Inside a Consumer-Generated Campaign

Kent State Students Compete to Create a Chipotle Ad

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NEW YORK ( -- Matt Eck recently constructed a 4-foot football-shaped burrito out of electrical tubing, chicken wire and aluminum foil. Why? He's hoping to become one of those consumers who generate content for a marketer.
Chipotle is sponsoring a contest asking college students to create a TV ad for the burrito chain.
Chipotle is sponsoring a contest asking college students to create a TV ad for the burrito chain.

The burrito came into existence as part of an assignment for his video-field-production class at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. But in addition to an "A," Mr. Eck hopes his homework turns out to be worth $10,000.

Maximum creativity
That's what's at stake in a nationwide ad contest run by Chipotle Mexican Grill. Mr. Eck and his classmates are competing against 21 other colleges nationwide, including University of Kansas and University of Missouri. The promotion asks students to create 30-second commercials with minimal guidelines in hopes of churning out maximum creativity. The winning team is awarded $10,000 in cash, an exclusive run of their ad on the Chipotle website and the possibility of it appearing on national TV. An additional $10,000 will be donated to the winning college's film or advertising department.

While Mr. Eck had a few ideas on how he would spend his Chipotle winnings -- "probably just use it for bills, school and stuff like that," he said -- the secondary segment of the contest is particularly appealing to him. Beginning Oct. 24, Chipotle will air all 22 schools' spots during a special YouTube promotion called 30 Seconds of Fame ( The most-streamed clip will be crowned the fan favorite and its creators will take home a $5,000 cash prize, as well as some serious internet notoriety.

"The best part of it is having the recognition that comes with YouTube," Mr. Eck said. "You get the bragging rights to say, 'Hey, go check out my commercial.'"

Only one national spot
Viral marketing has been a key part of Chipotle's marketing success. The restaurant chain has aired only one national TV ad -- on PBS -- in its 13-year history.

"There's a lot of ramifications that go with TV," said Jim Adams, Chipotle's marketing and public relations director. "It can get a little addictive and can be expensive. There hasn't been a real compelling need to use it yet."

However, Mr. Adams said, if the students "give us something fantastic we'd be happy to run it" on national TV.

'A small baby, too'
For his team's spot, Mr. Eck constructed the burrito to illustrate one of three alternate uses of Chipotle's signature dish. The life-size food was one of the team's more off-the-wall ideas that made the cut. "We thought about maybe using the burrito as a car jack and a small baby, too," Mr. Eck said.

Another Kent competitor, sophomore Will Dages, chose to play off Chipotle's "food with integrity" slogan.

"So we wondered, 'What would a food that didn't have integrity do?'" Mr. Dages said.

He and teammate Mike Mitchell depicted a hamburger stealing his roommate's wallet and taking it to the mall. What exactly does a burger buy on shopping sprees?

"All new condiments, of course," Mr. Dages said.
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