The following may have happened over a month ago, but attention spans are a funny wait hold on…
Attention spans are a funny thing. They keep us from–shit, I’ll be right back.
Okay. Attention spans. We don’t have much of these things anymore! Whether the short-term consequence of too much iPhone time or some scarier rewriting of our fundamental biology triggered by a forever changed information landscape, it’s hard to argue that we’re not the…almost focused people we once were. Be honest: when you see a 5-minute YouTube video, you hesitate to click. It’s too damn long. Consider a 3-hour movie or many-more-hours-long book (fuck THAT), and there’s no point denying it: we’re cat video people now, and if you haven’t gotten our attention in about two minutes then you’re never going to get it.
Hence commercials as our storytelling medium du jour. In 18-20 fewer minutes than you’d spend watching the latest episode of ‘I Hate My Teenage Daughter,’ you can tell a complete story. And in all kinds of genres! “Boys will be boys” Budweiser commercials. American auto industry by way of ‘Friday Night Lights’ Chrysler spots. And sometimes ads that go deeper — videos that accomplish their default surface-level promotion while tapping into something of greater social relevance. The latest addition to the Change.org Commercial Hall of Fame? Chipotle.
Obviously people love both pigs AND twee sensibilities (an upcoming ‘New Girl’ storyline where Jess adopts an albino pig will probably unmake the universe), so the commercial’s aiming at a very calculated sweet spot. But DUH, that’s the definition of “commercial.” And this one hits nowhere near the levels of emotional manipulation found in the “Kony2012” video, instead opting for an almost minimalist approach to getting its message across. In 2 minutes and 20 seconds, you’ve got a visually arresting journey from farm to industrial hell and back to farm again, all done without words (minus Willie Nelson’s cover of “The Scientist”) or the sort of YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF THIS PROBLEM guilt-making so prevalent in similar ads. It’s a socially conscious advertisement from a once-McDonald’s-owned corporation that doesn’t beat you over the head, but let’s you figure out for yourself a) how to feel and b) what to do. Could be nothing! At least you saw a cool stop-motion video with music by Willie Nelson.
As noted by James Poniewozik in a great TIME article,
“…it’s pretty remarkable to see such an eloquent-without-being-strident argument questioning the way our food system is set up being made, in prime time, by a big fast-food (or “fast casual”) company…I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a short film by any advocacy group that was as well-made, well-argued or emotionally on point.”
Google’s been doing it for a while now, but we can add Chipotle to the list of top-flight short-form storytellers doing something to entertain while making us question what’s going on around us. And maybe stop fast-forwarding through our pre-recorded TV shows?
Hahaha come on.