When The Commercial Is The Show

February 24, 2014
Chipotle: Farmed and Dangerous

Chipotle: Farmed and Dangerous

Here at Fast Horse, we’re no strangers to creative marketing techniques. Every day, we aim to create content that makes people take a second look. We want them to say, “Wow, what was that?!”

So I took notice when Chipotle turned to Hulu for its latest unorthodox marketing initiative — a four-episode online series. The first installment of  “Farmed and Dangerous” does not come across like a 22-minute commercial, which is ultimately what it is. There are no Chipotle signs or un-subtle product placements of burrito foil. (I mean, it would just be aluminum foil, but we’re smart consumers here.)

Instead, the show conveys Chipotle’s business practices and who they aim to be as a brand. To my fellow Chipotle lovers, we are well aware of their stance on using antibiotic-free meats. As stated on their website, the show is “A Chipotle original comedy series that explores the outrageously twisted and utterly unsustainable world of industrial agriculture.”

The first episode, aptly named “Oiling the Food Chain” hit Hulu last week. And with anything worth talking about, has mixed reviews. It’s been called “entertaining,” “comedic,” “misleading” and “propaganda.”

To me, it felt like I was watching a CBS drama (It’s no HBO or “House of Cards,” but it can do the trick on a slow weeknight). The episode opens with two old businessmen in well-tailored suits — one donning a cowboy hat — who waste no time with a conversation on synthetic growth hormones and big oil money no more than 30 seconds in. I’m hooked!

Farmed and Dangerous, episode 1

Farmed and Dangerous, episode 1

We’re introduced to the Petro-Pellet. The future of our cattle feed! Side effect is that it tends to explode, but that doesn’t worry our friend in the cowboy hat and American flag pin since it’s market ready. So obviously, it’s good to go.

Now I don’t want to ruin it for you, but there’s a killer explosion that leads to the opening credits and our main heroine going to town on some grade A fast food beef.

Half way in is where information about antibiotics in meats, industrial farming and government subsidies gets sprinkled in. Since I was watching with a critical eye, it felt slightly corny and forced. But I wouldn’t be watching it in the first place had it been a regular old commercial. In response to a claim that people die from contaminated meat every year, our oil-dirty villain Ray Weiss smartly responds with the fact that “those people died from eating–not starving. That’s progress.” Evil, witty dialogue at it’s finest!

In short, my review of the first episode is simply that it was comical, smart, and informational. To Andy’s point in his recent Peepshow, the content is undeniably creative. Even if you don’t like what the content is about, or even how it’s portrayed, the episode delivery deserves major props as well.

It’s an advertisement, delivered as a mini-series, conveying a brand’s messaging, hosted on an online TV and movie streaming service for free. Also notable, there’s no annoying branding in your face, because the brand knows its customer and is respecting the fact that they get it.

Are we still talking about a commercial here?