The big winner at the Cannes Lions Advertising festival in 2014 is Chipotle’s Scarecrow. The film is a beautiful story about a Scarecrow who is disillusioned with his society and want to live and share a better way of living. The idea has won such praise not just because of its storytelling brilliance, but because of its excellent activation across so many different platforms and screens. The work is stunning. Yet when I look at the work, I see an interesting similarity with Happiness Factory, the creative work that kick-started Coca-Cola’s creative re-birth and but the Brand on the path to becoming Advertiser of Year last year at Cannes. (see both creative works below).
Let me explain why there are similarities. First, the mere executional approach alone. Both have chosen an obscure animation set in a fantastical land to bring to life their stories. Somehow this approach allows for a very rich immersion into the emotions of the characters and a surprising alertness to the core messages in the narrative. Moreover, the beauty in the extreme craft of both films ensures that you remember it and think fondly of it.
Second, both are very big stories that are easily amplified. Both follow a core protagonist through a very interesting world where he (or “it” in the case of the Coke bottle) experiences a vast array of experiences that can easily be translated into other bits of content, be it shorter films, new stories, games, etc. These are very liquid ideas that have enough fodder to engage the creative juice of anyone who touches it.
Thirdly, both films have characters that you can truly relate with and easily love. All the charming bizarre characters in Happiness Factory who each played a very specific role in the journey of the bottle leaned into very specific archetypes and thus viewers couldn’t help but identify with them, have empathy, and route for them. The same holds true with the Scarecrow work. You cannot help but route for the hero, but also connect with the emotions of those that he interacts with – the other workers, the cows, etc.
Lastly, both Scarecrow and Happiness Factory lean into higher order human and cultural needs that are incredibly timely. For Coke it was championing happiness. For Chipotle it is cultivating a better world. The idea of happiness for Coke has always been part of the Brand but has been incredibly resonant since the world changed after 911 and the stock crash. Much negativity, corruption, violence, and so on has ballooned across the world. Culture needs a higher order to say “come on, let’s seek out the good, and let’s even create some”. In the case of cultivating a better world, Chipotle seems to have tapped into a sentiment that is in full swing thanks to a health and wellness movement that is in full swing, a desire to get back to simpler and more natural living, and a more just and healthy and honest culture. In other words, both are tapping into a current zeitgeist.
Given Coke’s tremendous success, Chipotle should leverage this gem that it has created as a springboard towards creative excellence. It now has a lighthouse to guide it as it starts making a real impact in the world which will not just make it the admiration of the creative community but will also have a notable positive impact on the bottom line.