Flying dishware, projectile baby vomit, burning stove pots and living room tumbles - all of these are prominent and memorable aspects of DoorDash Canada’s latest campaign. Created by creative agency Hard Work Club and featuring three spots - ‘Company’s Coming’, ‘New Parents’ and ‘Teenage Heartbreak’ - the work utilises vibrant colours, dramatic slow motion and a banging remake of Four Tops’ ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ (created by Canadian audio collective SNDWRx) to showcase how the food ordering company can calm even the most chaotic of situations.
It’s bold, busy… but also surprisingly intricate work. With so many moving pieces, it’s clear to see just how much effort went into bringing each spot to life, from the initial creative concepting to the finalisation of VFX and colour components. Whether it was the song choice itself, or the way in which the team behind the camera practically captured objects flying through the air in slow motion, there’s no doubt that this work was a labour of love and precision, from start to finish.
LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Hard Work Club co-founder and executive creative director Meghan Kraemer, Alfredo Films partner and executive producer Holly Rowden, SNDWRx founder and creative director Didier Tovel, and Studio Feather founder and creative director Julian van Mil to discuss how these pieces amalgamated to make a memorable whole.
LBB> Tell us about how you got involved with this campaign. What was the brief like, and what immediate ideas came to mind?
Meghan> The brief was a fairly typical one within the category. DoorDash now delivers pretty much everything, from a burger to a bouquet of flowers, and they wanted to make their extended offering known to Canadians, with some added emphasis on young families. Immediately, we swung for the fences.
Initially, we had a concept both we and the clients loved that played to the horror genre. Sadly, another campaign launched the day after we pitched that was a teensy bit similar, so a pivot felt like it was required. We knew we wanted a maximalist approach - something ‘over the top’. We wrote up a bunch of stuff including a concept inspired by a big Broadway musical number, and another one that involved an M.C. Escher-esque maze. Ultimately, we had to get a bit more ‘real’ to show - literally - all the different categories that DoorDash delivers. The trick was getting a bit more functional without sacrificing the fun.
LBB> Showcasing everything in the kitchen going wrong at once is a hilarious, dramatic and memorable way to approach a spot. Where did this idea come from, and how did this translate into creative execution?
Meghan> The idea started by dreaming up all kinds of whacky scenarios where DoorDash could ‘save the day’; moments of both internal and external chaos. One of these scenarios was the pressure you feel when prepping for a dinner party. We riffed on a long list of everything that could go wrong if you’re cooking for a bunch of people when actually… you cannot cook. Then, we played with the strongest sight gags from that list. We knew we had to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’, because it would all be set to music, not narration. A personal favourite for me is the hero chopping onions and crying hyperbolic tears. It encapsulates our mandate for each moment of catastrophe: ‘let’s go big, and then let’s make it even bigger!’. This was the challenge for both the actors’ performances as well as the post-production VFX.
LBB> You worked with director Lonan Garcia and the team from Alfredo Films to bring this to life. How did this collaboration come to be?
Meghan> We looked at a ton of reels, but we connected with Lonan’s work instantly. He has such a distinct point of view that imbues his work with this larger-than-life sense of story and character. Lonan deeply considers every shot - even something that’s pretty standard like someone hitting the ‘ORDER NOW’ button on a phone is pushed to be more interesting.
We also love the team at Alfredo Films, and were thrilled to support them. Like us, they’re scrappy yet ambitious, and relatively new on the Toronto scene. We share a lot of the same values. At any rate, Lonan really understood our vision, from set design and wardrobe to casting. Then, he brought his wild imagination to build and build upon it. The whole process was one of us constantly jamming together and trying to top everything that was currently on the table, which was just so fun!
Holly> The brief felt very different from so many other scripts we’ve seen. We knew immediately that it was something we wanted to be a part of, and that we could add to the beautiful chaos that was already so well painted for us by the creative team.
