In recent days, I've found myself wondering about and discussing the question: Why does almost all internet advertising suck so badly? Why hasn't anyone figured out how to make it work? Well Chipotle, the ever-more-popular burrito chain, may have just come up with something that works. Or is at least more fun to deal with than dancing housewives under flashing "Obama lowers home rates" script.
The restaurant chain has partnered with entertainment company Piro to produce a 4-part TV series called Farmed and Dangerous, a satirical comedy about factory farming. The series, which will air on Hulu, is not a direct pitch for Chipotle. It has no mention of the company other than "a Chipotle original series." Rather, it seeks to place itself in the center of the discussion surrounding industrial farming, as well as do all the other things good advertising does: create an image of a smart, fun brand that you'd want to be aligned with in some way. Executives told the New York Times that the show was "not about 'product integration,' but 'values integration.'"
The show stars Ray Wise, who is probably best known as Laura Palmer's creepy father on Twin Peaks, and is about an industrial farming company that has a PR problem with exploding cows due to a diet of petroleum. Other topics tackled in the series include the use of antibiotics in meat production, and food libel laws.
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We'll have to wait and see if the series is any good (though from the trailer, which you can watch below, it looks kind of great). But regardless, it's interesting to see a company take things that people actually love about the internet - streaming TV, procrastination opportunities - and turn them into advertising in a way that won't turn consumers off, like so many ads on the internet do. It's also fascinating to see a brand creating content themselves that blurs the lines between advertising and traditional entertainment, rather than just buying ads attached to someone else's content.
Farmed and Dangerous will begin airing on Hulu in February.