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Farmed and Dangerous: A Comedy Series from Chipotle

Farmed and Dangerous: A Comedy Series from Chipotle

In a joint venture with Piro, a New York-based studio, Chipotle has announced the upcoming arrival of an original comedy series that will poke fun at the sometimes shady world of corporate agriculture. The four-part series is designed as a vehicle to communicate Chipotle's committment to sustainable agriculture, and the subsequent challenged posed by the more nefarious side of farming on a large level. "We think of ‘Farmed and Dangerous’ as a values-integration rather than typical product-integration,” said Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer in a statement for Business Wire. “The show addresses issues that we think are important — albeit in a satirical way — without being explicitly about Chipotle."

It should be noted that the company kept the familial ties quite loose—the four-part series, which will begin streaming on Hulu February 17, 2014, includes very few references to its maker, according to a review from The New York Times. There are no scenes filmed inside a Chipotle or raving reviews of the restaurant fare. The main character, though, is named Chip.

Instead, the show will focus on the world corporate agriculture, featuring PetroPellet, a petroleum-based animal feed developed by Animoil, a fictional company promising to reduce the industry’s reliance on oil by eliminating the company the need to grow and transport all the feed used to raise livestock. Then, a security leak in the form of a viral video exposes some undesirable information to the public. It’s up to the company’s marketing wizard, played by Ray Wise (Twin Peaks, Mad Men) to undo the damage.

Farmed and Dangerous follows two short films from Chipotle: Scarecrow in 2013 and Back to the Start in 2011, both of which were made to increase public awareness of the complicated path from the farm to the table. Daniel Rosenberg, co-creator of the show alongside Tim Piper, told Business Wire, “We hope the show inspires other brands to communicate through more strategic and entertaining creative that is really representative of who they are, and what they are doing to make a better world." Watch the trailer on Farmed and Dangerous.


Chipotle’s comedy series is a new way to brand, but not all are amused

Chipotle's new original comedy series, "Farmed and Dangerous," premiered on digital subscription service Hulu on Feb. 17.

Chipotle is known for shaking things up, from the Denver restaurant chain’s use of sustainable, locally-produced ingredients to its quirky advertising.

But its latest marketing campaign makes previous ones look quaint by comparison.

Chipotle’s “Farmed and Dangerous,” a four-episode original comedy series that debuted on Hulu on Feb. 17, barely mentions the fast-casual Mexican chain at all.

Instead it presents a narrative that criticizes industrial farming practices while extolling the virtues of small-scale, progressive growers.

But whether it’s sarcasm or satire, principle or propaganda, its bold twist on product integration isn’t sitting well with some Colorado ranchers &mdash even as it brings national attention to the company.

“Chipotle’s theory is that the way they tie their brand back into this show is not through product placement, but through the public relations and media that surrounds it,” said Daniel Rosenberg, co-founder of Piro, which created and produced the series, over the phone from New York. “They’re not simply shoving the product name down your throat, they’re creating a dialogue around the subject.”

The 22-minute pilot traces the fallout at fictional corporation Animoil after a video of an exploding cow goes viral, pitting boss Buck Marshall (Ray Wise) and his daughter Sophia (Karynn Moore) against rakish activist Chip (John Sloan).

“People in this country are not being fed very well and they’re not as healthy because of it,” said Wise, whose acting credits include “Twin Peaks” and “Mad Men.” “In some ways it’s an even more important issue than global warming.”

“Farmed and Dangerous,” which cost about $250,000 per episode, according to the New York Times, comes on the heels of Chipotle’s other experiments in non-traditional advertising, including 2011’s “Back to the Start” and 2013’s “The Scarecrow.”

Both short films feature big-name soundtracks (provided by Willie Nelson and Fiona Apple, respectively) and animated characters who wistfully yearn for mom-and-pop food operations before starting their own.

Compared to most ad campaigns, they’re thoughtful, high-concept projects with an emphasis on nuance and artistic vision. And the message certainly got out: the two videos have racked up more than 20 million YouTube views.

But with tie-in video games, trivia contests and direct links to Chipotle’s in-house Cultivate Foundation, critics say they’re also calculated sales messages that recall both the early days of television (think Kraft Television Theatre) and the sophisticated image-tending that “Farmed and Dangerous” satirizes.

“In the boardrooms of Madison Avenue, they call it ‘values branding:’ a marketing strategy in which a company tries to instill a feeling of righteousness in the customers who buy its products,” wrote Ted Sheely on the Truth About Trade & Technology site. “But what kind of values would inspire a corporation to wage a smear campaign against America’s farmers?”

