Last month, Uber Eats fulfilled nerd dreams around the world when it united Mark Hamill aka Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker, and Sir Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek: Next Generation,” in a showdown over what to have for dinner. Now, in its next round of U.S. ads, the company is bringing together another unexpected pairing: Olympian Simone Biles and “Queer Eye” host Jonathan Van Ness.
The new series of “Tonight I’ll Be Eating” spots sees the duo on the gymnastics floor in a scenario less contentious than the Hamill-Stewart matchup. As Biles performs powerful flips, tumbles expertly across the floor and slides into her splits, Van Ness answers her moves with surprising ease, albeit with a bit less grace. Interspersed with the athletics they call out their dinner orders:
“Tonight, I’ll be eating cheesy cauliflower pizza with extra brocollini,” Biles announces, arms raised in the air.
“My turn!” Van Ness responds. “Tonight, I’ll be eating cheesy cauliflower pizza—and yummy broccolini!”
Throughout, Van Ness geeks out over the tiny athletic giant, playing a hilarious foil as he tries to follow Biles’ footsteps. The idea is played out in a 30-second ad, “Flip Out,” a series of digital spots as well as a two-minute “documentary,” created out of Special Group and directed by Smuggler’s Guy Shelmerdine.
According to Georgie Jeffreys, U.S. and Canada head of marketing at Uber Eats, the “Tonight I’ll Be Eating” campaign grew out of two key insights: “First, that two out of three people don't know what they're eating for dinner each night, and second, that people are obsessed with celebrities being just like us,” she says. “Back when we were developing the campaign idea in 2017, Prince William and Kate Middleton did an interview with BBC and said that every Friday night, they order from their favorite local Indian restaurant. This went absolutely viral—folks were wondering what they ordered, whether they ate out of the container or on their own dishes, etc. We knew that if we could highlight how celebrities are just like us, in that they too aren’t always sure what they’re eating for dinner, we’d be able to reach folks in a meaningful way.”
As for how the team comes up with who to pair in the ads, “When we concept for each duo, we work to come up with the duo you never realized you needed, but subconsciously wished would come to fruition,” she says. “The pair should be both unpredictable, but also make sense.”
While the Hamill and Stewart matchup may be the ultimate space fan fantasy, there’s a logic to Biles and JVN as well. JVN was a cheerleader when he was younger, and counts gymnastics as one of his hobbies. “JVN is such an unexpected, avid gymnast, and we wanted to pair him with someone we could see him both idolizing and getting along well with,” Jeffreys says. “And when we thought of them together, we truly felt like we could help make that friendship happen. It was wonderful to see the genuine connection happen both on screen and behind the scenes. This was the Olympics 2020 we all needed.”
The U.S. ads are not the first of the campaign. Uber Eats worked with Special Group to create earlier spots for Taiwan, Japan and New Zealand that matched up local figures in those markets (though Kim Kardashian-West also makes an appearance).
“Having seen the success there, we knew the insights were both powerful and universal, and that the U.S. market was ready,” Jeffreys says.
The previous Hamill and Stewart ads for far have “performed extremely well in both breakthrough and engagement categories,” Jeffreys says, though it’s still early days. In Australia, she says that "Tonight I'll Be Eating" resulted in a 40% increase in awareness in less a year. “Our awareness is now on par with McDonald's there.”
Stateside, Jeffreys says the campaign will continue and “we have another dynamic duo on the horizon—stay tuned.”