The message is unquestionably about encouraging awareness, to both consumer and producer, to reverse course and return to a more simple and sustainable model. While it is a Chipotle advertisement, the company obviously took the opportunity, not to hawk burritos, but to send a message and associate themselves with a movement that puts corporations on the frontlines of the sustainable agriculture and farming movement. The ad’s intent, besides raising awareness, is to drive viewers to buy/download the Willie Nelson tune, which will put money into the coffers of Chipotle’s Cultivate Foundation – a foundation started last year to promote and support sustainable family farming. Chipotle has donated over $2 million in the last two years to groups promoting a similar agenda, like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and with the success of this ad, more revenue will likely be collected and distributed to organizations that move the conversation, and reality, of sustainable farming forward.
The ad is cute, impactful, effective and bold in its presumption that viewers will be ready and receptive toward such a message. I commend it for its simplicity, but it does fall short on a few points: The first is that it shows the farmer’s inner moral battle and his ultimate resolution of leaving behind his adopted industrialized practices and returning to a more natural model. If only it were this easy. Most farmers participating in the industrialized model were lured into the promise of greater yields and returns and are now held economically captive by a system that would not allow them to make such a change, at least not without great hardship or threat of ruin. The majority of these farmers are not greedy sadists who take pleasure in keeping pigs, chickens and cows confined, but farmers that bought into a farming model that has made them effectively a ward of a larger corporation and unable to emancipate themselves.
Another small issue I have with it is that the ad, in its promotion of simple farming, makes sustainable practices look identical to the practices of a century ago. While yes, sustainable farming may look a lot more like the farming of the 19th century than the feedlots of the last 50 years, it is hardly unsophisticated, nor unscientific. Many of the most successful sustainable farming practices combine the best of traditional farming and the advances of 21st century technical innovation. A return to a sustainable model does not necessitate a return to a little house on the prairie. And lastly, I wish there was a little more of a directive or gesture toward education, other than to “download the song” at the end of the ad. If the audience has sat through a 2-minute ad concerning sustainable farming, the odds are that they would be open to a message that implores them to take a more definitive action towards reshaping the agricultural economy.
Granted, these are small issues with an ad that may accomplish much toward raising awareness and raising the bar when it comes to domestic farming practices. What did you think? Is this advertising at its best? Does the message move you toward action?