In the short film “The Scarecrow,” the titular character lives in a world where most of the food is genetically modified. Refusing to continue the cycle of animal abuse, he decides to show his fellow residents that they don’t need to continue to eat unnatural food.
The last scenes of the video remind viewers that they can download a game which allows the player to help the hero reach his objective. Then, in a surprising twist, the clip reveals that the whole project is really an ad for food retailer Chipotle.
Directors Brandon Oldenburg and Limbert Fabian of Moonbot Studios were approached by the agency CAA to develop the project after they released “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” another project the combines traditional animation and an interactive game.
“I think there is a trend which is exciting,” Oldenburg explained to Metro World News. “Advertising isn’t necessarily showing you what it is selling. It’s now engaging with the appropriate audience in an effective way.”
Chipotle told them they wanted to start in a conversation about food, farming and where products came from. The two said they never forced them to find a way to encourage viewers to buy more burritos.
“They were more focused on what was the best story to tell, instead of ‘Hey we have to make sure this is a great viral campaign. We have to hit these targets,’” Fabian added.
After given three prospective scripts, the team decided to combine elements to create a whimsical story about a worker scarecrow being pestered by an evil crow. The scarecrow not only made sense from an agricultural standpoint, but it added a sense of nostalgia for old cinema, which the two men shared.
They tried multiple songs as the soundtrack before settling on “Pure Imagination,” which was performed by Fiona Apple. The song starts slow and almost grim, but picks up the pace and becomes more enthusiastic when the scarecrow decides to make a stand.
“For us as animators, we want to tell a story without words, (and) lyrics become the script for the film,” Oldenburg explained. “That was the missing piece for a long time.”
Both Oldenburg and Fabian hope that more companies decide to give art-based interactive videos and apps a try as a way to appeal to their customers. They say it’s an exciting new experimental field, and it may be a way to connect on an emotional level with customers instead of just shoveling products at them.
But, if learning an educational message isn’t enough to encourage for most viewers to watch the video and play the game, companies can always offer the traditional incentives.
“Try the game. It doesn’t take that long until you get that coupon for that buy one get one free burrito,” Oldenburg said jokingly.