What’s Wrong With This Chipotle Commercial?

The song is too sad.
Most of the spot focuses on the negative.
The animation style is weird.
It’s too long.
I don’t know what the product is until the very end.
There’s no strong call-to-action.
Where the hell is the food? You can’t have a food commercial and not show food?
People don’t like to be reminded that their food comes from animals.
Willie Nelson is too old for the target market.
Willie Nelson is too country for the target market.
It reminds us of what’s wrong with things.
It could be for any farm-fresh product.
There’s no voice-over walking us through Chipotle’s philosophy.
The cows in the good half are square. Square reminds me of boxes, which aren’t natural.
The length isn’t good for television, and if we don’t run it on television who’s going to see it?
The farmer is too fat.

I’m sure there are more. What else?

Animation

I’m working on another spot that consists mostly of animation and computer-generated imagery. I’ve done this a few times in my career, and each time I’m reminded of how different a beast it can be from the normal production process. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a really fun process and allows you to do some things you never could with live action, but it can be really frustrating if you don’t have your ducks in a line, or if everyone doesn’t understand how the process works.

Animation is like building a building. Each step depends on the previous steps. If you get to the fifth floor and decide you don’t like the first floor, you have to tear the whole thing down. For example, let’s say you’re animating a cartoon character onto a shot with a live-action person. On Monday you and your client approve the edit, basically saying you like a certain take of the live-action person. Then the animators start the rough animation process. They work all week on it. Then on Friday, the client changes their mind and decides that they’re not crazy about the look on the live-action person’s face and want another take in there. You’ve just lost a week.

This is a pretty common scenario, and it makes agencies, animators, and probably everyone else want to pull their hair out. Here’s a few tips for how to avoid this:

1) Prepare the client. In one regard, YOU are the client, so you must prepare yourself as well. Along with your creative director. And your client client. It’s worth having a meeting up front that walks through how the animation process works and emphasizes that once a decision is made, you can’t go back. Use the building analogy. And repeat every meeting, “After we decide this, we can’t go back.”

2) Manage expectations. Animation is about baby steps. There are no big “wow” moment, because each time you see something, it’s only changed a little since you saw it last. Keep this in mind, and make sure the client knows this. You will come a very long way from start to finish, but the process is one step at a time.

3) Be crystal clear what’s being decided with each meeting. There are a ton of potential disractions with each review of the cut. At the beginning of the meeting, make sure it’s clear what everyone is looking at. If they’re judging just the animation of the fish, kindly remind everyone to focus on just the fish when they ask if the clouds in the background are finished. The fish is the only thing that exists.

4) Make sure everyone is speaking the same language. Odds are, your client doesn’t know a wireframe model from a model airplane. Make sure you have a grasp of the process, then break it down for them in their terms. Use analogies (this is like the studs of the house, and this is like the drywall, etc.). Or get the animation company to help break it down for you. Just make sure everyone is talking about the same thing.

5) Make sure the decision-makers have the power to make the decisions. This is the big one. One client might be okay with something, but their boss isn’t. Or their boss’s boss. Or the CEO. It doesn’t matter. Whoever the decision-maker is going to be, they need to be involved when the decision is made. Get them in the room, or find some way to get a rough cut in front of them.

6) Be patient. You’re asking people to imagine a lot. There will be indecision. There will be a lot of questions, and a lot of what you might consider hand-holding. Just expect this. Be clear, be patient, and be organized. If you do all these things, it’ll help everything run more smoothly.

Art Directors and Animation

An art director friend is currently working on some animated TV spots. (There are two things most portfolio schools don’t really prepare you for: TV and animation.) He sent me the following thoughts:

More and more agencies are becoming digital and more and more digital shops are becoming AOR’s. [If you doubt this, check out Fallon’s new tool Skimmer. Ad agency as a web developer? Very cool.] So, what does this mean for Art Directors? They need to understand animation, be able to talk about it, share ideas about it, understand what it looks like. You get the point. They aren’t going to have to animate anything, they have developers and animators for that. Although, it wouldn’t hurt. However, AD’s will need to know how to talk with an animator and come up with ideas of how the animation works and what it looks like. The animator will have ideas on how something works, as well. But, it’s the AD’s responsibility to have the final product look like the way that they want it. This I didn’t know until I got here.

So what does this mean if you’re in portfolio school? Start by understanding the things you watch. Be able to communicate an idea. Don’t rely on adjectives like “cool” to do the heavy lifting. So much of this job is persuading. And so much of persuading is being able to communicate clearly.