We were eager to be a part of this project because it felt like a job where everyone could really let loose and try new things that we’ve never been able to do before. After we read the script we all looked at each other (myself, EP Alex Henry, and Lonan) and said, ‘this has a cat, fire, a baby, projectile vomit, frozen objects and characters, and many other elements… OK, we’re in!’.
LBB> What was the writing process like? Were there ideas that embodied chaos that didn’t make the final cut?
Meghan> It was a wild amount of fun to write up what these scenarios could be. We did have some we loved that were a bit more niche - like hosting a dog’s birthday party complete with dogs and party favour chaos everywhere, or a bachelorette party gone awry. In the end, a dinner party and new parenthood felt more accessible.
The tripping and the fire on the stove came from that long list of sight gags as immediate visual cues that things are going wrong. Initially, we had the guy tripping on a sneaker, but everyone thought we could top it. There were lots of suggestions for what that object on the floor could be. Hard Work Club’s director of brand leadership, Lindsay Day, suggested the Roomba. As soon as she said it, it was so obvious that it was the right thing.
Holly> Meghan, Christian, and the great team at Hard Work Club came up with the writing, but it was definitely a team effort all the way up until a few days before the shoot. We had written the storyboards and scenes many times because of how many VFX plates we needed to capture, but also because we needed to map how the characters would interact within the scene - with us using a high speed Bolt camera - as well as all the other flying objects. As such, many small script changes were made - a result of solving this massive technical challenge we had before us.
LBB> What was shooting like? Do you have any anecdotes to share from on set?
Meghan> Shooting the three campaign spots took place over four incredibly long days, just before the holidays. We recognised early on that we wanted to include MoCo camera, but that is an incredibly arduous process. Nevertheless, despite the intense schedule, the crew was absolutely amazing. Everyone was motivated, trusting and fun. Some directors can be (understandably) territorial and need their space to do what they do best, but Lonan was open to me hanging out at the director’s chair and us collaborating in real time. I have a BTS video of him which I love, where he is playfully shouting ‘BIGGER! BIGGER!’ at the actor’s performance. That sorta captures the whole vibe.
Holly> We shot this at Commercial Studios in Scarborough, Ontario. We had three big studio builds designed by Lonan and production designer Dylan Juckes. It was a huge effort to bring colourful and vibrant tones throughout all of the art that we felt best fit DoorDash, while being representative of the characters who lived in this world, but ultimately, we got it done in a short period of time!
The process of the shoot was almost representative of the chaos within the story. There were so many complicated moving parts that made this pretty difficult to pull off, but every shot we captured constantly had the room filled with excitement to see how it would turn out. Everyone knew we had something truly special that stood out.
LBB> In particular, the floating table settings are very memorable, as well as the fire on the stove. How did you achieve these shots?
Holly> We had all the floating objects suspended in the air - either via C-stands or crew members holding them on sticks with green tape - so we could easily manipulate the objects in post (where we also added even more objects). The part that was pretty difficult and time-consuming to pull off was getting everything in different VFX plates so we could layer objects and characters as one seamless cut in the edit. As such, we ran every scene over and over again, but with something a little different happening every time.
As for the fire, this was a scene we were all anticipating going into the shoot, but weirdly enough, it was the safest and simplest move we pulled off thanks to our amazing SFX team and assistant director, Michael Metcalfe, who made sure safety came first.
LBB> Equally important is the sound! What were you hoping to achieve, and what made SNDWRx the right team for the job?
Meghan> We’ve worked with SNDWRx before. Like Lonan, they are unafraid to experiment and bring something to the work that is all their own. Our aim with music, as our wonderful DoorDash partners put it, was ‘an old jam that felt like a new jam’. The Four Tops track was this certified classic. However, we wanted to keep its nostalgia and feel, while bringing a modern edge to it. Didier Tovel brought forward these wonderful R&B and gospel singers, whose vocals were just so full and lush. Then, he layered the vocals with really interesting instrumentation and sound design - work that is just so fresh and so SNDWRx.
