Chipotle’s Brilliant New Anti-Factory Farm Ad, With Fiona Apple Singing Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination”

Malicious robotic crows run the dystopian factory farm featured in the sustainable fast food chain’s latest video campaign. It works because it’s not about the brand at all.

An animated film promoting Chipotle as the ethical alternative to fast food is nothing new. They’ve been doing these for two years. But what is surprising about Chipotle’s new scarecrow-starring, Fiona Apple-soundtracked ad campaign (and video game) is just how little it says about Chipotle.


The company’s brand is all about standing above the fray of fast food competition, and they’ve consciously embraced that in their forays into traditional advertising. Their first national TV ad was more like a Pixar version of Food Inc.: An animated farmer has an epiphany that his animals should be free-range and drug-free, while Willie Nelson croaks a Coldplay cover. Only at the end of the two-minute narrative does the Chipotle truck arrive, signaling that it’s a pitch for their (mostly) “naturally raised” and antibiotic-free meats.

The latest ad follows in that same tradition of fact, fiction, and factory farms, but with a much heavier dose of fiction. The protagonist of “The Scarecrow” rejects a factory farm that is part of a Terminator-like dystopia run by malicious robotic crows. Instead of a triumphant conclusion as a Chipotle supplier, he starts a food stand with the tag-line “Cultivate a Better World.” Instead of 30 seconds of Chipotle, we get more like two.

The lack of Chipotle branding seems like a strange way to hawk a burrito. But it has its advantages. For starters, it makes for a more compelling video game. It also allows for a more effective attack. After all, when the villain is fictional, you can villainize as much as you want.

“This story is the story of the elaborate façade that’s been created by the industrial food producers in the world,” says Chipotle Chief Marketing Officer Mark Crupacker in a behind-the-scenes video.

And later: “As we produce food on very, very large scales on industrial farms and through heavily processed means, there’s a lot of negative consequences to that. Negative consequences to the animals, the environment, the farmers, and to public health.”

The unstated message being: Unless you eat at Chipotle.

About the author

Stan Alcorn is a print, radio and video journalist, regularly reporting for WNYC and NPR. He grew up in New Mexico.