Chipotle - Back to the Start (2011)

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Chipotle - Back to the Start
Poetry comes in many forms. Sometimes it comes in stanzas, and other times, through song. On rare occasions, poetry comes in the form of an ad. Enter Chipotle's "Back to the Start." While Chipotle might scream "massive corporation" to some, this campaign helped to humanize the brand for many consumers, and served to clarify what the brand hopes fans will see as a fundamental difference between themselves, and every other fast casual dining outlet. The spot ended with a call to action — though, Chipotle sold it as more of a call to arms — "cultivate a better world." Now that's a message that anyone can get behind.

Why We Love Back to the Start

A. It's daring

A two-minute spot that doesn’t make a single product mention? It’s easy to imagine the higher-ups at Chipotle HQ feeling a bit apprehensive about the notion, but given the result, it’s clear that they gave CAA Marketing a lot of creative freedom in bringing this piece over the finish line.

B. It spans generational interest

Coldplay’s modern-classic helps reel in millennials, while Willie Nelson helps the spot appeal to an older generation. When the music is juxtaposed with the toddler-friendly animation, it’s easy to see how Back to the Start was able to reach so many people.

C. It's a winner

Winning an award at Cannes is something in and of itself, but this spot didn’t just win any award. It won Cannes’ coveted Grand Prix in Branded Content in Advertising. It’s an infamously tough bar to hurdle — so difficult, in fact, that many years, there isn’t even a winner picked from the thousands of entries.

What We Can Learn From Back to the Start

1. Irk the opposition

Don’t be afraid to piss off the competition. Chipotle’s self-stated goal was to “cultivate a better world,” and Fast Company writes that the day after Back to the Start’s Grammy Award debut, “McDonald’s announced it would cease all pig confinement operations.”

2. Tell stories

Sure, there’s a place in the world for your “three easy payments of $19.99” products — but try telling a story sometime. It’s no mystery that an emotional appeal does wonders to sell product, and that can be tough to achieve without a tale worth retelling.

3. Trust your agency

It’s pretty rare to hire a plumber to then micromanage him, but for whatever reason, it’s really common to hire an agency to then make every call. Avoid micromanaging to get the best work out of your creative agency. After all, that’s what you hired them for — right?

Key Moments

February 12, 2012
Show Stopper

The ad aired during the 2012 Grammy's, just after Coldplay's live performance. It was the chain's first national TV ad.

June 2012
Yes You Canne

The film wins the 2012 Grand Prix for Film and Grand Prix for Branded Content and Entertainment in the Cannes International Festival of Creativity.

August 2012

The two-minute spot is released online and airs in 5,700 movie theaters.



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