Something I love about the audio is that when our hero ‘screams’ in ‘Company’s Coming’, the sound is actually one of our vocalists belting out a note. It’s really unexpected and utterly perfect for the tone of the spot.
LBB> Didier, how does one start on a project like this? Musically, what ideas immediately came to mind?
Didier> We’ve worked closely with DoorDash to find its sonic identity for years now, so the brief we received was quite open and sounded something like ‘do what you do - go nuts!’, which, as a general stance, is amongst our favourite things to do!
We started creating the song before anything was ever shot - even before the agency had a director on board. Once we knew that we could recreate such a classic, we explored a wide range of styles and ways to bring it to life in the modern era, while honouring the vintage feel of the track. I knew I wanted to work with a gospel choir, and that’s what we made happen.
LBB> From the beeping of the alarm to the crying, the sound is dramatic, stressful and crazy. What went into bringing this to life, and how did you use sound to enhance the ambiance?
Didier> The goal was to make our intro quite tense, and contrast the anxiety of almost burning down the kitchen with the heavenly solution of calling DoorDash as your holy food delivery service and saviour. We really had fun making that intro unique, using everything from a theremin to pitched up vocals (that are reprised later in the track), and sound design reminiscent of some Marvel films.
Beyond that, I’d add that our minds and imagination hold the keys. Everything else we create, source, layer, record and compose.
LBB> Tell us about the post and the colour processes! How long did these take, and how did the Studio Feather get involved?
Meghan> Often, there are silos between clients, agency, production and post-production. However, Hard Work Club likes to operate differently, and the partners we choose are down for it. All of this is to say that Studio Feather was with us on set and inputting ideas the whole way through - from refining ideation to production, so there were no surprises.
Again, like us, Studio Feather is relatively new in the Toronto landscape, and so they also swing for the fences, which we’re so thankful for. We’ve worked with them before, and there is no challenge that they aren’t game to solve. The post process was a massive lift, but thankfully, the editorial team at Outsider and the team at Studio Feather were committed to the challenge. There were so many layers (literally) and elements to consider that we just wanted to let them do their thing. So, by the time we got to our sessions, it was just about refinement and trying to top where we were.
Specifically, we always knew we wanted vibrant colour. In fact, our aim was to be ‘anything but naturalistic’. We were all very deliberate with the palettes on set and how they laddered back to the DoorDash brand - especially considering the importance of DoorDash red. Ana Escorse, senior colourist at Studio Feather, made the whole thing pop like mad. It was a joy to be in her suite and watch her play with colour and contrast.
Julian> The brief from Hard Work Club was fun and energetic! There was a lot - and I mean a lot - of content for a 30-second spot. It was immediately exciting, and seemed like a perfect challenge. Even from the initial agency boards, there was that great sense of flair and enthusiasm. The brief called for a huge amount of VFX even before the details started to lock in, and that’s always exciting for us. So much of the work we do is completely invisible, and it’s always exciting for our team to put out work where our contribution is front and centre. I also knew from the brief that this was going to be the perfect spot to showcase our team’s collaboration. We are at our best when we’re doing VFX, motion, and colour as one team. It puts us in a place where we can go back and forth, iterate, and elevate each other's work in a way that working with different post teams can’t replicate.
LBB> You mentioned VFX, motion and colour. How did you bring these elements to life?
Julian> The VFX really grew over the course of production. Originally, we combined motion-control takes and added a few floating items. However, we really turned it up to 11 through the post-process. Once we had the fantastic edit from Michael Barker at Outsider Editorial, we knew we could make these spots even bigger. Luckily the creative allowed for all kinds of crazy things. I think at one point we had baby puke flying all over the kitchen table.
LBB> What actually is CG in the final spots? And how did you approach walking the line between cartoonish action with real-life visuals?
Julian> Quite a bit! Most of the floating items, all of the exteriors, the baby vomit, the flowers, headphones and the tears were all CG. From the beginning, the brief was always to be over the top and cartoonish, so we really pushed to exaggerate all of the CG items. We made them larger than the real world, brighter and more saturated. The movement was tricky to nail down because it was supposed to read as a ‘frozen’ time moment, but of course, you need a little movement to sell the effect. So we fiddled with that quite a bit.
