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"Advertising & entertainment are miles apart" - Piro’s Tim Piper talks success of Chipotle’s ‘branded enterainment’ series

Speaking at a ‘Best of Branded Content Marketing’ panel in New York, Piro’s founding partner Tim Piper discussed creating Chipotle’s ‘Farmed and Dangerous’ series that debuted last year on Hulu, and stated his belief that brands and entertainment networks could not co-create content.

When the company initially began working on the branded content series for the Mexican chain, Piper said it was important for Chipotle to identify its enemies if they wanted to tell a good story that people would actually want to watch.

“It’s the industrial guys,” Piper said. “People don’t understand how much oil is used in industrial agriculture.” Since Chipotle bills itself as an environmentally friendly, antibiotic-free chain that sources its meat “from farms rather than factories,” the brand decided to go with a series that satirizes giant agribusinesses’ attempts to put their food offerings in a positive light.

The four-episode series is available on Hulu - where Piper quipped that “companies are paying to advertise Chipotle.” He added that the brand has received an 800 per cent return on investment from the show.

Although many marketers are wary of jumping into projects like this one that don’t include typical ‘Brought To You By’ messages and direct references to the brand, Piper said Chipotle was eager to create something that was truly entertaining and didn’t have the feel of an advertisement.

“They made us more nervous than we made them,” he said. Yet even as big brands like Chipotle start to get more comfortable with the idea of “branded entertainment” and agencies are keen to work on it, Piper said he thinks the concept still has a long way to go since advertising agencies are still figuring out how to best tell a company’s story.

“For me, advertising and entertainment are miles apart. I think the divide will remain for a while,” he said. “In advertising, people are thrilled if an ad goes viral or even gets watched. Then there’s a few thousand people in LA who create work that people pay to go and see.”

Piro also created Chipotle’s Halloween ad this year.