Posts by Hallie Steiner - New York

Chipotle’s new film harnesses Big Food anxieties

Chipotle’s new animated short film and mobile game, designed to “change the way the world thinks about its fast food,” follows on from 2011’s “Back to the Start.” That film, which was later edited into a TV commercial, depicts a family pig farm that turns into an “industrial animal factory” before the farmer regrets the move and reverts to his older ways. The latest, featuring Fiona Apple’s “hypnotic” cover of “Pure Imagination” from the original Willy Wonka, shows a young scarecrow caught up in the dark, menacing world of Big Food production. Authoritarian crows inject poultry with hormones and package meat labeled “100% beef-ish!” In both the movie and the game, the scarecrow must break out of the assembly line and forge his own path, growing food naturally to “cultivate a better world.”

As we noted in our 10 Trends for 2012 report, consumers are becoming more concerned about sustainability, a trend that’s on the rise. They’ve also become anxious about the processes behind food production (even spurring McDonald’s in Australia, for instance, to sponsor a TV film showing a group of Australians touring its operations, from farm to factory to retail). Chipotle harnesses these concerns and uses them to direct the public to a friendlier alternative: “The more you know about where your food comes from and what it takes to produce it, the more likely you are to take care in seeking out something that’s raised responsibly,” says Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s CMO, in a behind-the-scenes video.

While many are praising the film’s message, others have called it fear marketing that takes advantage of urban consumers’ ideological anxieties. While the film does stoke anxieties, it’s likely targeted at consumers already harboring concerns about their food and looking for alternatives.