There has been a lot of talk in the last week about a new ad campaign from the restaurant chain Chipotle. The ad features a great combination of industrial imagery and Fiona Apple’s haunting, ethereal voice that make for compelling advertising. In the video the Scarecrow breaks out from its factory food overlords to start a small and sustainable burrito stand, quite possibly a metaphor for Chipotle’s escape from McDonald’s investment dollars upon going public a few years back.
The campaign immediately caught the attention of a friend in the ad world who, knowing our interests, passed it along. Right away all of the major (and minor) media outlets picked up on it, and there have been thorough breakdowns of the ad and how closely it reflects how Chipotle acts in reality. Funny-or-Die quickly developed a parody highlighting the discrepancies, which led to further media attention. (See: TNY, NYT, MJ, LAT, WaPo, NPR…)
The debates around whether or not Chipotle is entitled to make the argument for better production methods are intriguing, and absolutely valid. Chipotle uses ambiguous ad-speak, terms like “natural” and phrases like “food with integrity” – unmeasurable claims. But what is exceptional about the reaction to Chipotle’s campaign is that very few of the debates buzzing around are focused on the actual message of the ad; instead, most choose to focus on the messenger.
People demand to know whether Chipotle is worthy of this fight, or if they can really claim the mantle of the sustainable food movement. I, for one, don’t know. But what we can say with certainty is this: the discussion of whether or not we should be improving the food system no longer seems even worthy of debate (!). Instead, the dialogue is centered around the corporation’s hold on the subject. However you come down on the subject of “food with integrity,” it is a noteworthy shift that we are debating less about the importance of sustainable food and more about who’s carrying the banner.