Sheely, a farmer and board member on various California farming organizations, disagrees with Chipotle’s stance that genetically-modified crops are dangerous. He compares Chipotle’s latest “ploy” to a Super Bowl commercial that makes consumers feel morally superior while tearing down the competition.

“I object to the broad strokes,” said Jo Stanko, who runs a 2,000-acre, fifth-generation cattle ranch outside of Steamboat Springs. “It’s a conversation we need to be having, but it shouldn’t be to the benefit of just one company.”

Chipotle countered that it works with thousands of farmers and ranchers and is not ignoring their concerns.

“We have nothing but the utmost respect for them,” said Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold. “They make hard decisions based on what’s best for their farm or their family, and we make our decisions based on what we think is best for our business.”

Founded in Denver in 1993, Chipotle operates more than 1,500 restaurants worldwide. Analysts estimate its stock-market value at more than $15 billion .

Regardless of politics, the show blurs the line between advertising and entertainment. But its inherent quality and compatibility with Chipotle’s message ought to quiet fears of other brands becoming content producers, according to Piro’s Rosenberg.

“Some people think this is the devil,” he said. “‘Oh, a brand creating entertainment? This is the end of the world as we know it!’ But people who have seen the finished product know we’re telling a creative story.”

If the series is successful, viewers can expect even more.

“I don’t think it feels branded in the slightest,” said Rosenberg. “On Hulu it sits next to other premium content &mdash unlike user-generated content on YouTube. And Hulu has a free version, unlike Netflix or Amazon. So we’ve got the widest possible audience and the best of every world.”


Chipotle to Launch “Farmed and Dangerous” Comedy Series

Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE: CMG) announced plans to launch &ldquoFarmed and Dangerous,&rdquo a Chipotle original comedy series that satirically explores the world of industrial agriculture in America. Produced by Chipotle and Piro, a New York-based studio known for its unique work in film and television, the initial four-episode season will be presented weekly on Hulu and Hulu Plus beginning Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. The show integrates Chipotle&rsquos values and commitment to serving food made with the highest quality ingredients through the content and themes of the show itself, without any explicit Chipotle branding.

&ldquoFarmed and Dangerous&rdquo satirizes the lengths to which corporate agribusiness and its image-makers go to create a positive image of industrial agriculture. The first season focuses on the introduction of PetroPellet ® , a new petroleum-based animal feed created by fictional industrial giant Animoil ® . PetroPellet promises to reduce industrial agriculture&rsquos dependence on oil by eliminating the need to grow, irrigate, fertilize and transport the vast amount of feed needed to raise livestock on factory farms. Before its new feed formula can forever reshape industrial agriculture, Animoil&rsquos plans go awry when a revealing security video goes viral sending Animoil and their spin master, Buck Marshall (Ray Wise &ndash &ldquoTwin Peaks,&rdquo &ldquoMad Men,&rdquo &ldquo24&rdquo) of the Industrial Food Image Bureau (IFIB), into damage control mode.

&ldquoMuch of our marketing is aimed at making consumers more curious about where their food comes from and how it is prepared,&rdquo said Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle. &ldquoBy making complex issues about food production more understandable &mdash even entertaining &mdash we are reaching people who have not typically been tuned into these types of issues.&rdquo

&ldquoFarmed and Dangerous&rdquo comes on the heels of two award-winning animated short films from Chipotle &mdash 2013&rsquos &ldquoScarecrow&rdquo and 2011&rsquos &ldquoBack to the Start&rdquo &mdash both of which helped spark conversations about agriculture and industrial food production in entertaining ways. The initial season consists of four half-hour episodes, but the storyline is designed to be extended to additional seasons. The show stars Wise and Eric Pierpoint (&ldquoParks and Recreation,&rdquo &ldquoBig Love&rdquo).

&ldquoChipotle&rsquos genuine mission to change the world of fast food is a great foundation for storytelling,&rdquo said Tim Piper, a partner at Piro and director of &ldquoFarmed and Dangerous.&rdquo &ldquoThe characters and plot reflect Chipotle's position on sustainable agriculture and enables Chipotle to communicate with more engagement than traditional advertising.&rdquo

Chipotle has a long-standing commitment to finding better, more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients it uses, including Responsibly Raised ® meats (from animals that are raised in a humane way and without the use of antibiotics or added hormones), local and organically grown produce, and dairy products from pasture-raised dairy cattle. The company has also taken on the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food, becoming the first national restaurant company to voluntarily disclose the use of GMOs in its food, and the first to announce plans to eliminate GMOs from the ingredients it uses.

