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Blog: Matt Reese

Chipotle ad offers an idyllic world of pure imagination

 Come with me and you’ll be,

In a world of pure imagination.

Take a look and you’ll see, Into your imagination.

We’ll begin with a spin,

Trav’ling in the world of my creation.

What we’ll see will defy, Explanation.

If you want to view paradise, Simply look around and view it.

Anything you want to, do it,

Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it.

 

A haunting version of the song from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (I like the Wonka version better) guides the audience through a dark world of industrial food production that is brightened by the actions of an animated scarecrow. This most recent advertising effort from Chipotle Mexican Grill has foodies and aggies abuzz around the country with its anti-big-ag message.

More than 6 million people have watched the beautifully done video on YouTube that delivers a decidedly skewed message designed to promote burrito sales. After working in depressing conditions at a giant food corporation, the entrepreneurial scarecrow starts growing his own food to supply delicious burritos to customers in a new business sure to change the world — there’s nothing to it. But wait, there is.

While one can admire the scarecrow’s great idea, I question how he was able to finance the facilities, farmland and storefront for his burrito business. He could not have been making that much money at the giant corporate food factory where he was working. Maybe he inherited the farm and the house he lives in, but even with that, he would have needed to secure a sizable loan, and incur a significant debt, to get his burrito business going.

With that in mind, there is no doubt that long hours and tremendous work at almost no net pay would be required for the business. Nearly all of his income from burrito sales would have to go to pay off his loans.

One day, a beautiful young miss scarecrow enters the burrito shop and catches the weary eye of the hard-working scarecrow. They talk about burritos and scaring crows on moonlit nights. It is fate. The couple is married in a year’s time and together they tackle the dream of selling burritos with ingredients straight from their own farm. They do not go to movies (they can’t afford the $10 tickets), they do not watch TV (who can afford cable when they are paying off debt) and they rarely leave the farm or the restaurant. They work extremely hard, but success comes painfully slow. This stresses their marriage almost to the breaking point. Something has to change.

Finally, they rejoice when they get an opportunity to expand and generate a more reasonable income, but to do so, they need more capital than they have. Despite their opposition to doing so, they have no choice but to involve outside investors to finance their promising business. Suddenly, Mr. and Mrs. Scarecrow have gone corporate.

The expansion is a success and business is booming. Mr. Scarecrow can finally afford a nice new truck and to buy his wife the things she deserves after all her hard work. The expansion has gone so well, though, that they have no choice but to make some more tough decisions. They decide to hire staff to manage the restaurant side of the business so they can focus on an idyllic life on their farm. Little Scarecrow children soon follow.

As the restaurant continues to succeed, shareholders demand that a franchise is started to maximize the profit potential on their initial investments. They add another Scarecrow Burritos location and find more success.

The board decides that the chain has outgrown the name so it is officially changed to “Peppers” because of its broader demographic appeal (there are only so many scarecrow burrito eaters out there). Then, to meet the growing food demand of the chain, they have to buy more land, add greenhouse production, add freezer space, build beef feedlots (sustainable feedlots, of course), contract out pig production and build a new state-of-the-art processing facility. In doing so, they exceed EPA and FDA farm and facility sizes to avoid some regulations so they have to implement additional conservation measures and buy more technology. They even have to hire a full time attorney just to deal with the regulatory burden of the business. Even with their swelling profit margins, this all presents another financial challenge. They have to expand again to pay off daunting debts.

Soon, the farm simply cannot supply enough food for the restaurants — Peppers Burritos are popping up around the country. The Scarecrows are getting older now. They have worked long hours nearly all of their married lives and they want to take some time to enjoy life a bit while they still can. They sell most of the farm and move to the East Coast where they can take some time to relax and spend time with the Scarecrow grandchildren. Mr. Scarecrow maintains his title as CEO of the business and still works in between golf rounds, international business trips and being a grandpa. Mrs. Scarecrow enjoys doing a little shopping and heading up the “Charitable Peppers” department of the giant corporation she helped to build. Their oldest son oversees the day-to-day aspects of the corporation from his home office.

They have to start sourcing food from farms all over the country to meet the huge demand of the restaurant chain. They try to work with only small farms, but, quite frankly, the small farms can have supply problems and it requires working with so many different people — it is no fun making 12 phone calls just to make sure you have enough peppers for a Tuesday. Eventually, they have to start working with larger farms that can offer a more consistent supply and quality all year long, rather than the seasonality of smaller local farms. After all, a profitable restaurant cannot only be open during the local growing season.

Back at their first store, which is now a buzzing tourist attraction with t-shirt and coffee mug sales generating more income than the food, the original manager is ready to retire. They hire a promising young scarecrow to manage the store. He even gets to live in the beautifully restored old Scarecrow farmhouse where it all got started. It is a dream come true for the young scarecrow that grew up eating Peppers Burritos.

He works really hard, but his entrepreneurial spirit is strong and he feels like he could be doing more to change the world. He gets depressed with the corporate hoops he has to jump through, the growing customer concern about the lack of information on where the restaurant’s food is sourced and the red tape involved with being a part of the “Peppers Burrito Team.”

He saves up for five years and finally has enough for a down payment on a small farm just outside of town. The house needs quite a bit of work, but this young scarecrow has never been afraid of work.

He has mastered the burrito business and he has a vision of a restaurant that uses ingredients he produces on his own farm. It can be small and very non-corporate. That will appeal to the idyllic leanings of modern consumers who do not understand how the food system works. He would never feed the world like Peppers is now doing, but he could feed a few and make a difference in the world of corporate food.

He gets a big loan. He barely qualifies, but his uncle works at the bank. His plans are set, but he still doesn’t know what to name his dream.

“I know,” he says, thinking of the copyright expiration laws. “Scarecrow Burritos.”

If you want to view paradise,
Simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it,
Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it.

There is no life I know,
To compare with pure imagination.
Living there, you’ll be free,
If you truly wish to be.

Funny or Die also has a different take on Chipotle’s marketing scheme

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Author: Matt Reese

I grew up on a small farm in northwest Ohio and spent most of my youth writing, doodling, taking pictures, reading and exploring the surrounding farmland. With a family full of teachers, I also grew up around a culture supportive of education. I was active in athletics in high school before graduating from Ohio State University where I studied agricultural communications. This led to my career in agricultural journalism.

I continue to work on the family Christmas tree farm in Hancock County. I married my wonderful wife, Kristin, in 2002. We live on a small farm in Fairfield County with sheep, rabbits and chickens. We have a daughter Campbell Miriam who was born in the fall of 2007 and a son Parker Matthew born in August of 2009. We are active in our local church and with numerous other organizations. I help with the agricultural program at Ohio Christian University in Circleville as well.

I have worked for Ohio’s Country Journal since 1999. I also write a column for numerous newspapers around Ohio, Fresh Country Air and do freelance writing and photography work. I have written and self-published six books to date. To find my books, visit lulu.com and search for “Matt Reese.”

2 thoughts on “Chipotle ad offers an idyllic world of pure imagination”

  1. Great satire. I enjoy your insight into the many ag issues that you cover. The dark background on your website makes reading your column very difficult. Can’t you lighten the background or the script?

    Mike

  2. To me the best point made was how as we age, a time comes when we would like to do less but still live a comfortable lifestyle. Like brought out in the commentary to be able to do that and operate a business efficiently expansion is needed. I find it interesting that Chipotle, which IS a large corporate business is basically trying to tell other people how to live. I wonder if Chipotle is free of their ” corporate sins “? It sure would be nice if businesses would stop getting involved in political and social issues so much and focus their energy more to taking care of their employees and selling product.

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