World’s best ads ever #75: Chipotle looks to the future by going ‘Back to the Start’
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
Great, impactful stories, no matter their medium, change our perspectives and get us to think in ways we haven’t before. That’s exactly what makes Chipotle’s advert ‘Back to the Start’ great, impactful – and the burrito chain’s most famous yet.
The stop-motion short, directed by Nexus Studios’ Johnny Kelly and released in 2011, follows a family farmer who industrializes his once-pastoral livelihood. However, he eventually realizes the errors of his ways and decides to bring his farm back to its traditional, sustainable methods. The two-minute, 19-second spot also featured country music legend Willie Nelson’s rendition of The Scientist by Coldplay.
In Chipotle’s first ad since its 1993 inception, viewers were compelled to think about where their food comes from, how we treat it and how we should treat the planet in the future. The film closes on a sign that urges its audience to ‘cultivate a better world’.
“A brand can be a force for good as long as the company is a force for good, and if what they’re saying is actually what they’re doing,” CAA’s then co-chief creative officer Jesse Coulter said about the campaign in a YouTube Advertisers clip. “Overall, Chipotle really wants to change the way people think and eat fast food.”
‘Back to the Start’ doesn’t feel like an ad for a fast-food restaurant – and why should it? By positioning itself as an organization that cares about the respect and integrity of its food at every stage, Chipotle showed that it’s imagining not only a different quality of food but a different quality of life for the future.
The chain also took a completely different approach with the campaign’s rollout. The film premiered exclusively on YouTube, where it went viral. It then spent eight weeks running on more than 10,000 theatrical screens nationwide, before running at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards to an audience of over 40 million viewers. It also won the Clio in Film at the 2012 Clio Awards.
In 2021, exactly a decade after the release of ‘Back to the Start’, Chipotle released ‘A Future Begins’. Another stop-motion piece, the ad echoes its most famous film, whose message still remains relevant.