DDB Singapore and atypicalfilms talk about a bold and nuanced campaign that’s also a love letter to multicultural Singapore
The Islamic festival of Ramadan is well under way and in the multicultural city state of Singapore, McDonald’s have released a seasonal spot that celebrates their its delivery drivers and shares empathy with the millions around the world who are sticking to the dawn-till-dusk fasting ritual.
According to the 2015 census, 14% of Singaporeans follow Islam. The film is a touching portrayal of a hardworking, Muslim, McDonald’s delivery rider going about his day during the festival. The spot has been written and crafted with a lightness of touch and is full of lovely human moments. And it has clearly connected with audiences as the film has already been picked up by media outlets around the world.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with DDB Singapore’s Firrdaus Yusoff and Qihao Shum, as well as atypicalfilms director and co-founder Desmond Tan.
LBB> What was the brief from the client?
Firrdaus & Shum> The brief was pretty sweet and direct – McDonald’s wanted a spot to celebrate the beauty of Ramadan. It’s a nice brief as they were looking for a thematic piece, as opposed to a product-centric spot. So both agency and the clients were aligned from the start that the story, and not a product, should take precedence.
LBB> Why did you want to celebrate the McDonald's delivery people and make them the heroes of the story?
Firrdaus & Shum> First and foremost, it is a Ramadan spot. So it’s a story of a Muslim who goes about his daily routine in the month of Ramadan, amidst the daily obstacles. Our hero just so happens to be a McDelivery rider. This of course helps to tie the brand even stronger to the story.
LBB> Does McDonald's usually do something for Ramadan in Singapore or is this the first time - and why was it important to celebrate it?
Firrdaus & Shum> They’ve been doing it for a few years. Singapore’s a very diverse nation, so spots like these are crucial as it helps to make the brand relevant to the country. Although the brand is global, this story makes it Singapore’s McDonald’s.
LBB> What was it about the idea from the agency that really appealed to you?
Desmond> This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tell a very human story and with that, I really have to give DDB and McDonald’s Singapore lots of credit here. They were bold enough to write and commission the spot that celebrated the Ramadan season and allowed us to tell a very nuanced human story without being too intense from an advertising standpoint.
It was a simple attempt to tell a very universally human story in the context of Singapore during the Ramadan season. I loved that. I loved that it was about one man’s fasting journey during the day amidst difficulties, temptations and still having the dignity and professionalism to carry out his work without missing a beat.
LBB> What were you looking for in the casting of the main characters?
Desmond> As cheesy as it might sound we were looking for truth. That one person that felt real, vulnerable and yet possessed a strength to carry on during the fasting month and work with dignity.
But beyond even that high benchmark, we wanted him to feel real. Not some chisellled, good-looking actor, but someone with heart and who truly understood what it meant to work and fast during Ramadan.
Firrdaus & Shum> Right from the start, we knew the rider and uncle were absolutely crucial. The rider had to feel real, relevant, and relatable. He had to be the guy you’d bump into the lift, and you wouldn’t really give a second look. Hazim (the rider) was a complete natural and he’s also a very humble lad. Which makes his portrayal of the rider even more authentic. As for the uncle, we knew he had to be old enough to speak basic Malay (most seniors in Singapore are effectively trilingual), so it makes it believable for him to know the basics of Ramadan. So Gabriel (the uncle) was an easy choice for us.
LBB> You worked with Desmond from atypical, who directed the spot. What did he bring to it creatively?
Firrdaus & Shum> Desmond from atypicalfilms. An absolute rockstar of a director. He brought his A-game, and more to the spot. He did lots of shots of his own accord, and went completely out of his way to get us the shots we wanted. He also recommended the music – which completely brought the spot to another level.
LBB> The aesthetic and cinematography are beautiful - how did you achieve that look and what were you hoping to convey with it?
Desmond> We actually didn’t set out to make it overtly beautiful or super cinematic film. From the onset, my DP, Chuck Tham and I wanted to get into the protagonist's personal space. To feel his struggle and get a sense of who he was. Meanwhile, we also wanted to showcase a not-often-seen side of a typical Singaporean suburb (More than 80% of Singaporeans live in apartment blocks) in the western part of the island. Again, it was more to convey a sense of relatable aesthetics than to make each shot as beautiful as possible.
LBB> The spot really encapsulates the multi-cultural spirit of Singapore - what did the project mean to you personally?
Desmond> In Singapore, there is something called the “Kampung Spirit”. “Kampung” is a Malay word that means ‘village’ and it usually denotes the traditional. Back then, Singaporeans of all races and faiths would live in humble huts and houses and be very close and familiar with neighbours - sharing whatever they had and even speaking each other’s languages.
This film really tries to hark back to those simpler times when people were more open, and shared whatever they had; connecting over a meal, a kind word and understanding the nuances of each other’s faiths.
On a personal level, this was a little love letter to Singapore but seeing how it has resonated with people around the world has humbled us and we really couldn’t be more happy or grateful.