Fast casual chain Chipotle has begun the process of bringing a new ad agency partner on board to help guide its marketing efforts.
The Denver-based company has previously eschewed traditional television advertising in favor of a combination of digital-only spots, earned media, projects like a 2014 collaboration which featured the words of contemporary novelists on cups and bags, and the epic animated spots by Creative Artists Agency that have become the brand's trademark. So far, it has run only one TV spot, which aired during the 2012 Grammy Awards.
Now Chipotle is reconsidering its approach as it continues to recover from an outbreak of E. coli that hit several locations in the U.S. Unlike the 1993 outbreak of E. coli at Jack in the Box, no fatalities or serious injuries resulted from this scare, but it caused a drop in foot traffic, sales and stock prices throughout 2016.
"We are working with Pile & Company as we explore the possibility of a new agency to help us with some marketing programs we are planning for 2017," Chipotle communications director Chris Arnold told Adweek. "We are always evaluating our roster of agency partners based on current and anticipated needs."
Chipotle has worked with Austin's GSD&M since 2014, and the chain named Carrot Creative as its social media agency of record last year. Earlier this month, the company released a digital-only campaign, created by GSD&M with animation by HouseSpecial, in a bid to win back loyal customers by focusing on its original selling point: quality ingredients.
Arnold declined to elaborate on Chipotle's future marketing plans, but he did state that GSD&M is among the agencies being considered for future assignments. An agency spokesperson has not responded to requests for comment on the news.
In other recent marketing efforts, Chipotle added chorizo to its menu in time for National Taco Day this week after announcing that it would give out $20 million in catered meals to 85,000 members of its new rewards program Chiptopia.
The company's chief creative and development officer Mark Crumpacker was the subject of unwanted headlines this summer after he was arrested for cocaine possession in New York, but the company reinstated him last month after briefly placing him on leave.