New ad campaign "a world of pure imagination"

Sep 20, 2013

In the most recent of computer-animated, pull-on-the-heartstrings, farm-related advertisement from a restaurant, viewers are ironically welcomed to a “world of pure imagination.”

Chipotle’s recent marketing campaign, “Scarecrow,” has as its cornerstone a three-and-a-half minute animated video featuring a dystopian world where food really is produced in a factory. A morose cover of the song “Pure Imagination” from the original “Willy Wonka” movie serves as the track for this dark vision.

The titular character, a scarecrow, goes about his factory job at “Crow Foods” in the City of Plenty where he seems to be employed as a repairman. Throughout the video the scarecrow repairs cracks in the facade of the City of Plenty where he works. Behind the cracks he sees the dark industrial world behind the colorful image and the conditions of the animals which feed the people of the city. These insinuations about modern farming include sad cows in dark boxes and chickens being tripled in size after being injected with some unknown green substance.

The story ends with the scarecrow returning to his home, overgrown with a garden, and being inspired. He returns to the city with food made from his garden vegetables and symbolically shoos off the mechanical crow which populated the industrial “Crow Foods” before selling a burrito to a smiling child.

The video is part of a larger marketing campaign which includes a smartphone game for iPhone and a website. On the dedicated site, under “The Facts” section, it reads:

“‘The Scarecrow’ is at once an addicting game, a poignant short film, and a project that reflects what we believe in. The city of Plenty is a glimpse at a future that may not be far off. Processed food, animal confinement, and the use of synthetic growth hormones, non-therapeutic antibiotics, and toxic pesticides are rampant in our food supply. Educating people about alternatives is a journey for the Scarecrow, and it continues to be a journey for us.”

The site calls the new installment part of its ongoing “Food with Integrity” campaign which earlier featured the computer-animated “Back to the Start” commercial.

Unsurprisingly, this has spurred anger with some in the agricultural community. Several Facebook commenters on Chipotle’s page questioned how such a depiction could come with the “integrity” label and directly challenged claims made or insinuated in the video. Numerous online agvocates, such as Dairy Carrie, Protect the Harvest, and Farming America—among so many others—responded with scathing reviews. Many commenters vowed to never patronize the Mexican-themed fast food restaurant again.

In response to negative comments regarding the inaccuracies depicted in the short animation, the Chipotle Facebook representative gave the following (or similar) response:

“I am sorry if you feel offended by the Scarecrow, a film not intended to be a documentary, but rather is a metaphorical story about real food versus processed food. We have of course never professed to be perfect, but we feel like the dialog we’re helping to create with folks of many positions on this topic is an excellent way to help folks think about where their food comes from in general.” — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor