Food Ads

Chipotle’s Scarecrow

Chipotle is widely recognized as a strong healthy alternative to traditional fast food, marketing itself as organic and all natural, but also revealing within its website that it still has work to do regarding GMO’s, as well as preservatives. There’s no denying the difference between Chipotle and Burger King for example. Chipotle is clearly healthier (with the majority of the ingredients being lean meat and or vegetables) and is quite filling (especially if you decide to go the route of a burrito bowl). With that being said, Chipotle obviously can’t sell millions of burritos based on word of mouth and thus uses their strong marketing department to appeal to consumers.

The advertisement campaign that I have decided to analyze is Chipotle’s high-budget animation commercial entitled “Scarecrow.” While said to be used only as a companion ad for the launch of their mobile game, it’s evident that the advertisement is commenting on the malicious nature and intent of large food corporations, thus shifting Chipotle into a more favorable light. The commercial is incredibly well done, using Pixar-type animation, as well as an eerie cover of “Pure Imagination” to follow our protagonist, an innocent scarecrow (farmer) who works in a food processing factory. What he witnesses is terrible treatment of animals, that are labeled as “natural” and “farm fresh” through the marketing of the corporate giant. Eventually the scarecrow grows tired of the lies and horrific practices electing to return to his garden where his food is made fresh. Finally, we see him open up his own restaurant, selling sustainable burritos made fresh from his farm, which is supposed to parallel as well as emphasize Chipotle’s “all-natural” standing.

This advertisement clearly depicts Chipotle as a natural, humane corporation, especially when compared to other corporate giants. With that being said, this marketing is not completely truthful. Chipotle faces an incredibly large demand on a daily basis (trust me, I’ve been stuck in the New York City lunch rush before). Because of that, there is a tremendous amount of stress on their suppliers. Chipotle stresses that they only use meat from ranchers who are “doing things the right way.” However, they were under criticism when it was discovered that one of their meat suppliers violated housing standards for pigs. Chipotle responded by temporarily eliminating “carnitas” from their menu in some markets, but still this raises an eyebrow. PBS reports that when facing a shortage in 2013, Chipotle started serving conventionally raised beef, rather than the responsibly raised meat that they usually do. Chipotle also uses GMO’s, though they are actively trying to eliminate them. They justifiy their current use claiming, “There is not a viable supply of responsibly raised meat, raised without GMO feed.” With this information, it’s clear that Chipotle is not 100% natural, yet they still do a good job, just maybe not up to the Scarecrow’s standards.

The advertisement itself is incredibly effective. The 14 million views on Youtube is a testament to that. It’s clear that this advertisement was to be directed at the general consumer, with Chipotle spokesperson, Chris Arnold claiming that this ad was supposed educate a specific group saying: “The audience for this is people who don’t pay much attention to these issues.” I disagree with this somewhat, as I felt more affected by it due to my viewing of Food Inc, as well as a result of sustainability discussion in my Environmental Communication Course. With that being the case, I’m sure the marketing team likely worked with educated environmentalists during the campaign creation.

The strengths of this ad lie in its depiction of food production, as well as its tremendous animation. Watching animals be harmed, even in a cartoon setting is still unsettling and parallel practices occurring in reality today. Though they could have improved the advertisement by offering some facts, either about the current state of the industry or Chipotle’s evolving state. It’s interesting to note that humans are generally displayed only as consumers in this campaign, with robots running the terrible food corporation. It’s unclear why Chipotle decided to venture in this direction, perhaps wanting to stress that it’s not “our” fault. Regardless, it’s obvious that the ad presents Chipotle with a “green image,” with the Scarecrow’s home (or Chipotle) flourishing with nature while the rest of the world appears dry and bleak. It’s hard to say that Chipotle is using the narrow truth, as most of what their presenting is truthful.

Greenwashing, and the use of environmental thought as a tool for advertisers generally work very well. I think the Scarecrow campaign makes that very clear. It’s fine to hyper analyze an advertisement, but at the end of they day the marketing department structures these ads to sell a product, and by all accounts for Chipotle it’s working incredibly well. Chipotle’s advertisement not only sparked discussion, but also provided a slight educational message for those not aware of the current state of food production. A lot of advertisers use greenwashing unethically, but I do not believe this to be the case in Chipotle’s situation. Though, it’s received a lot of backlash and even a parody by Funny or Die, Chipotle’s Scarecrow is definitely one of the more ethical “green” advertisements circulating the internet today.

Critique by Brandon DiPerno

Organic Valley

Organic Valley is a company that is advertising its products as organic.  Organic Valley uses the motto “Bringing the Good” and stands by the slogan “Family of Farms.”  They were incorporated in 1988 and are very supportive of the benefits of organic products.  Their core principles include fair prices and environmental justice (“About Us”).

In the commercial, the grass-fed cows are a crucial point, portrayed through the imagery and storyline. However, Organic Valley’s milk and cheese are not 100% grass-fed.  Not all of the farms have the soil or the grass to sustain a grass-fed farm (“About Us”).  The commercial seems to insinuate that grass-fed is their foundation, but it is not completely true.  In addition, they provide more products than the milk that is presented in the commercial.  It appears that milk is their only product, as they show a milk container and cows.  But the products from Organic Valley are not just dairy products, though this is their concentration.  They have a variety of over 200 products (“About Us”).

The animals in the advertisement are viewed as being treated ethically, and the animals on the farms are mostly treated with fair living arrangements.  Despite the family farm emphasis that the commercial presents, a significant amount of eggs come from industrial farms.  In 2008, Organic Valley was accused of purchasing from a cow-factory farm in Texas.  After this was discovered, they ceased any interaction with this farm (“Organic Valley”).