&ldquoWe think of &lsquoFarmed and Dangerous&rsquo as a values-integration rather than typical product-integration,&rdquo said Crumpacker. &ldquoThe show addresses issues that we think are important &mdash albeit in a satirical way &mdash without being explicitly about Chipotle. This approach allows us to produce content that communicates our values and entertains people at the same time.&ldquo

Piro partner, executive producer and co-creator of the show, Daniel Rosenberg added, &ldquoWe hope the show inspires other brands to communicate through more strategic and entertaining creative that is really representative of who they are, and what they are doing to make a better world.&rdquo

The pilot episode of &ldquoFarmed and Dangerous&rdquo will be available for free on Hulu.com and via the Hulu Plus subscription service starting Feb. 17, 2014. Each additional episode will become available on the consecutive Mondays.

&ldquoFarmed and Dangerous&rdquo stars Ray Wise (&ldquoTwin Peaks,&rdquo &ldquoMad Men,&rdquo &ldquo24&rdquo), Eric Pierpoint (&ldquoParks and Recreation,&rdquo &ldquoBig Love&rdquo), John Sloan (&ldquoThe Glades,&rdquo &ldquoGrey&rsquos Anatomy,&rdquo &ldquoHow I Met Your Mother&rdquo), and Karynn Moore (&ldquoJane by Design,&rdquo &ldquoWater for Elephants&rdquo). Executive producers are Mark Crumpacker (chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle), William Espey (brand voice lead at Chipotle), Daniel Rosenberg (Piro partner, &ldquoInside Man,&rdquo &ldquoRighteous Kill&rdquo), and Timothy Piper (&ldquoDove Evolution,&rdquo &ldquoThe Palace of Light&rdquo) the show was written by Rosenberg, Piper, Mike Dieffenbach (&ldquoLess Than Perfect,&rdquo &ldquoRetired at 35&rdquo), and Jeremy Pisker (Academy Award ® nominee for &ldquoBullworth&rdquo) director is Timothy Piper.

Additional information about &ldquoFarmed and Dangerous,&rdquo including full cast listing, is available at FarmedAndDangerous.com.

Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.


Chipotle to Launch Dark Comedy Series about Factory Farming (VIDEO)

As a fast-food company that opposes the intensive factory farming model espoused by many of their competitors, Chipotle Mexican Grill has long been renowned for defying conventional. Last September, they launched a “Scarecrow Game” app that encouraged users to rescue cows, pigs, and chickens from virtual factory farms.

And now, in conjunction with New York-based film studio Piro, they are preparing to launch yet another, more scathing attack on the industrial farming industry: a dark comedy series called “Farmed and Dangerous.” If this opening gambit outlined in the company’s press release is anything to go by, we imagine a few fast-food execs will be left squirming in their seats:

“Farmed and Dangerous” satirizes the lengths to which corporate agribusiness and its image-makers go to create a positive image of industrial agriculture. The first season focuses on the introduction of PetroPellet®, a new petroleum-based animal feed created by fictional industrial giant Animoil®. PetroPellet promises to reduce industrial agriculture’s dependence on oil by eliminating the need to grow, irrigate, fertilise and transport the vast amount of feed needed to raise livestock on factory farms. Before its new feed formula can forever reshape industrial agriculture, Animoil’s plans go awry when a revealing security video goes viral sending Animoil and their spin master, Buck Marshall of the Industrial Food Image Bureau (IFIB), into damage control mode.

Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle, says, “By making complex issues about food production more understandable – even entertaining – we are reaching people who have not typically been tuned into these types of issues.”

The series will be launched on the Internet streaming site Hulu and Hulu Plus, beginning Monday, Feb. 17. If you want to catch a glimpse of Big Food being dealt an embarrassing blow (and let’s face it, which Green Monster doesn’t?), check out the trailer below:


Chipotle’s Seasoned Première

“Kraft Television Theatre,” the first weekly TV drama, débuted in May of 1947, a year of TV firsts: a few months later, the Brooklyn Dodgers played the New York Yankees in the first televised World Series, and, soon afterward, Harry Truman became the first President to make a televised address from the White House. Like most early TV, “Kraft Television Theatre” was made on the advertiser-producer model, adapted from radio. Networks sold the airtime, but advertising agencies—in this case, J. Walter Thompson—produced the content on behalf of their clients. Advertiser-producers were responsible for shows like “The Voice of Firestone,” “The Colgate Comedy Hour,” and “Texaco Star Theatre.”

