Campaign Trail: Postmates animates fever dreams fueled by food

Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best new creative efforts from the marketing world. See previous columns in the archives here.

As delivery platforms expand into new verticals—from grocery and retail to alcohol and flowers—and continue to make bigger forays into advertising with big national buys and Super Bowl games, Postmates decided to swim upstream with a campaign revolving around the original offering of a category: food.

“For Postmates, the goal was to get more specific and double down on what we deliver — buzz-worthy local food — and just be very narrow in terms of who we’re reaching out to: a younger, arts-and-culture-leaning crowd,” said Biz Anderson, strategist at Mother in Los Angeles, the brand’s creative agency.

Rather than focusing on the range of offerings or the convenience of the platform, Mother in LA focuses on the food itself, moving beyond how it satiates hunger or satisfies hunger to focus on the indescribable feelings and emotions it evokes.

“As soon as you take that first bite, you really get that shot of dopamine, but when you really break it down, you realize that every food affects you differently,” said Haley Hinckley, creative art director at Mother in LA. “We really wanted to capture the unique feel of each of the foods in this really visceral way.”

The result, This Is Your Brain on Food, is certainly visceral. A series of 15-second ads breaks people’s minds 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 dumpling soup and the playful primary colors of donuts , by the way. Mother worked with Nexus Design Studio, the motion design division of Nexus Studios, to bring in nine artists who create the animated VFX films.

“We thought using all these different animation styles would really help… because there are all these different feels to these different foods. I don’t think it would have worked for us to use one specific or one general style of animation – we really wanted to capture and create these worlds in these different styles,” Hinckley said.

To create each concept, Mother in LA sampled 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 experiences. 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 these different mood boards, it really helped build these worlds and then gave quite a lot of input to our artists who could then go out and really bring their own flair to each location and craft it , to make it their own,” Hinckley said.

This Is Your Boba Tea Brain Mural by Jen Stark

Courtesy of Postmates

One standout is for Nashville’s Hot Chicken, which transforms the food’s fiery extremity into a claymore race seemingly inspired by Mad Max: Fury Road. This was inspired not only by the heat and spice of the hot chicken, but also by the speed and urgency with which it was eaten.

“Internally, we called it ‘white hot euphoria,’ trying to capture that pain and pleasure, and we felt that claymation could be really interesting for that, especially because when you’re eating that hot chicken sandwich, you feel like your face is melting.” explained Hinckley.

This Is Your Brain on Food debuted in September on Instagram, X and TikTok with content creators @domenicaaq and @itsbridgettebitch and on Snapchat via a unique filter. Traditional living outside the home appears in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, including murals by artists Akiko Sterenberger and Jen Stark.

“We didn’t just want to bring our interpretation of the food and feel to life – we wanted to get a wide range of opinions,” explained Hinckley. “Everyone really brought their own perception of how that food affects them into these [elements] and I think that’s where a lot of the magic happened.”

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