Since Organic Valley stands by family farms, the commercial indicates a family that appears to live on a farm.  This is evident by the girl running through pastures and running by an Organic Valley sign.  The father is also seen outside working, which again reinforces the family farm.  The labor for these farmers appears to be fair, as the farmers are given an annual price for a fair return for the labor (“About Us”).

The target audience of this advertisement is made up of family consumers who are looking to provide their family with healthy products.  The advertisement includes families as an audience through its family friendly approach.  There is a family with children in the beginning of the commercial, and then it follows one of the children.  Most children love playing outside, so the concept of creating a mud pie may appeal to young children.  This scene also transitions to showing cows eating grass in a pasture, which would target the animal friendly or even animal rights audience.

The commercial attempts to demonstrate consumerism of its products through the display of nature and emphasis on families.  It uses the child to emphasize the innocent, basic origins of the product of milk.  This milk comes from the cows, which are grass-fed, and the child takes good care to grow the grass herself.  This causes the audience to feel as though consumption of Organic Valley products, particularly their milk, is wholesome.  The environmental impact is the interaction with animals and the surrounding environment, such as cows and the grass that they eat.  This also shows how humans have the power to take care of animals and to reap safe benefits from doing so.  The beautiful images of grass and showing the growing process from start to finish demonstrate that an environment must begin from scratch.

This is a logical claim.  The product is organic because of its trace back to its initial beginnings.  The fair treatment of the cows means milk that has been obtained peacefully and healthfully.  Therefore, there is no false claim in this assumption.

There is nothing unethical about the treatment of the environment or animals in this commercial.  There are, however, several strong themes that appear.  For example, growth is a theme, as the girl watches and cares for her grass from soil and seeds to when it is fed to the cows.  This is also related to the fact that the main proponent for the grass is a young girl, and the innocence and dedication to nature of young children is a strong persuasive tactic.  Another theme is actual dedication, as the girl is seen in daylight and during the night checking her grass, climbing through pastures, and monitoring it constantly.  This shows how much she cares about it, which essentially means that she cares about the cows.  This is then transferred to mean that the product is given just as much care.

One weakness is the fact that beyond the milk, there is not another product shown in the commercial for Organic Valley.  It is clear that they are portraying the positive assets of their products as a whole, but it is not clear that they offer more than milk.  In addition, a child could potentially work to the disadvantage of the company.  It may be perceived that children are the primary caretakers of these details on the family farm, which would not be the case.

Overall, this commercial advertises Organic Valley in a positive light, using a variety of tactics and strategies.  The advertisement is very effective and demonstrates strong values for the company and its products.

Critique by Emily Goulet

Kellogg Cereal


Green washing is prevalent in American consumerism and namely, it is when a company or government promotes green-based initiatives or images but actually works in a way contrary to what they are promoting. It’s basically a paradox, which can be misleading to consumers, because they tout the environmental benefits of a product through deceptive advertising and unsubstantiated claims. The advertisement of my concern is the breakfast cereal industry.

First I would like to comment on how the cereal boxes are presented, Tony the tiger, Freddy Flintstone, Leprechauns and other animations are use to attract the eye of children walking down the cereal aisle with the desire response being, “ooh mommy get that one.” It’s a marketing scheme well suited for smoke and mirrors. Cereal boxes are tattooed with all sorts of labels and claims that may not even be true, and most likely misleading in some way or another. For example, cereal boxes claim the inclusion of vitamins, fibers, minerals, and antioxidants in their products, however those berries packed with Vitamin-C may very well contain pesticide residue. Cereal companies, such as Kraft, have cleverly produced Natural Advantage lines of cereal, which claim to be healthier in a number of ways, however the company still uses genetically modified corn and soy in their breakfast treats.

The main example of advertising that I am critiquing is the Kellogg’s corporate responsibility report overview. I stumbled upon this form of advertising after researching top 25 green washed products in the United States and surprisingly seeing breakfast cereal on the list. Next I searched breakfast cereal green washed commercials and found the Kellogg’s corporate report. The report emphasizes that Kellogg is a business leader that “strives to do what is right for our environment and society while enriching and delighting the world with foods and brands that matter.” This is the first statement of the video report, and it is definitely a statement that contradicts the actual practices of the processed food industry.

Kellogg may intend to enrich the world but the reality is that millions are still facing food security in our own country alone, never mind the world. Much of the processed food industry is controlled by mega-corporations such as Monsanto so Kellogg is not the root of the problem but it definitely perpetuates the system through promoting business with the corporate giants like Monsanto. Companies like Kellogg or companies in general have an intrinsic vow to maximize profits so therefore it’s advantageous to follow the actions of business and not necessary the verbal claims.

The report proceeds to detail the accomplishments of Kellogg in 2012, which highlights 4 key areas. These key areas are the marketplace, community, environment and workplace. One major accomplishment that Kellogg mentions is the introduction of new and updated foods with fibers, protein, and vitamin D. This quite the accomplish for Kellogg, adding fibers and essential ingredients to meet consumers’ needs is a notable deed, but it doesn’t counter act the use of genetically modified corn and soy. It’s the equivalent of taking one-step forward then one step back, which ultimately means you went no where. The new updates in food are progressive additions however; the green washed lens is simply a masquerade to hopefully make you forget about the operations taking place between the scenes.

Lastly I would like to point out the greatest good that was revealed in the Kellogg report which was the donation of $52 million in cash and food, which included breakfast and hunger relief programs. This contribution helped feed 1 of every 8 people who face food insecurity everyday. Not to play devil’s advocate — this is not a solution to world hunger but it’s certainly a charitable deed.

Created by Aljanan Jones