Kraft products were never mentioned during a “Kraft Television Theatre” teleplay. Instead, they appeared in the recipe demonstrations that constituted the commercial breaks, when viewers would see a woman’s hands at work, stirring “tantalizing Cheez Whiz” into a pot of tomato soup, for example. The show itself featured genteel programming one J. Walter Thompson executive called it “realism with a modest moral.” The goal was to appeal to Kraft’s target audience: the “the solid middle class that aspires to something a little better,” Mike Mashon, the head of the moving-image section of the Library of Congress, told me.

During its eleven-year run on NBC, the show featured performances by Bea Arthur, Jack Lemmon, and William Shatner. It also received six Emmy nominations and spawned a second version, on ABC. A 1955 episode, “Patterns,” written by Rod Serling, offered an unflinching critique of corporate greed and unchecked careerism in the Times, Jack Gould described it as “one of the high points in the TV medium’s evolution.” In 1958, Kraft sold the rights for the show to the production company Talent Associates, which reworked it. The final incarnation, called “Kraft Mystery Theatre,” lasted only a few months.

According to Mashon, the advertiser-producer model was, by then, losing ground to the so-called magazine model, pioneered by NBC. In the new order, networks controlled the content, with several companies buying snippets of ad time for each program. It appealed to the networks, which were tired of ad agencies determining what ended up on their airwaves, and to the advertisers, who were tired of bearing the cost of producing shows.

Next week, Hulu will air the first episode of “Farmed and Dangerous,” a four-episode series, produced by the Mexican-food chain Chipotle, in conjunction with Piro, an agency that “creates and produces strategic entertainment properties for brands.” Chipotle has famously spurned conventional TV advertising. The company produced two animated Web ads that went viral: “Back to the Start,” set to a Willie Nelson song, showed the transformation of an idyll of free-roaming pigs into an industrial hell-scape and back again. “The Scarecrow,” whose sound track is a Fiona Apple song, told the story of a Scarecrow farmer facing a world in which factory farms have become real factories, supervised by robo-crows. (I wrote about “The Scarecrow,” and about whether Chipotle lives up to its “food with integrity” claims, last year.) But, with its latest marketing innovation, Chipotle is returning to an old formula.

This is not the first time the advertiser-producer model has been resurrected: as the Wall Street Journal reported in 2011, a number of companies have produced Web series, and Budweiser made a reality show that eventually aired on ABC. But “Farmed and Dangerous” is an unusually ambitious example: these are full-length, scripted programs, presented alongside standard television fare. (Like other material in Hulu’s Spotlight Series of brand-authored material, the episodes will not be labelled as advertising and will be put in a genre category—in this case, “Comedy.” Though the blurred line between advertising and entertainment on Hulu is less disturbing than, say, Thursday’s news that Unilever and the Guardian will be partnering to produce “branded content,” it is nonetheless unsettling.) The Times reported that each episode cost two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to produce, a figure that Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer, disputed. “The budget for the show is similar to, you know, any other high-quality cable-TV scripted show,” he said. “Which is, you know, quite a bit more than that.” (He declined to provide an exact amount.)

“Farmed and Dangerous” stars Ray Wise as Buck Marshall, a big shot who does “image management” for factory farms—more factory than farm here, as in “The Scarecrow.” In the first episode, we learn that a client of Marshall’s, Animoil, has invented a new petroleum-based cattle feed with an unfortunate side effect: spontaneous bovine combustion. When a boyishly charming farmer-activist named Chip (John Sloan) puts security-video footage of an exploding Animoil cow online, Marshall’s daughter and employee, Sophia (Karynn Moore), tries to get him to remove it. Flirtatious professional brinksmanship ensues.

Chipotle’s brand is visible in “Farmed and Dangerous,” but only in a couple of fleeting, tongue-in-cheek references. During commercial breaks, Chipotle will run short spots promoting the show itself. Chipotle’s notion of “values integration”—enticing customers by promoting certain values rather than by featuring a specific product—is reminiscent of Kraft’s approach, though Chipotle’s message is more specific and more directly related to what it sells. Where Kraft wanted to let consumers know that it shared their taste in middlebrow TV drama and the morals that drama espoused, Chipotle wants to tell consumers that it cares about the perils of industrial agriculture.

