, moving beyond how it satiates hunger or satisfies cravings to focus on the hard-to-describe feelings and emotions it causes.
"As soon as you take that first bite, you really get this hit of dopamine, but when you really break that down, you realize that every food hits you differently," said Hayley Hinkley, creative art director at Mother in LA. "We really wanted to capture each of the foods' unique feeling in this really visceral way."
The result, "This Is Your Brain on Food," is certainly visceral. A series of 15-second ads crack open people's heads to reveal a specific food and an animated vision of the mental world it creates: the bubbly pastels of boba tea, the geometric precision of sushi, the almost amniotic comfort of soup dumplings and the playful primary colors of donuts, among others. Mother worked with Nexus Design Studio, the motion design division of Nexus Studios, to enlist nine artists who created the animated VFX films.
"We thought that using all these different animation styles would really help… because there's all these different feelings for these different foods. I don't think it was going to work for us to use one specific or one general animation style — we really wanted to capture and create these worlds in these different styles," Hinkley said.
To create each concept, Mother in LA taste tested the selected foods and then created mood boards, both for visual textures and colors but also for sounds, to capture a greater range of sensory experience. The agency worked with Peter Raeburn and Soundtree Music to create custom soundtracks that use different instruments, melodies and tempos to differentiate the experiences.
"By creating all those different mood boards, it really helped build these worlds and then give a pretty detailed brief to our artists, who then could jump off and really bring their own flair to each spot and craft it to make it their own," Hinkley said.
One standout spot is for Nashville hot chicken, which transforms the fiery extremity of the food into a claymation race seemingly inspired by "Mad Max: Fury Road." That was inspired by not just the heat and spice of hot chicken but the speed and urgency with which it is eaten.
"Internally we were calling that 'white hot euphoria,' trying to capture that pain and pleasure, and we felt that claymation could be a really interesting one for that, especially because when you're eating this hot chicken sandwich, you feel like your face is melting," Hinkley explained.
"This Is Your Brain on Food" rolled out in September on Instagram, X and TikTok with content creators @domenicaaq and @itsbridgettebitch and on Snapchat via a unique filter. Traditional out-of-home appears across Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, including murals by artists Akiko Stehrenberger and Jen Stark.
"We didn't want to just bring our interpretation of the food and feeling to life — we wanted to get a wide range of opinions," Hinkley explained. "Everyone really brought their own perception of how this food affects them into these [elements] and I think that's where a lot of the magic happened."