Advertising continues to become more interactive, so it seems a tad archaic to focus this list solely on commercials. However, from Madison Avenue’s concerns over campaign’s potential to leverage across digital mediums arises a disconnect between a campaign’s virtual and concrete messages.

Take, for example, Air New Zealand’s banner adabout their premium economy seats, which claims nothing will invade my personal space—except for tapas. While punching “space invaders” is all fun and games, by the time I click away I’ve already forgotten what airline the ad is for. In the online world of immediate gratification, the powers of the interactive being wielding by Mad Men have further alienated the core purpose of advertising—selling a brand.

Granted, there is some great work being done in the interactive realms, but what elevates a good ad to a great ad is not only the ability to catch your attention within seconds—but to make you feel or think something you’ve never felt or thought before. In Chrysler’s case, this was Detroit. For Google, they changed the definition of “scrapbooking.” And the Dead Island game trailer utterly transformed what gaming spots are capable of.

However, only one commercial not only communicated its message but also answered it: Chipotle’s “Back to the Start.”

Chipotle has long pioneered the use of organic, locally grown ingredients in fast food, and with this spot, by filmmaker Johnny Kelly, the company has artfully depicted its emphasis on developing a sustainable food system. Over the transcendent vocals of Willie Nelson covering Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and breathtaking stop-motion animation, the spot tells the simple story of a farmer who slowly turns his family farm into an industrial machine before realizing his mistakes and opting for a more sustainable future.

However, as its tagline, “Cultivate a Better World,” appeared and the scene faded to black, I wondered: did I know where my food came from? Was it grown locally, or was it shipped from some industrial monolith in the middle of Nebraska? Why do I shop at the A&P instead of the Union Square Farmer’s Market? Am I part of the problem?

I knew I was getting ahead of myself, but the ad did what not many ads successfully accomplish: it made me feel a little bit stupid. And this wasn’t an ad written by a group of young copywriters in a room cracking jokes and talking about movies (no offense, Luke Sullivan) but by people who truly cared about the campaign’s core message. Maybe I’m a sucker for empathy, but I was sold at “I’m going back to the start…”

(And I can’t sign off without pointing out the sheer calamitous defiling that is Luvs’ “Poop There It Is.” How? Why? We’ll never know…)

Justin Alvarez

José Castrellón is a Panamanian photographer who identifies with cultural changes and the impact they have on different places. For more of his work, including Priti Baiks, check out his website. Justin Alvarez is an editorial assistant at Guernica. Read more about him here.

At Guernica, we’ve spent the last 15 years producing uncompromising journalism.

More than 80% of our finances come from readers like you. And we’re constantly working to produce a magazine that deserves you—a magazine that is a platform for ideas fostering justice, equality, and civic action.

If you value Guernica’s role in this era of obfuscation, please donate.

Help us stay in the fight by giving here.