As J. Walter Thompson did for Kraft, Piro produced the show with Chipotle’s input. In this case, though, the advertiser was more deeply involved in creative decisions. Crumpacker, who served as an executive producer on the series, told me that, when Piro delivered a draft of the script that didn’t capture the right “themes,” Chipotle’s internal creative team “outlined each of the issues we wanted to discuss and suggested the way you could amp that up to give it comedic value.”


Chipotle to launch comedy series on Hulu

Chipotle Mexican Grill is getting into the television business with an original comedy series on Hulu designed to convey the chain’s stance on industrial agriculture without any explicit branding.

“Farmed and Dangerous,” a four-episode series that takes a satirical jab at the evils of corporate agribusiness, is scheduled to debut on Hulu and Hulu Plus on Feb. 17.

The series follows a fictional industrial giant called Animoil that develops a new petroleum-based animal feed called PetroPellet. The product promises to reduce factory farm dependence on oil by eliminating the need to grow, irrigate, fertilize and transport vast amounts of feed needed to raise livestock. There’s only one downside: the cows that eat the pellets have a tendency to explode (with cheap but amusing special effects).

Ray Wise (“Twin Peaks,” “Mad Men,” “24”) plays Buck Marshall, the “spin master” from the Industrial Food Image Bureau (IFIB – get it?) who is tasked with damage control. To keep exploding cow videos from going viral, he recruits his beautiful (and, we assume, equally evil) daughter to seduce the noble and good-looking small farmer named Chip, who threatens to harness the power of social media to expose Animoil’s dirty deeds.

Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer, said the series is an attempt to reach consumers that may not be following the national debate about food production.

“Much of our marketing is aimed at making consumers more curious about where their food comes from and how it is prepared,” said Crumpacker in a statement. “By making complex issues about food production more understandable — even entertaining — we are reaching people who have not typically been tuned in to these types of issues.”

Though Chipotle produced the series in partnership with the New York-based studio Piro, it has no apparent mention of the fast-casual burrito chain.

According to the New York Times, Chipotle is mentioned only once in the series, when the sinister Marshall character boasts about spreading a false rumor that McDonald’s and Chipotle are still linked. McDonald’s held a controlling stake in Chipotle for about eight years before divesting in 2006, when Chipotle went public.

“We think of ‘Farmed and Dangerous’ as a values-integration rather than typical product-integration,” said Crumpacker. “The show addresses issues that we think are important — albeit in a satirical way — without being explicitly about Chipotle. This approach allows us to produce content that communicates our values and entertains people at the same time.”

The move follows Chipotle’s success with the introduction of animated short films over the past few years that were promoted in movie theaters and online, as well as a video game, all with similar themes that highlight the Denver-based chain’s efforts to promote the quality of its ingredients.

Chipotle, for example, said it uses “Responsibly Raised” meats from animals that are humanely raised without antibiotics or hormones dairy from pasture-raised cattle and produce that is locally or organically grown without genetic modification.

Last year, the short film “Scarecrow” depicted a scarecrow’s journey to bring wholesome food back to the people by providing an alternative to the processed food that dominates his world. In 2011, Chipotle’s short “Back to the Start” was about a fictional farmer’s choice to move back to sustainable farming methods.

Chipotle isn’t the first restaurant chain to turn to television and web series to promote its brand. In 2012, KFC launched an online branded-entertainment series, called “Growing Up and Getting Out,” on Comedy Central.

Denny’s has an online series called “Always Open” on CollegeHumor.com featuring unscripted interviews that take place in a real restaurant. And Subway produces the short-form online comedy “4 to 9ers” on Hulu.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected] .
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout


Chipotle’s anti-GMO “Farmed and Dangerous” series irks farmers

The name of Chipotle’s Hulu series says it all. “Farmed and Dangerous” is, according to the restaurant chain, a “comedy series that explores the outrageously twisted and utterly unsustainable world of industrial agriculture.” Not surprisingly many farmers have taken issue with the portrayal of their livelihoods.

Since its founding over twenty years ago, Chipotle has tried to differentiate themselves from other restaurants in the fast-casual space by offering “Food With Integrity.” They tout hormone-free dairy, antibiotic-free, humanely raised meats, and have recently taken a stance against genetically modified foods. The company discloses the presence of GMOs in their food and is working on removing GMOs from their menu.

