Chipotle pulls on the heart strings in the new anti-Big-Food sustainability-centric film and game

Chipotle, an international Mexican food chain, is taking on the artificial food producers, Big Food, in the new ironical promotion, The Scarecrow. The brand, targeting Gen Y, has chosen a cartoon-based visual approach to communicate its sustainable philosophy through a 3½-minute animated video ad as well as a downloadable game. Interestingly enough, the promotional elements have virtually no branding—the chain’s logo appears only in the intro of the game and in the end of the spot, so that it contributes not to Chipotle only, but to the healthy eating standards in general.

The film narrates a story about a sadly-looking scarecrow, who just like his mates, is forced to work for evil robotic crows’ company, Crow Foods. Set to the haunted version of the “Pure Imagination” song of 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory musical, the video depicts a spooky, Tim Burton-esque environment.

In this fantasy world, special factories run by crows produce “100 per cent beef-ish” meat, inject chickens with goop and milk miserable cows, imprisoned in metal boxes, by machines. With this, the billboards all around claim that the food is fresh and all natural. One day, a protagonist ventures deep into the fields to rediscover the joy of growing and harvesting organic food. His odyssey back to the healthier products starts when he picks up a red pepper, the brand’s symbol. He takes vegetables to the city, makes wholesome burritos and starts selling them as an alternative to the unhealthy and unsustainable range of Crow Foods. The ad finishes with the “cultivate a better world” message.

The advert, created by the Academy Award-winning Moonbot Studios, is accompanied by a free downloadable game for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch (no Android version though). Featuring the same characters, the game invites players to rescue the sad confined animals by taking them from the city of Plenty to the open pastures, fill the fields with crops at Scarecrow Farms as well as offer wholesome food to people at PlentyFull Plaza, while trying to avoid the Crowbots. Successful players will be awarded with buy-one-get-one free offers (there’re 1 million of them in total) from Chipotle.

“’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,” says the dedicated page of the campaign.

The effort will be followed by a series of four TV show-length dark comedies titled Farmed and Dangerous. The films will arrive in 2014 and will continue the “eat better, eat local” conversation started with “The Scarecrow” promotion.

«We’re trying to educate people about where their food comes from. The crows control the scarecrows. It’s a parallel of the industrial food system in the U.S., which is upside down,” commented Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle.