Semiotic & Creative Revolution Analysis – Farmed & Dangerous

Chipotle Farmed and Dangerous Official Trailer

The popular chain of Mexican-style food, Chipotle, has received international recognition for its organic ingredients and naturally raised meat. For a fast food chain, these ingredients are rarely found in chains such as Burger King and Taco Bell. Chipotle uses its unique approach to cooking in order to change peoples perception of fast food, and to stand out from its competitors. This is exemplified in the recent trailer for a web-series called, Farmed and Dangerous. The trailer is advertising a series that is all sponsored and curated by Chipotle. The Farmed and Dangerous trailer functions as a commodity sign that promotes Chipotle’s brand and ideologies by attaching it to the social and cultural value of a TV series on Hulu.com.   

With almost 900,000 views, the 2:17 minute long trailer for Farmed and Dangerous is about a marketing firm protecting the image of a major farming corporation, Animoil. A farmer activist, Chris Randolph (played by John Sloan), reveals a video of cows exploding due to petroleum oil in the animal feed and tries to raise awareness about the industrial agriculture world. At the very end of the trailer “An Original Chipotle Series” with the Chipotle logo of a Chili is displayed over the series title, Farmed and Dangerous.

Within the first few seconds of the video, the ad carries ideologies in the four cases described in Goldman and Papson’s “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.” First, the trailer constructs a negative representation of the industrial agriculture industry (95). Socially and culturally, the trailer exposes the chemicals and hormones used in the mass-produced and mass-consumed food. This is accomplished by using images of a dark and stormy Animoil factory as the signifier. The opening image signifies that the factory is evil. This is also communicated through the made up corporation name, Animoil, that is a combination of the words, animal and oil. The old men (played by Ray Wise and Eric Pierpoint) discuss the newest scientific experiment to put oil in livestock’s food, petro-pellets, which is the “biggest improvement in agriculture since synthetic growth hormones.” The connotative meaning of the older men in conversation signifies that they are corporate executives and are only interested in money. Throughout the two minutes, they make ignorant comments, threaten activists with guns and take photos in front of fake farms. This signifies that the corporations do not have our health or safety in their interest. Thus, Chipotle uses this trailer to attach negative notions about its competitors that include brands like Taco Bell or Wendy’s.

The second sense that the Farmed and Dangerous trailer carries Chipotle’s ideology about the agriculture industry is exemplified when the trailer disguises and suppresses inequalities and injustices (Goldman & Papson. 96). This is done by not specifying what fast food chains are associated with the industrial farm, Arminoil. It is important to note that the fast food chains these factory men are associated with could also refer to McDonalds, who is an investor in Chipotle. Additionally, the trailer hides the inequality regarding the fact that Chipotle’s food costs more than the food at fast food chains. Therefore, McDonalds could even endorse this trailer because the target audiences for each company are different.

The third case, discussed by Goldman and Papson, is when the ad is a discourse that promotes a normative vision of our world and relationships (96). By creating an ad that fits in the normal vision of TV entertainment, Chipotle incorporates its ideology into the popular culture of watching web-series; the ad is hidden beneath the normal activity of watching a TV trailer or series. The normative vision is achieved by structuring the Farmed and Dangerous trailer in the same way that is done by other popular TV trailers.  The dialogue jumps around to snippets of scenes and lines from the characters. The content of the dialogue is about exploding cows and protecting image of the large corporations. While the lines are from different episodes and characters, they communicate the message and plot of the web-series in two minutes in the same format as other TV series trailers. By rapidly changing the scenes to fast paced music, the trailer becomes more upbeat and comical. The cinematic structure could be compared to the structure of trailers for TV series such as HBO’s Suits (example below). The plot of the series is about an important issue, but it is lightened up by the romantic and comedic moods.

Without the Chipotle logo at the end of the trailer, a viewer may not notice that Farmed and Dangerous is advertising Chipotle. This could be because Chipotle is trying to reach the alienated spectator market. Young adults and children are the alienated spectators because they are jaded by the mass of advertisements in their lives. However, this market is attractive because when reached, the youth tend to be responsible for starting new trends and forming life-long loyalties to products based on their disposable income as dependents. In order to appeal to the youth, Chipotle attaches itself to a cultural and social values through intertextuality in the Farmed and Dangerous trailer. The trailer functions as a cultural intermediary between Chipotle’s suggested process of life and its target audience. The traditional format of a TV series trailer with renowned television celebrities such as Ray Wise and Kathryn Moore make the series more legitimate and signify a higher quality production because celebrities have high potential sign value (Goldman & Papson. 88). Furthermore, the higher the entertainment value, the better chances of Chipotle reaching the younger market.

The popularity of Netflix web-series such as Orange Is The New Black or House of Cards has become part of the youth culture. Consumers are spending more time on the computer than on TV, so Chipotle uses this trailer to communicate its brand through media self-referentiality (Goldman & Papson. 94). In order to reach an influential market with a disposable income, Chipotle subtly attaches its brand and message to the popular trend of binge watching on platforms of media such as YouTube and Hulu. This is a modern example of Bill Bernbach’s legacy of the Creative Revolution starting in the 1960’s. Chipotle is no longer advertising its actual products, instead, Chipotle is using creative power to push to change people’s perception of the industry and spend more money on its products. In addition to revolutionizing the industrial agriculture industry, the Farmed and Dangerous trailer is revolutionizing the way advertisements reach consumers by turning its ideology into entertaining content. This Chipotle ad stands out from other digital advertisements because people voluntarily watch and share it on Youtube, as opposed to evading pop ups or side bar digital advertisements. Even though it is partially owned by McDonalds, the image of this Chipotle advertisement is anti-establishment. The ad communicates Chipotle’s brand through self-aware cynicism about advertisements by putting down its competitors and entertaining its consumers by waiting to show the Chipotle logo at the end of the trailer.

By producing a trailer with intertextual references such as popular TV series and actors, Chipotle intends to fit in with other “cool” web-series watched by the younger demographic.  However, by attaching the Chipotle brand to the culture activity of “binge-watching,” subjects this to cannibalizing this cultural trend (Goldman & Papson.89). The Farmed and Dangerous trailer is an example of how advertisements take elements of our culture in order to appeal to a certain audience, and then destroy the cultural value by turning it into an advertisement. Furthermore, advertisements have become hegemonic; ads become part of culture in order to appeal to fragmented markets.

The Farmed and Dangerous trailer functions as a critique of mass-media and mass-consumerism, however Chipotle ultimately is using Franks theory of “anti-establishment magic” where it uses signals of anti-establishment in order to turn the masses into its own consumers. This is where the trailer displays the fourth way described by Goldman and Papson. The trailer is an ad that carries ideology through culture as it reflects the logic of capital (96). By functioning as a commodity sign with a strong message, the Farmed and Dangerous trailer gives the audience reason to purchase the organic products offered at Chipotle.

-Bianca

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