With the release of their video series the company is taking a stand against industrial agriculture. Chipotle prefers to source food for its 1,600 restaurants through family farms, they’ve said. According to a USDA (PDF) report released this summer, 96% of US crop farms are family farms. Family farms have gotten bigger and more diverse in recent years. One large farm might grow grow GMO, conventional , and organic crops in order to diversity income streams. So are they all “dangerous” according to Chipotle?

“What I do works best for me,” Larry Sailer, a grain and hog farmer in Iowa told USA Today. “Over the years from my experience I’ve evolved into what I think is best for the animals. They [Chipotle] put down big ag but they’re big food. I just don’t appreciate the way they are going at it.”

“Farmed and Dangerous” is a reaction to the misinformation spread by big-ag, says Chipotle, but many farmers say the series is full of its own inaccuracies.

Kristen Reese, who grew up on a farm,raises sheep, and blogs at Reese Family Roots writes:

I would argue that, rather than “Big Ag” trying to peddle poison for profit, the real deception out there is “Big Chipotle” peddling lies and misinformation to give a perceived benefit to their products over the competition — goading consumers into ponying up more cash for their “healthy” burritos.Let’s stop slinging inaccurate information and farmers and Chipotle get down to what we both do best, raise food and make burritos. Whether you choose to eat their burrito or not, let’s not have a foodfight!

“Farmers and ranchers are not happy with the continued attack from Chipotle,” wrote Ryan Goodman, a former farmer who now works to get farmers’ messages out to the public, on CNN.

With such a production budget and a marketing team that knows how to sell to emotions of the consuming audience, Chipotle continues to win over fans with information and portrayals that are much less than accurate of our modern food growers. If Chipotle is so adamant about getting us to learn more about where our food comes from, why spend millions on animations and comedies? Why not talk to actual farmers and ranchers who are on the ground and know more about growing food that marketing executives?

Chipotle has an open invitation from Jennie Schmidt, a registered dietician and farmer in Maryland, who was offended by the series and the depiction of farms like her family’s in Maryland. She took to her website The Foodie Farmer to air her grievances. Her farm grows both conventional and biotech crops. “My family farm is not dangerous. We have an open door policy and welcome people to come for tours and learn how we farm,” she writes. “Our business is wide open, you can drive by any day of the week and witness for yourself what we are doing. In fact, we’ll give you a tour!


This New Web Series About Factory Farming Is Brought to You by Chipotle

Two music videos and some 20 million YouTube views later, Chipotle is taking its pseudo-commercial campaign against factory farming to new lengths: Next month, the restaurant chain will debut a scripted comedy, “Farmed and Dangerous,” on Hulu.

Ray Wise—whose real hair color is catching up with the guilt-induced stark white tresses of his character Leland Palmer on "Twin Peaks"plays Buck Marshall, the feckless head of the Industrial Food Image Bureau. The four-part series, each 30-minute episode broken up by traditional commercial breaks, follows Marshall’s efforts to sell the petroleum-fed meat of fictitious agri-villain Animoil to the public.

Fiona Apple Takes On Factory Farming With a Haunting Cover

The problem is, feeding black pellets of crude to cattle is causing them to combust like a Spinal Tap drummer—and when the security cam footage of one such bovine bomb is leaked by a handsome young farmer who is part of a group “committed to better farming practices,” Animoil has a PR crisis on its hands.

What this all means for Chipotle, which, according to The New York Times, is mentioned in “Farmed and Dangerous” just once, isn’t quite clear. The chain, with its better-than-the-rest meat, much of which comes from Niman Ranch, has more authority to speak critically about factory farming than, say, McDonald’s, but its record isn’t exactly perfect.

But like its previous forays into narrative, nontraditional “advertising,” such as the Fiona Apple video, Chipotle’s branding is more pathos than ethos. “Farmed and Dangerous” clearly says factory-farmed meat is a bad thing, but it’s left for the viewer to (hopefully) infer that the company making that creative statement is better.

“ ‘Farmed and Dangerous’ is meant to strike large emotional chords—it’s not about selling burritos,” Daniel Rosenberg of Piro, which produced the show, told the Times.

Although it's unlikely that anyone at Chipotle will complain if “Farmed and Dangerous” does move some extra Mexican food.


Have a Cow? Chipotle Made a Smart Comedy Show

Cows exploding, leaked videos, and a nasty fight between a farmer and the agribusiness he takes on sets the stage for a new Hulu original comedy series whose producer might surprise you more than the detonating livestock.

