DoorDash focuses on well-known neighbourhood food joints in first major Canadian campaign

Who: DoorDash and John St., with Wavemaker for media. Video spots directed by the team of Stevie Gee and Essy May from London-based animation studio Blinkink.

What: “Welcome to the Flavourhood,” the first major Canadian campaign for the food delivery service since arriving here in 2015. It comes amid growing consumer demand for meal delivery, particularly since in-restaurant dining has largely been curtailed because of COVID.

When & Where: The campaign broke last week and is in market through Dec. 27. The media buy from Wavemaker includes 60-, 30- and 15-second videos, complemented by regional OOH, print, digital video, display and Spotify ads. Paid social will include Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

Why: DoorDash is battling other players like Skip and Uber Eats for a share of the growing food delivery market. Rather than emphasizing benefits like convenience and variety, DoorDash is highlighting its connection to the communities its serves by showcasing some of the neighbourhood restaurants that comprise its consumer offering.

How: The launch spot uses a mix of miniature models, puppets, illustration and animation to create visually interesting representations of several Canadian neighbourhoods including Montreal’s Chinatown, Toronto’s Kensington Market and Vancouver’s Gastown, along with food that dances to the music.

The spot features DoorDash delivery people (AKA “Dashers”) cycling past the facades of several of the cities’ best-known restaurants, from Montreal’s Mandy’s and Calgary’s Flipp’n Burger, to Toronto spots including Kinton Ramen and plant-based chain Fresh. There are also blink-and-you’ll-miss-them references to larger chains like the Cactus Club Cafe and Tim Hortons.

“It was super-important to build in as much detail as possible into these miniature neighbourhoods we were creating,” said Cher Campbell, executive creative director at John St. “The entire spot is full of easter eggs, from known landmarks, to street signs, to signs for massive fast food chains. Like an actual neighbourhood, there’s a mix of everything and you won’t notice it all on the first drive by.”

Supporting local restaurants: The emphasis on neighbourhoods is part of DoorDash’s origin story, said Campbell, since the company was originally founded to help a macaron store in Palo Alto, survive. “Supporting small businesses is a position that is important and authentic to the brand,” she said. “[And] DoorDash has continued to be built on the belief that restaurants are the life blood of neighbourhoods all across the country and all of the weird and wonderful things they have to offer. If DoorDash can keep restaurants healthy and growing, neighbourhoods will do the same, and that’s an important mission.”

The spot is soundtracked by a remixed version of the classic song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and ends with a woman picking up an entire noodle house by a bowl attached to its roof, accompanied by the super “Every restaurant in your hands.”

How did John St. win the assignment? The agency picked up the project as part of a 48-hour strategic challenge issued to a small number of agencies by DoorDash’s senior marketing director, Heather Cameron. Agencies were given a problem and asked to produce a single-page solution.

DoorDash reviewed each submission without a presentation, with John St. later brought in to field questions and assess mutual fit. No creative spec work was permitted, and participating agencies received what Cameron says was “fair compensation” for their participation. Cameron described it as a “simple and powerful relationship chemistry test under time pressure.’

The rest of the story: DoorDash has also partnered with Church + State to introduce Canadian social media handles, and is launching a new influencer program called #DashSquad in Vancouver at the end of the month. Developed by the company’s experiential and influencer agency Ruckus Digital, the program will see local influencers and celebrities surprise what it calls “highly deserving” customers with their order. In Quebec, a DoorDash-produced web series created by Radiance will run on CBC/Radio-Canada’s ICI.TOU.TV.

And we quote: “DoorDash celebrates our neighbourhood restaurants and the go-to faves that make Canada such a unique and vibrant food culture. We are proud to support our passionate restaurant partners, dedicated Dasher team and community of customers, and this work reflects that.” — Heather Cameron, senior brand manager, DoorDash

Chris Powell