Controversy in Advertising: Chipotle Campaign Takes On the Food Industry

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As a way to promote their free iOS game, Chipotle Scarecrow, Chipotle and the Oscar-winning animators at Moonbot Studios have collaborated to create a controversial short-film/commercial called The Scarecrow.

Chipotle summarizes the plot:

In a dystopian fantasy world, all food production is controlled by fictional industrial giant Crow Foods. Scarecrows have been displaced from their traditional role of protecting food, and are now servants to the crows and their evil plans to dominate the food system. Dreaming of something better, a lone scarecrow sets out to provide an alternative to the unsustainable processed food from the factory.

The Week calls it, “the most beautiful, haunting infomercial you’ll ever see.”

The commercial is controversial for several reasons. First of all is the altruistic meaning underlying the metaphor.

“The crows control the scarecrows,” Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle, tells USA Today. “It’s a parallel of the industrial food system in the U.S., which is upside down.”

The film and the game are meant to challenge the food industry and Chipotle’s Big Food competitors; hopefully inspiring people to take back responsibility for their food and choose locally grown products from farms that abstain from animal confinement and synthetic growth hormones.

Second of all, the short film does all of this while barely mentioning Chipotle, only at the end, after the film is over. There is no real Chipotle branding, which less of a commercial and more of a PSA. Their marketing strategy is to attract attention to their competitors, rather than themselves. Some might consider this a risky move, but Crumpacker says their target audience, Millenials, “are skeptical of brands that perpetuate themselves.”

The promotional campaign will subsequently include four TV-show length dark comedies called Farmed and Dangerous. Here is a behind-the-scenes clip of the making of The Scarecrow and the app.

Do you agree with Chipotle’s marketing direction? Tell us what you think.

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Category: Advertising