“Farmed and Dangerous,” a comedy set in the world of industrial agriculture, explores a new frontier in branded entertainment and is brought to you by fast food chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill. Impressively, the four-episode series never tries to directly sell tacos and burritos, even though it’s produced by Chipotle and Piro, a New York film and television studio.

Instead, it satirizes the debate between sustainable farming and industrial agriculture practices with the goal of getting viewers (and Chipotle customers) to care more about the food they eat. In the series, an industrial agriculture corporation (Animoil) saves money by feeding cows petroleum-based animal pellets called PetroPellets. Ray Wise (“Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Twin Peaks”) plays spin doctor Buck Marshall of the Industrial Food Image Bureau who is hired by Animoil to fix its image when a video of an exploding cow is leaked and goes viral. In the midst of that insanity, there’s also a brewing romance between sustainable farmer Chip Randolph (John Sloan), who leaked the video, and Buck’s daughter, Sophia (Karynn Moore).

Playing dapper men with a naughty side comes easy to Wise. But the veteran actor has never done it for a Web series, and his boss has never been a fast food chain. None of those things mattered to him when he considered the role.

“I approached it the way I approach everything—like a theatrical project,” he said. “I was not really concerned about the medium or that Chipotle was behind it. They had a very light footprint in the whole production. I have to give them all the credit in the world for starting a new model for this kind of show. It’s the wave of the future and I’m glad to be in on the ground floor of it. It’s something new, something different, and I think it’s going to matter to people.”

Chipotle has spent $1 million on the series, but the company’s name is spoken only once and seen only once in the four 22-minute episodes. The opening and closing credits don’t disclose Chipotle’s involvement either.

It’s a long way from the in-your-face product placement strategies we’ve grown used to: “New Girl” plugged a Ford Fusion in its post-Super Bowl episode everyone on “Shark Tank” uses T-Mobile phones. But it’s how Chipotle has determined it prefers to reach its customers as the company has committed to spending more money on its ingredients than its advertising, and has publicly denounced issues in the agriculture industry, such as the overuse of antibiotics on animals.

“A big television ad campaign would wipe out our marketing budget so we have to take a very different approach to marketing,” said Chipotle’s chief marketing and development officer Mark Crumpacker. “What we wanted to do was create entertainment first that would engage people on these issues. Whether they figure out or not that Chipotle has anything to do with it and they come out caring a little bit more about where food comes from, or realizing that they never knew that, that indirectly benefits Chipotle. Of course, that’s a very long-term game we’re playing there in terms of changing people’s perceptions of food.”

Branded entertainment and content marketing is everywhere now, but Chipotle has been breaking ground over the last two years with a strategy that seeks to build an emotional connection to its brand by creating educational and discussion-driven content. Two short animated videos about how its food is prepared, “Back to the Start,” and “The Scarecrow,” featuring songs by Willie Nelson and Fiona Apple, generated a combined 20 million YouTube views. The company will now test new waters with long-form entertainment.

“Chipotle has really figured out what they want to say to a certain group of consumers and they’re looking at new ways to say that,” said Jackie Kulesza, a senior vice president at the ad-buying firm Starcom. “This is an area where we’re seeing a great amount of creative attention being paid. Certainly, innovative product placement has been going on in television and in the digital space for a while. But what they’re doing is absolutely on brand and it’s interesting that they’re focusing on these things first before a more mass media strategy.”

Although Chipotle is not the first company to venture into this territory, its approach is more subtle and ambitious than some of the other product-oriented brands that have made the transition from creating ads to creating entertainment. Subway, for example, produced the Hulu comedy hit "The 4 to 9ers," which featured people working at the sandwich shop. Ikea was successful with Illeana Douglas’ “Easy to Assemble,” in which she quit her Hollywood career to work at an Ikea store. Jason Bateman and Will Arnett starred in and produced three shorts for Wrigley’s Orbit gum brand, which featured a lot of gum-chewing.

“We've seen a lot of the ad industry going after branded entertainment funds and avenues,” said Tim Piper, co-founder of Piro and director of the series. “The difference with Chipotle is the collaboration between agency creatives who spent their lives creating great ads and Hollywood creatives who have spent their lives creating great stories. We don’t see many of them teaming up and working on a project together.”

The impact of directly placing or integrating products into the content of a TV show or movie is certainly more easily measurable than the strategy Chipotle has taken, said Daniel Rosenberg, co-founder of Piro.

“But I don’t think you can compare the value to the audience, especially when you’re giving them something at this high production value,” he said. “You’re entertaining them, rather than interrupting them. You’re adding value to their lives. We hope more brands move in this direction. It’s about having an important thing to say.”

