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Your Shot

Your Shot: The Dempseys on Driving a Food Fantasy for Deliveroo

How the Knucklehead directing duo managed to make a giant floating burger look so, so appetising - even though they don’t eat them

Your Shot: The Dempseys on Driving a Food Fantasy for Deliveroo

Advertising should trigger a visceral response… and you don’t get much more visceral than a rumbling tummy. The new campaign for online food delivery company Deliveroo is a dreamlike fantasy that does just that. Giant foodstuffs bob along the streets of Buenos Aires, led by one of the most beautiful burgers you’re likely to see this side of the ad break. 

The spot was directed by Knucklehead directors Ben and Joe Dempsey, devised by an in-house creative team with help from Heads Up Production. It’s a whimsical watch that goes straight to the belly. To distract from the hunger pangs it has induced, LBB’s Laura Swinton spoke to the Dempseys.

LBB> So you worked direct with the client on this one - what was their brief and how did you get to the idea? Was it something you developed, or did it come from the Deliveroo team?

The Dempseys> With the need to differentiate themselves from a growing list of competitors, Deliveroo commissioned a freelance in-house creative team headed up by ECD Helin Kotan, creatives Alex King and Andy Jordan and used producer Jody Allison from Heads Up Production. The team had spent a couple of months prior developing a global repositioning of the brand - based around restaurant-quality food delivered to your home. As a result, a very succinct TV script came to us, which leapt off the page the moment we read it. We developed and elaborated the story sequence and took on the complexity of a production that read as a very simple and immediate idea on paper. 

LBB> The burger looks amazing. It might be because I am slightly hanging but it really made my stomach grumble. How did you research and design the perfect burger?
The Dempseys> The creatives Andy and Alex are burger mad – specialists, even! They were all over creating the look of the perfect burger. We don’t eat burgers ourselves, so took their lead on how it should look to create the most appetising appeal.

LBB> The world in which the ad takes place is really beautiful - the soft colour palette of the graffiti and geometric design. What inspired that look and those?
The Dempseys> Giant food that you just want to eat moving itself around the city streets wasn’t an immediately comfortable fit. So, we set out to create a city that didn’t feel dirty and polluted, or look like a concrete jungle, but instead had a peaceful atmosphere.
The use of soft coloured geometric design helped elevate the settings beyond that of ordinary urban surfaces. Buenos Aires, where we shot the film, has some great commissioned street art, particularly an abundance of bold painted tunnels and underpasses. That said, a lot of the graffiti and mural designs featured in the spot were designed from scratch and added later in post. We worked with the Deliveroo creative team and we needed to include some brand cues throughout the spot, so we developed the geometric look of the street art utilising the graphic shape of the Roo character from the Deliveroo logo.

LBB> Sounds like an odd detail but I love the way the giant food moves - the bouncy floating movement - how did you figure out how the foods would move? Were there many debates about how they would travel?
The Dempseys> From the very start there was a strong desire to bring an aspect of characterisation to how the food moves. Not to go all Pixar about it, but [we wanted to] create a difference between how the foods move based on their natural characteristics. There was also a need to steer away from the movement of the food feeling automated as if moving along an invisible conveyor belt.
3D food was first mentioned because it would give complete control over how the food moves. But creating real-looking 3D food that you want to eat, taking on everyone's opinions and turning it around on a tight schedule clearly spelt out ‘not the way to go’. If we had, we might still be rendering out the perfect looking burger as we speak!
So, we shot real food and developed ways to capture simple variations of movement in camera that we could then push further in post.
There were some clear rules upfront - the food should never touch the ground because of obvious hygiene reasons and, given the food was doing the work of the being the Deliveroo courier itself, the emphasis had to stay on the purity of the food - so no wheels!

Hovering was the way to go and finding ways to rig and subtly puppeteer the food when moving it from A to B in camera. The food shoot was a complete mix of low-fi and hi-fi - massive motion control rigs shooting little pieces of sushi moving on railway set tracks!
We then developed and refined the movement considerably with Kamen, our post supervisor at MPC. Bringing more buoyancy and bounce and developing differences in the movement of the food based on its individual shape and size. Zippy sushi vs a slow lazy burger.
LBB> The ad is for Deliveroo but it incorporates lots of other brands like Bill's and Wagamama - did that lend any extra complexity in terms of working with the clients?
The Dempseys> The Deliveroo clients called the shots on which restaurant brands would be featured.
When working out the story sequence and choosing locations we had to be mindful of where restaurant cues could be included, both exterior and interior. The restaurant cues were then to be adapted for all the various territories the spot will air across.
LBB> Where was the shoot and how long did that take? What were the biggest challenges with this project and how did you overcome them?
The Dempseys> We shot all the locations first in Buenos Aires to capture the world for the food to exist in and shoot the endings for each spot. It was a big challenge to achieve the scale and breadth of locations we wanted in the three days we had to shoot. This part of the job felt like one long location recce… and when we hit the ground and started to explore in more detail, we’d keep seeing so many great possibilities for shots of food on the street.  
We knew it wasn’t going to be a simple point-and-shoot approach... even though we wanted that feel. We had to choreograph the streets, avoiding too much traffic and passers-by staring into camera. When blocking out the surrounding action, always keeping in mind the clear travelling space for imaginary massive foods that would eventually populate the shot.

In addition to shooting the planned set-up shots, we built in time to shoot some drive-by footage to capture a wider variety and get those great shots that we had spotted further afield (e.g. the ring road shot). We needed these to keep the sequence moving and avoid the observation feeling too staged. As a result, we picked up a few of those ‘right place at the right time' moments that we knew we’d be able to drop food into later (e.g. the hot dog pulling up next to the bus).
LBB> Love the Everly Brothers track - at what point did you land on that?
The Dempseys> When we received the script, the Everly Brothers track was already on the table. 

However, for due diligence, we all chased our tails looking through hundreds of other tracks to see if there was a more contemporary alternative, and also whether some modern re-records of the EB track had been done. But to be honest, we knew that it was going to be hard to better the original. Deliveroo went the distance so we could actually use it. We liked the EB track from the start, it worked with the idea, had the peaceful, dreamy feel needed and we were drawn to the ‘Lynch-like’ nostalgia that comes with it.
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Category: Food , Fruit and vegetables

Genre: Scenic , Visual VFX