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Nobody said it would be this hard, or this tasty…

Article by
Charlie Hopper
Principal, Writer
Young & Laramore
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Go, Chipotle. Ride that culture. Ha. They used their great “Back To the Start” ad, one of the Officially Acknowledged Best Ads of Last Year, as a Willie Nelson/Coldplay music video to upstage Adele last night.

Chipotle’s moving story presumably reflects the despair over corporate farming that the leaders of Chipotle feel. Have you seen it? Surely you’ve seen it. Here it is.

Last summer, about the time the production team was wrapping up the last of the poses for the stop motion-animation figures, a press release made the implied promise of this lovely little fable real: “Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. said it expects to double its use of local produce this year.”

The founder is quoted in the press release:

“Our commitment to serving food made with better ingredients from more sustainable sources is one of the key drivers of our business,” Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle, said in a statement.

Then it goes on to say they consider 350 miles away “local,” which for me could be Pittsburgh, the middle of Missouri, or a half hour south of Nashville, Tennessee. It makes me wonder if almost everyone does this, and just isn’t making a big deal about it.

Either way, of course, normal people don’t read press releases. And only sort-of normal people read the business journals this showed up in. And that Willie ad hasn’t exactly gotten burned into the average viewer’s mind.

Fortunately (for Chipotle), they’ve done a great job making people believe the P.R.

I think most people see them as both upscale, and sort of like some intense guy they knew in college who was all about organic beets and antibiotic chicken and corporate farming. Who smoked doobies (see below). Who was sort of funny, in an overly sincere way.

Over time, I think they’ve communicated that well in their ads. Interestingly, when you’re actually in the store, it seems to be a legitimate choice when you’re in a midscale fast casual mood. The architecture makes it clear you’re choosing between Panera and Chipotle. ‘

On the billboard in the outlot, though, they’re establishing a clear, coherent, irreverent-toward-social-convention/reverent-toward-Mother Earth voice. It’s terrific, and believable, and is actually getting its PR out into its paid communication very effectively:

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Charlie Hopper, Principal, Writer at Y&L

Over the past 30-something years, Charlie’s played many roles at Y&L, including writer, principal, general enthusiast and creative director on Steak ’n Shake during its heyday at the agency. He is also the author of Selling Eating: Restaurant Marketing Beyond the Word “Delicious.”