The story behind Uber Eats’ unforgettable Super Bowl spot
The creative team behind the spot opens up about the pressures of the Super Bowl, the real-life chemistry between Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer and what it was like working with Jelly Roll on his first acting job.
Aniston and Schwimmer were ‘so good at that nuanced humor and that chemistry together’
A teaser that dropped at the end of January featuring a self-deprecating David and Victoria Beckham made sure that Uber Eats’ star-studded Super Bowl ad would be this year’s most-anticipated Big Game commercial.
As we find out from the creative team at Special US, the agency behind that ad, however, the meme the teaser plays on wasn’t initially planned as part of the final treatment. In fact, the brief from the brand last Summer was fairly simple: tell the audience that they can get anything delivered with the app, not just take out.
“Uber Eats is not the first thing you remember if you need groceries; it’s just not common behavior,” says executive creative director Dave Horton. “So, the brief really was to get people to remember to use Uber Eats in those moments where maybe you need a bottle of wine or milk for your cereal.”
There were the usual bog-standard routes the team could have gone down, he says, such as demonstrating all the moments where there is a use case for Uber Eats, but with the Super Bowl being all about entertainment and memorability, Horton says such an approach would never have cut through.
“The other place that brief could take you is into hyperbole and this promise that you can get anything on the platform. That takes you to a place of showing what ‘anything’ means and then really leaning into the craziness of what you can get. We decided not to take it there either, however, because while that’s entertaining for the Super Bowl, it’s not necessarily realistic.”
With those approaches out the window early on, another idea more suited and authentic to the brand began to formulate when Horton’s creative partner, Matt Woodhams-Roberts, was at a dinner that ran out of wine. It wasn’t until someone had gone to the liquor store in an Uber car to pick up a few bottles that someone realized they could have just ordered from Uber Eats, giving rise to this idea of playing with memory and behavior.
“Something we always kind of try to do, especially on Super Bowl ads, is to find a simple base premise and joke that we can then expand on and play with,” says Horton. “We landed on the idea that, in order to remember something, you have to forget something else. That led to lots and lots of scripts.”
The viral teaser
Because they begin working on scripts and visuals almost a year in advance, there’s a huge runway to sit with ideas and be aware of what’s happening in culture. As Woodhams-Roberts explains: “Whether it’s TV shows, movies or music, it’s about taking the core idea and then using these external cultural moments to bring in things that will line up just perfectly for Super Bowl. So, the time that we allow to work on it creates that window in which we can build on the ideas.”
It was during this gestation period that the Beckham documentary aired on Netflix and viewers decided to take the moment that Victoria claimed to be working class and ran with it, thousands of memes popping up on social media timelines and brands even getting involved
As fate would have it, around the same time, the agency was going into production with Uber Eats’ Super Bowl spot that the Beckhams were already signed up for.
Woodhams-Roberts says: “When we can line up production so that we’re able to adapt and take things in and of the moment as we’re creating, that’s the special sauce.” It became a great way to tease the ad and has racked up over 3m views on YouTube alone.
With so much hype around the teaser, the full-length ad had to do a lot to live up to the expectations. When it landed on February 6, viewers were introduced to a whole host of celebrities being very forgetful.
Of course, there were David and Victoria, who couldn’t quite remember the name of the girl-power pop group she used to be in. “Basil babes,” says David confidently, while Victoria asks, “Wasn’t it the Cinnamon Sisters?”
“The Spice Girls were everywhere,” explains Woodhams-Roberts. “It’s a collective, universal memory that cannot be erased, so that felt tension-filled to be able to make jokes about it.”
To bring that added Super Bowl sparkle, Special US also enlisted Friends co-stars Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer for the spot, as well as halftime show performer Usher and rapper Jelly Roll.
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One thing that the team always tries to do when working with celebrities, especially for Uber Eats, is to keep them as “themselves” and “play off the things that the fans know and love about them” to try and be as authentic as possible.
For this spot, that was a very collaborative process too, which in turn makes it easier to get the stars onboard, apparently. “It’s working with each person to kind of refine the joke and put it in their voice,” says Horton. “And to make sure that it would resonate with their audience.”
With Aniston and Schwimmer, they famously worked together for a decade on the show Friends, so their comedic timing is very in-tune. “They’re just magical with it, so good at that nuanced humor and that chemistry together – it was all very natural,” says Woodhams-Roberts.
“The script was very close to what was captured, but just the little nods, the head shakes, you know, the way that they should say it. They’re very dialed in, obviously – they’ve honed that in over a long period.”
Leading up to the shoot, both stars were vocal as to what the interactions should be like and even between takes on the day would talk it out together and try different approaches. “It was really fun to watch them riff off of each other and play with this universal moment of ‘I remember you, but you have no idea who I am,’” says Horton.
Creatively, the team knew that they didn’t just want to recreate a scene from Friends. “We’re putting them in a moment that’s very familiar, and you know them, but it feels authentic because it’s a new situation,” says Woodhams-Roberts. “And it’s not their characters from the show. It’s them.”
The secret is almost to pull back the curtain and allow the audience to feel they are seeing the real celebrity while getting something new from them. The self-deprecation and willingness of the stars to take shots at themselves brings a ‘lovable’ element, too.
Filming in LA
From start to finish, the entire shoot took a week, mostly in LA but also with a day in Miami with the Beckhams. The Warner Brother lot where Friends was filmed was actually right around the corner, which was nostalgic for Aniston and Schwimmer.
Rapper Jelly Roll, who forgets he has face tattoos in the ad, had never acted before, explains Woodhams-Robertsl. “He was so excited. That guy nailed it. He was so funny and he could hit all his beats. He had comedic timing and he was just a natural at it, with so much energy and enthusiasm. And it takes bravery to have a bunch of cameras and lights on you and be able to kind of hit those beats.”
Usher, who is this year’s Super Bowl halftime performer, also makes a guest appearance in the spot, seemingly forgetting about his show, and the ad will run in the first ad break in the third quarter, right after Usher comes off stage, so the timing is perfect.
When it comes to Big Game nerves, Horton says: “The trick, at least for us, is to try and not feel the pressure and just kind of do what you think would be fun and not buckle under the weight of it has to be perfect or it has to be ‘so Super Bowl.’ We definitely want to look at as many ideas as we can and find the one that’s making us laugh the most.”
The worst thing you can do, he says, is succumb to those feelings of pressure and not take risks, adding that people feel the fun through the work and if that is missing, it won’t land. “You have 60 seconds to make people laugh while they are drinking some beers and watching football. That’s a pretty fun thing.”