LBB> What were your goals in terms of using colour to enhance the final work? How did you use this to make the spots pop?
Julian> We wanted to convey a sense of hominess and realness while staying cinematic and colourful. It’s easy to say, but keeping things saturated and remaining cinematic is a real balancing act. I think our colourist, Ana Escorse, did a great job of creating a poppy and premium grade.
Also, because this was all handled at Feather, we were also able to utilise a more feature-film workflow, where the colour transfer is done after the VFX is complete with mattes for all the VFX passes. Usually, on commercial work, we do the colour first. Being all in-house, we were able to give ourselves more time and flexibility, and I think it really shows in the final product.
LBB> Do you have any lessons learned from the making of this campaign?
Meghan> The widely accepted - and completely valid - line of thinking for any 15-second spot is that you should try to do and say one thing, and no more. The 15-second spots from this campaign are incredibly ambitious in what they’re trying to convey. We’re right on that line, and one millimetre over would be too much. We figured it out, but it was a good reminder to get real regarding the constraints of your media buy.
At Hard Work Club, we also deeply value bringing on talented, kind partners, and then giving them space to do what they do so well. Part of what makes this campaign shine is that everyone was truly empowered to contribute new ideas and thinking along the way, and to put their own personal stamps on it. When you give folks that creative freedom and space, the end result is almost always better for it.
Holly> I think when you take on a job as big as this with so much creative liberty, there will always be a lesson learned. Every single person was hands-on for this campaign, and there was so much love and support across the board. Our biggest lesson is the entire experience! This campaign has helped us grow so much, and we can’t wait to keep producing more content as unique as this one.
Didier> It was a real honour working on this campaign, not only because of the result, but because of the collaborative nature of the good people at Hard Work Club and DoorDash. Although our job is to make the music, we feel that they trust us with a lot, and so we work hard to never take that for granted and amaze every single time we can. If there’s something that this campaign has taught me is that I only want to work with ‘partners’ who get us and why our recommendations aren’t fluff. We put a lot of thought and detail into what we do so that we all succeed, together.
Julian> Make sure you don’t tweak the lighting on motion-control takes… not even a little.
LBB> What challenges did you face in the making of this project? And how did you overcome them?
Meghan> This was an ambitious project in every sense of the word, which is not only what makes it special, but also what made it challenging. Work like this always includes some unexpected surprises - like the time the MoCo camera got knocked accidentally and the crew had to painstakingly reset it late at night - but those challenges were met with grace from everyone involved.
Julian> I think everyone involved from the top down really believed in this spot and wanted to make it special. I love this attitude and all the best spots have it behind the scenes, but you can fall into the trap of taking too much on. Deadlines rarely change, and because we kept wanting to make the spot bigger, better, and more fun, we were always adding more. In hindsight, I would have tried to define the scope a little more and focus on fewer things. However, it’s also hard to argue with the result.
LBB> Do you have a favourite aspect of the campaign?
Meghan> Not really, actually. I love the performances, the colour, and the sound! For me, this is an example of a lot of different but equally important elements coming together to make something that’s off the beaten path. The sum is what makes it - versus the parts.
Holly> Everyone watching or attached to the project might have a different perspective to their favourite moment of the spot. Of course, the frozen moment is the highlight and coolest part of the spot, but there was a moment on set when the two actors from ‘Company's Coming’ were running around in a panic as the pot was on fire, and the way they were running around felt like something out of ‘Looney Tunes’. Everyone on set was laughing hysterically!
Julian> I love that it doesn't take itself too seriously for such a technical and VFX-heavy spot, and that the final spot feels light and fun. I give full credit to Hard Work Club and DoorDash for having that vision from the beginning. Both client and agency really aligned on making a surprising and irreverent spot that had goofy tones. No one was afraid to really go for it.