Advertisement "Back to The Start"

A Chipotle advertisement airing in 2012 titled Back to the Start brands Chipotle as a company that sources its ingredients from sustainable farming practices. Taking pride in their ability to prepare food without any added color, flavor, or preservatives, Chipotle puts a strong emphasis on their ability to deliver quality ingredients while simultaneously helping farmers, animals, and the environment. First airing only online and during movie theater previews, Back to the Start made its big debut during the 2012 Grammy Awards offering about two minutes worth of stop-motion animation depicting a farmer growing his small sustainable farm into a large industrial factory until he realizes the harm it is causing and resorts back to his original methods.

Directed by Johnny Kelly, Back to the Start deliberately utilizes stop-motion animation to represent Steve Ells’ (founder of Chipotle) intended vision to create a societal impact and pull at the heartstrings of viewers. With the use of animated figurines and a Willie Nelson rendition of Coldplay’s “The Scientist”, Chipotle succeeds at convincing viewers to support them and their efforts to promote and carryout sustainable farming.

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Factory farming is a devastating practice that is widely used across the world today and Chipotle wants their consumer to be fully aware of what they are eating and where it came from. However, Chipotle did not always follow these sustainable farming methods. The first Chipotle Mexican Grill opened its doors in 1993 in Denver, Colorado quickly picking up traction on a college campus, and by the end of the first month they were selling nearly a thousand burritos a day.

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Seeing the huge potential for further success, Chipotle continued to expand eventually being picked up by McDonald’s in 1998. McDonald’s took Chipotle from a small company with just 15 locations to a wildly successful corporation overseeing over 500 locations in the United States. Despite McDonald’s helping them to expand fairly rapidly, Steve Ells saw a different vision for Chipotle and began sourcing some of their key ingredients from small to midrange farms raising animals humanely and avoiding any kinds of antibiotics and hormones. This jump-started Chipotle’s mission statement of “Food with Integrity” in 2001 creating an increase in prices and sales. Since then Chipotle has continued to substitute ingredients to ensure customers are getting the most authentic ingredients possible, and Back to the Start was simply a campaign aimed at resonating with the people and relaying a motto they have stood by for years.

Previous to the release of this ad campaign in 2012, lots of controversy revolved around Chipotle’s nutritional value because despite their efforts to gradually gravitate towards more raw ingredients it still maintained a bad rep of having food with high calories and high sodium levels. To draw attention away from the negative view of Chipotle’s food, Johnny Kelly centers the advertisement around the use of sustainable farming as a way to convince the viewer that Chipotle is “healthy” because its ingredients are unmodified. Despite the high demand for “organic” and “raw” ingredients in our food, it is still a somewhat hard restaurant characteristic to come by. Local ingredient sourcing means higher prices and higher prices potentially means less demand for the product.

However, at a time when pop culture and social media greatly impacts perspectives, Chipotle latches on to the trend of a “clean-eating diet” to appeal to a younger generation who is far more willing to pay higher prices for higher quality. Therefore, this ad campaign, while having the potential to influence people of all demographics due to its high emotional appeal, is directed primarily towards audience of young people who cares about the future of our world and the people who live in it. Utilizing a cover of a widely known Coldplay song, Chipotle plays off the strong emotional impact the song holds on its own because of its ability to really pull at your heartstrings while also giving you a sense of nostalgia revisiting a very familiar song. However, a viewer’s nostalgic feelings towards a song can easily change from person to person and considering just how popular “The Scientist” is, many people could have many different relationships with this song.

This concept is covered in a book by Bethany Klein’s titled As Heard on TV: Popular Music in Advertising that dives into “meaning” as a fluid term because of its versatility from person to person. Meaning has the ability to vary across cultures and backgrounds, but it also has the ability to vary across experiences. While “The Scientist” represents a broken relationship to one person, it could just as easily represent the healing process of a cancer patient. Therefore, Chipotle chose wisely in attempting to pick a song that dug up varying emotions out of each and every viewer while simultaneously creating a universal meaning to the song. The advertisement lasts two minutes and twenty seconds and covers a verse and a chorus that contribute a new layer of meaning to the original song’s meaning.

Adding a fine country twang to a song known widely across the United States, Willie Nelson introduces an acoustic verse that fits quite perfectly into the theme of Back to the Start with the lyrics “Questions of science, science and progress. Do not speak as loud as my heart” representing questions surfacing around the mortality of food production. Eventually leading into the chorus, the tempo begins to slow down as the lyrics “Nobody said it was easy” depicting the farmer’s discovery of the destruction industrial farming causes. Realizing his mistake, the farmer and the music pause briefly only for a full band to chime in with the lyrics “Oh take me back to the start” that leads into the bittersweet ending of the farmer closing down the large factories and letting the animals roam free once again. Johnny Kelly definitely took some risks in order to best market Chipotle’s mission statement and message, but at the same time he used some truly classic approaches to really capture its audience.

The choice of stop-motion animation for this advertisement could’ve easily caused Chipotle to fall short of its ability to create a societal impact because it has the potential to be seen as juvenile or childish. Back to the Start succeeds in clearly presenting Chipotle’s values as a company. Prioritizing the absence of genetic modification in their ingredients, Chipotle aims to prove just how much better things can be when we steer clear of factory farming. By successfully stirring up the emotions of the viewer with this heart-warming advertisement, Chipotle makes the first step towards creating a better work for ourselves and our animals.

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Advertisement "Back to The Start". (2022, Jan 02). Retrieved from

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