This Is Your Brain on Food: Postmates Co-Opts Famous Tagline for Trippy Ads

The animated work, from Mother LA, captures a chemical reaction to delicious eats

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Food is more than just sustenance––it can be a wild romp through a fiery hellscape in the case of Nashville hot chicken, or a joyride on a geyser of steaming hot broth if the dish is soup dumplings.

Digging into a flavorful favorite like barbecue or boba doesn’t just satiate hunger, it jumpstarts the nervous system, according to a new campaign from Postmates that draws a direct line between mealtime and synapses.

The work, called “This Is Your Brain on Food,” launches today with a series of animated short videos that bring to life the visceral pleasure of eating doughnuts, sushi and other noshes.

“We’re leaning into what it feels like when you take that first bite of some spectacular dish,” David Kim, executive creative director of Postmates, told Adweek. “Certain foods trigger a deep emotion, and that’s an insight that felt smart, unmined and uniquely Postmates.”

The campaign, from longtime agency of record Mother Los Angeles, is an evolution of the brand’s cravings-centric platform, “When All You Can Food Is Think About.”

It’s also a not-so-subtle nod to the iconic PSAs that debuted in the late 1980s under the banner “This Is Your Brain on Drugs.” Each spot opens with a disembodied head cracking open, a callback to the infamous eggs in a skillet.

Postmates and Mother took cues from those classic Partnership for a Drug-Free America spots, as well as MTV’s animated on-air logos and a scene from Disney’s Ratatouille in which a bite of food triggers a flood of memories for a central character.

‘Euphoric moment’

Because different types of food elicit various reactions, creatives hired a number of visual artists to interpret those experiences, saying a live-action version of the campaign would’ve been impossible.

The result is nine different animated shorts that range widely in their styles, including a peek into the sugar rush that comes from drinking boba tea. Hint: It’s a mashup of candy-colored psychedelia and video game play.

Another standout: the action-packed claymation journey to hell and back, complete with a motorcycle-riding character named Keith who’s pursued by demon creatures and powered by hot chicken.

“Each piece of food had its own brief,” Dave Estrada, creative director at Mother LA, told Adweek. “We were going for that euphoric moment, which could be serenity and bliss or pleasure and pain.”

Postmates billboard
Postmates tries to differentiate itself with an irreverent personality.Postmates, Mother LA

Though the ads are short—6 and 15 seconds via production house Nexus Studios—they were “a staggering amount of work,” given the animation and visual effects process, Estrada said. The campaign, first conceived in the spring, was in production for three months.

Defining its turf

With the campaign, Postmates intends to “more clearly define our swim lane” and differentiate its service from sister brand Uber Eats, while retaining its irreverent personality, Kim said.

“Uber Eats has focused on the ‘anything and everything’ message in a very mainstream way,” said Brittany Hoffman, head of marketing at Postmates. “We focus on that one thing you’ve been craving.”

“This Is Your Brain on Food” drops in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, in keeping with the brand’s emphasis on top-performing, high-growth markets with strong foodie cultures. 

In addition to the short films released on digital channels, there are out-of-home ads and painted murals from artists such as Jen Stark and Akiko Stehrenberger.

a white wall with a mural of a man's head being split open by boba tea
The campaign focuses on high-growth markets with strong foodie cultures.Postmates, Mother LA

Social elements include TikTok, Instagram, X and Snapchat, the latter with a unique user filter. Influencer content is still to come.

As in previous work, “This Is Your Brain on Food” calls out local merchants like Howlin’ Ray’s and Katsuya in L.A., and The Salty and Bao’d Up in Austin.

Postmates intends to keep using the tagline going forward, citing its creative flexibility and easy customization. New spots will retain the framework of the floating head, spinning food and animated journey.

The new banner feels like a natural next step for the brand strategically, Hoffman said, and brings its marketing message “closer to the point of consumption.”

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