Chipotle's CMO reveals why it's running its first Super Bowl ad, how it's taking more advertising in-house, and how it's preparing for the ad targeting clampdown

  • Chipotle is running its first Super Bowl commercial to promote its environmental initiatives.
  • The chain is using more linear TV in its advertising after shifting to digital channels in 2020.
  • Chipotle is also producing more of its advertising in-house than ever and growing its loyalty program.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Even as regulars like Coca-Cola and Pepsi are steering clear of the Super Bowl this year, Chipotle is making its debut on what is one of the biggest advertising stages for a brand.

Chipotle will run its first Super Bowl commercial during the second quarter of the game.

The 60-second spot will promote Chipotle's initiatives including reducing carbon emissions, preserving water resources, and supporting local farmers and builds on its recent efforts like the "Real Foodprint," a tracker that lets people measure the environmental impact of their orders.

Read more: 11 CMOs reveal how their advertising will change in 2021, from elevating social commerce to pushing issue-related ads

The push comes at a time when brands are increasingly trying to win over consumers by taking stands on issues.

"Our job is to build sales for today and a brand for tomorrow, and advertising in the Super Bowl clearly fits in the latter bucket," Chipotle CMO Chris Brandt told Insider. "Cultivating a better world has been our purpose from the beginning. And the more consumers understand the story of what Chipotle does, the more they'll love the brand."

The spot indicates a change in the brand's media spending back to linear TV, especially tentpole events like the Super Bowl and March Madness, said Brandt. When the pandemic hit, Chipotle shifted its ad spending from TV to digital channels and streaming services like Hulu and Roku.

Read more: Chipotle's digital sales grew 81% during the first quarter even as foot traffic plummeted. Its chief marketing officer reveals how the company got there.

Chipotle produced its own ads during quarantine restrictions at a new production studio in Newport Beach, Calif., with its own equipment and a restaurant replica that allows it to easily produce food photos and videos.

"It's given us a whole new capability, especially in the social and digital world, where the quality is just as good as on TV, but you can just do it at a much lower cost," Brandt said. "We're saving hundreds of thousands of dollars per shoot, and it'll pay big dividends not only this year, but going forward."

Chipotle has also grown its loyalty program to more than 19 million users in 2020 from 8 million users in 2019, helping it boost digital sales and offset losses from foot traffic during the pandemic.

Brandt said Chipotle was also increasingly using this audience in its marketing efforts in preparation for Google and Apple clamping down on ad targeting.

"These are all people who are opting in for our communications, so it gives us a great buffer as privacy regulations make it more difficult to reach people," he said. "It's like having our own content distribution network. With that kind of an install base, we can really move the needle when we push something out."

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