Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chipotle Is Going Back to the Start

If you were watching the Grammy's this past weekend you may have caught and been struck by a very poignant little commercial. I certainly was. It's animated, but it's no ordinary cartoon.

Before I spoil it for you, have a gander below: 

Wow. If you read the commercial's description on Chipotle's YouTube Channel website, you'll find they use the word "haunting" to describe the Coldplay song that's featured in the spot.  This makes me angry--jealous little girl angry. Because "haunting" is exactly the word I wanted to use to describe this commercial and Willie Nelson's vulnerable, tender rendition of "The Scientist." I'm mad that they stole my word (true, they stole it before I even thought to use it, but still!).  Now my description of the commercial doesn't sound as original.

That's okay.  I'm over it.  I've come up with some other words to help me describe what I love about this commercial. It's eerie. It's spellbinding. It's captivating.  See? Great words. And they are all perfectly accurate.

Willie Nelson's fragile voice warbles and tumbles over the words.  How thrilling it must be for Coldplay (a great rock group in their own right, putting out some of the best rock music available today) to have their song covered by such a legend. The gripping music makes this ad.

That cover could make any commercial great.  But this commercial is so much more than the song. The animation, or more appropriately claymation, has a fresh and clean look.  Overall, the color scheme is light and pale. The design is uncomplicated--boiling each character or item down to its most basic lines.

It reminds me of Wallace and Gromit, but is so much smoother and more basic. All of this helps make the ad visually appealing.

But, as they would say in any good infomercial- that's not all! Chipotle calls this a "short film." Even as a commercial connoisseur, I'm not sure I'm comfortable calling this a "short film,' but it definitely isn't your average commercial.  This "short film" has a well developed plot with a crystal clear message that is delivered without pretense and without judging. Considering the subject matter, you would expect this message to be jarring, but it comes out in an almost comforting manner. I think you could watch this ad with children in the room without everyone being totally disturbed and depressed.  The goal isn't to make you feel queasy, guilty, or vegetarian.  Instead, it quietly and softly poses a question.  Maybe it's more like a series of questions:
Is this what we wanted?
Is this progress?
Is it worth it?
Isn't there a better way?
Are we prepared to face the consequences of our choices? 

I think that after you watch the commercial a couple times, or as you mull it over as time goes by, these questions change from vague thoughts to more specific points regarding the tough consequences depicted:
Is the environmental damage worth the immediate cost-saving benefits?
Shouldn't we be treating our farmyard friends with the respect and dignity they deserve?
Are hormone-filled, freak-monster, circle pigs good for anyone?

In the end, Chipotle hopes you wrestle with these questions just like Mr. Farmer does, and they hope this conflict of conscience is contagious.  Chipotle wants you to resolve these questions the same way Mr. Farmer does--that yes, there is a better way.  It is worth the trouble and expense to develop that better way.  And that hormone-filled, freak-monster, circle pigs are no good for them or for us.

We live in exciting and difficult times. It seems food prices, along with everything else, just keep going up as wages hold steady if you're lucky or good jobs become more scarce altogether if you're not. Americans are making sacrifices to make ends meet. But maybe this isn't an area where we should be cutting corners to save a buck. Maybe we should be more concerned about what we're putting into our bodies.  Maybe these noble animals who give their lives for our nutrition deserve a life with dignity.

I'm no vegetarian. I am an equal opportunity meat lover. I would like to think that the piggies and duckies and cows who turn into my dinner live happy little lives before they end up on my plate.  I know that in reality that's rarely true. This commercial makes me want to defend them, protect them, and stand up for them. This commercial makes me want to be a better person for them.

Mr. Farmer's moment of truth, when he ponders the hormones, the pollution, and the little piggies trapped behind bars, could be a horrific Silence of the Lambs like moment.  But instead, it's empowering.  These are OUR choices.  We can change this reality.  We can make a better world. And we can do it with the power of "the almighty dollar." Let the money do the talking and make smarter consumer decisions.

This looks like the beginning of something, not the end. McDonald's just announced it will be eliminating gestation stalls for pregnant sows. It is one small step down the road of examining our collective consciences and revisiting some disturbing decisions we've made as a society.

Thankfully, the commercial ends on an uplifting, positive note.  So that's how I'd like to end this post. One of my favorite characters in the spot is the flock of chickens.

Aren't they adorable. I love chickens. Especially for eating.  Let's try to be good to them?

The Ratings:
Appeal: B
Effectiveness: A
Longevity: A-



  1. Okay - A bunch of people referenced this commercial on Facebook over the past couple days (since the Grammys), but I SWEAR I've seen this commercial before. That wasn't the first time it's been on TV...yes? I can't verify that it's been on TV, but I've seen it before. I have!

    1. You are not alone! I had definitely seen this once before on TV. I'm not sure what channel or what program I was watching, but I saw it sometime the week before and it hit me then. It was only on the second viewing that I knew it was something I just had to write about.