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.
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.