Anti-advertising is the New Advertising

A great essay over at Aeon Magazine reveals how the establishment wants you to know they have gone total anti-establishment and hey, buy our product, we’re on your side!

In 1796, the English physician Edward Jenner injected an eight-year-old boy in Gloucestershire with cowpox. Reasoning that absorbing a small amount of the virus would protect the child from a full-strength attack of smallpox in the future, Jenner’s bold experiment founded the practice of vaccination. Two hundred years later, the marketing industry has cottoned on to Jenner’s insight: a little bit of a disease can be a very useful thing.

If you’re one of the more than 7 million people who have watched the global fast-food chain Chipotle’s latest advertisement, you’ll have experienced this sleight of hand for yourself. The animated short film — accompanied by a smartphone game — depicts a haunting parody of corporate agribusiness: cartoon chickens inflated by robotic antibiotic arms, scarecrow workers displaced by ruthless automata. Chipotle’s logo appears only at the very end of the three-minute trailer; it is otherwise branding-free. The motivation for this big-budget exposé? ‘We’re trying to educate people about where their food comes from,’ Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing officer at Chipotle, told USA Today, but ‘millennials are sceptical of brands that perpetuate themselves’.

Never mind that Chipotle itself — with more than 1,500 outlets across the US, and an annual turnover of $278 million — is hardly treading lightly on the world’s agricultural system. The real story is that the company is using a dose of anti-Big Food sentiment to inoculate the viewer against not buying any more of its burritos. Chipotle are very happy to sell the idea that they’re on our side if it helps to keep the millennials happy. If it’s advertising we don’t like, then it’s advertising we won’t get…

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    Well played, Dr. Cynico.

    Torture yourself needlessly, if you like. But for my part, I prefer to believe that large, impersonal and unwieldy corporations excessively dependent upon ephemeral changes in capital markets have my best interests at heart.

  • Haystack

    “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.” — Jean Giraudoux

  • http://pneumerology.com/ pneumerology

    My current favorites:
    MediaCom trying to humanize their commercial spokeswoman, I’m guessing because “Flo” has been so popular and resembles an actual human being. Still, the contempt the spokeswoman has for regular folks is apparent. But then, she might be a robot.

    Telecom/smart phone sellers attacking themselves for locking customers into long contracts and now offering freedom from those evil people.

    Corporate Autoimmune Disorder

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