A world of controversy is swirling around the high-profile Chipotle video “Scarecrow,” which is (ostensibly) a promotion for the restaurant chain’s new iPad/iPhone/iPod game—now available at an App Store near you.
The three minute, 23 second YouTube animation features spectacular production values, as it documents the initially sad, yet ultimately triumphant sojourn of a homely scarecrow into a nightmarish world of Big Ag and Big Food. The promo features a long, stylishly created sequence that pays homage to both Charlie Chaplin’s legendary 1936 film “Modern Times,” with its mechanized, soul-crushing scenes of a mega-factory where people are (literally) mere cogs in giant gears, and Apple’s groundbreaking 1984 Super Bowl ad for Macintosh, where a single female athlete smashes the theater-sized Big Brother image holding hundreds of automaton-like workers in thrall.
Created by Moonbot Studios and the Creative Artists Agency, Scarecrow is visually arresting, beautifully animated and backed with a striking soundtrack that juxtaposes a female torch singer’s haunting lament with imagery of “Crow Industries” and its industrialized food processing systems, captive livestock locked away in dark enclosures and none-too-subtle savaging of corporate sloganeering, such as “Farm Fresh,” “All Natural” and “Feeding the World.”
It’s brilliantly done, flawlessly executed and as the soundtrack rhapsodizes, it takes viewers into “a world of pure imagination.”
Unfortunately, those who are involved in the world of livestock production, the people who actually raise food animals, have reacted quite negatively to the entire Scarecrow concept. On one hand, I can’t blame them. Taken straight up, the message Chipotle is sending is that food production must be re-invented, that we all should try to “cultivate a better world,” as a hit-you-over-the-head visual at the end of the video phrases it, by not patronizing the corporate titans that comprise Agriculture-Industrial Complex.
(Like Chiptole, I presume, since the company’s annual revenues of $3.1 billion from more than 800 stores qualify it as a full-fledged member of “Big Food.”)
On the other hand, the Scarecrow video, like all advertising, is best evaluated as art form first, and reality check later.
Chipotle, to be clear, has long positioned itself as a socially responsible, eco-conscious restaurateur that sources its ingredients from organic growers, “humane” producers and family farmer-growers. Its overtly advertised point of difference is that, “Whenever possible we use meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones.” And their in-store menu boasts that their food is healthier, responsibly sourced and environmentally friendly.