“Farmed and Dangerous” will be presented weekly on Hulu and Hulu Plus, beginning on Monday.


Chipotle’s comedy series is a new way to brand, but not all are amused

Chipotle is known for shaking things up, from the Denver restaurant chain’s use of sustainable, locally-produced ingredients to its quirky advertising.

But its latest marketing campaign makes previous ones look quaint by comparison.

Chipotle’s “Farmed and Dangerous,” a four-episode original comedy series that debuted on Hulu on Feb. 17, barely mentions the fast-casual Mexican chain at all.

Instead it presents a narrative that criticizes industrial farming practices while extolling the virtues of small-scale, progressive growers.

But whether it’s sarcasm or satire, principle or propaganda, its bold twist on product integration isn’t sitting well with some Colorado ranchers &mdash even as it brings national attention to the company.

“Chipotle’s theory is that the way they tie their brand back into this show is not through product placement, but through the public relations and media that surrounds it,” said Daniel Rosenberg, co-founder of Piro, which created and produced the series, over the phone from New York. “They’re not simply shoving the product name down your throat, they’re creating a dialogue around the subject.”

The 22-minute pilot traces the fallout at fictional corporation Animoil after a video of an exploding cow goes viral, pitting boss Buck Marshall (Ray Wise) and his daughter Sophia (Karynn Moore) against rakish activist Chip (John Sloan).

“People in this country are not being fed very well and they’re not as healthy because of it,” said Wise, whose acting credits include “Twin Peaks” and “Mad Men.” “In some ways it’s an even more important issue than global warming.”

“Farmed and Dangerous,” which cost about $250,000 per episode, according to the New York Times, comes on the heels of Chipotle’s other experiments in non-traditional advertising, including 2011’s “Back to the Start” and 2013’s “The Scarecrow.”

Both short films feature big-name soundtracks (provided by Willie Nelson and Fiona Apple, respectively) and animated characters who wistfully yearn for mom-and-pop food operations before starting their own.

Compared to most ad campaigns, they’re thoughtful, high-concept projects with an emphasis on nuance and artistic vision. And the message certainly got out: the two videos have racked up more than 20 million YouTube views.

But with tie-in video games, trivia contests and direct links to Chipotle’s in-house Cultivate Foundation, critics say they’re also calculated sales messages that recall both the early days of television (think Kraft Television Theatre) and the sophisticated image-tending that “Farmed and Dangerous” satirizes.

“In the boardrooms of Madison Avenue, they call it ‘values branding:’ a marketing strategy in which a company tries to instill a feeling of righteousness in the customers who buy its products,” wrote Ted Sheely on the Truth About Trade & Technology site. “But what kind of values would inspire a corporation to wage a smear campaign against America’s farmers?”

Sheely, a farmer and board member on various California farming organizations, disagrees with Chipotle’s stance that genetically-modified crops are dangerous. He compares Chipotle’s latest “ploy” to a Super Bowl commercial that makes consumers feel morally superior while tearing down the competition.

“I object to the broad strokes,” said Jo Stanko, who runs a 2,000-acre, fifth-generation cattle ranch outside of Steamboat Springs. “It’s a conversation we need to be having, but it shouldn’t be to the benefit of just one company.”

Chipotle countered that it works with thousands of farmers and ranchers and is not ignoring their concerns.

“We have nothing but the utmost respect for them,” said Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold. “They make hard decisions based on what’s best for their farm or their family, and we make our decisions based on what we think is best for our business.”

Founded in Denver in 1993, Chipotle operates more than 1,500 restaurants worldwide. Analysts estimate its stock-market value at more than $15 billion .

Regardless of politics, the show blurs the line between advertising and entertainment. But its inherent quality and compatibility with Chipotle’s message ought to quiet fears of other brands becoming content producers, according to Piro’s Rosenberg.

“Some people think this is the devil,” he said. “’Oh, a brand creating entertainment? This is the end of the world as we know it!’ But people who have seen the finished product know we’re telling a creative story.”

If the series is successful, viewers can expect even more.

“I don’t think it feels branded in the slightest,” said Rosenberg. “On Hulu it sits next to other premium content &mdash unlike user-generated content on YouTube. And Hulu has a free version, unlike Netflix or Amazon. So we’ve got the widest possible audience and the best of every world.”


Watch the video: Farmed and Dangerous Official Trailer (January 2022).