CAA Marketing Discusses Chipotle’s New Fiona Apple Animation

Creative execs talk strategy

Last week, Chipotle launched "The Scarecrow," a short animation about a dystopian future ruled by overly processed food. The film's soundtrack features Fiona Apple singing "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It's already approaching 6 million views on YouTube, and per viral video tracker Unruly Media, more than 300,000 shares on Facebook and Twitter. That makes it creative agency CAA Marketing's second branded entertainment hit for the burrito marketer, following 2011's similarly formatted "Back to the Start" video, which featured Willie Nelson singing Coldplay's "The Scientist." Adweek caught up with CAA Marketing co-chief creative officer Jesse Coulter and creative director Todd Hunter to chat about the thinking behind "The Scarecrow," the process of developing the new video over the past two years, and what might be coming next from the brand's "Cultivate a Better World" marketing campaign. 

What's Chipotle's main goal here?

Todd Hunter: The big swing with Chipotle is always trying to change people's perceptions of fast food. Chipotle fundamentally believes that if more people knew more about the efforts they go to to source their ingredients and their food, and to being transparent about where it comes from, that in the long run people really appreciate that and understand it. 

How does this differ from traditional celebrity endorsement deals?

Jesse Coulter: It's not an endorsement deal. Fiona really liked the film, and she likes the song and she really believed in it.

TH: Fiona is a longtime activist in animal welfare. She has a beautiful voice. She's a very talented artist. So there were some natural interests that aligned with the artist and the message. So that was a big part of it.

Why else did you pick her?

JC: She has the right voice for this song, because there is a melancholy haunting quality to it. There’s a vulnerability to her voice too, and the scarecrow has a vulnerability. This could go to the wrong place where it becomes super saccharin, if done incorrectly. 

Why is it important to use big-name talent for a project like this?

TH: People are in general drawn to authentic storytelling from talented artists. For Chipotle, which has to fight above its media weight in comparison to some of its very large competitors—lets say the traditional fast food chains—certainly having the right talent associated with it helps us draw awareness to the story we're trying to tell.

Why Pure Imagination?

JC: One thing we love about the track is, in the beginning of the song, of the film, the scarecrow is kind of living in someone else’s world that's been created. It's their imagination, kind of ironic and dark. By the end of it, the same lyrics actually are now sincere. It's more the scarecrow's imagination. That was really powerful for us. The same lyrics had a different meaning from beginning to end.

What other songs did you consider?

JC: We looked at hundreds and hundreds of songs. Once we heard Pure Imagination, one of those songs we hadn't thought about till Duotone brought it to our attention—we hired them to be our music supervisor, as we did last [time], for Back to the Start—once they found that track it's like oh, my god, this is hiding in plain sight.

Why use Moonbot Studios to help develop the story?

TH: When The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore came out both on the animation scene—but also as its app—I was really drawn to it immediately. [Later,] they won the Academy Award [for Fantastic Flying Books]—right about that time we were ready to understand who was the right partner to bring to life the world that we had been creating with Chipotle, and it seemed like these stars were aligning.

Can we expect to see more videos from Chipotle using this formula (famous artist + famous song + dark animated story)?

JC: I think we probably will tell another story. It's going to be one of those things where we’re going to develop it, and see if it's making sense, and we're liking it … it'll come out when it's ready to come out. There's never a media buy. There's never a specific timeline. We don't really have formal briefs. We talk a lot about creating pure experiences, and there are no compromises.

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