To promote the documentary “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!,” agency Humanaut and director Morgan Spurlock are opening a fast-food chicken restaurant in New York.
The pop-up, which runs through Sept. 22, is feeding patrons while educating them on the myth of “natural, free-range, hormone-free chicken sandwiches.”
The original “Super Size Me” movie took McDonald’s to task for upselling bigger, cheaper burgers to a consumer market that was indexing higher for obesity, diabetes and other health issues. Since then, and partly in response to that film, McDonald’s and other fast-food brands have turned to marketing their menu items as healthier, fresher and more sustainable.
In the sequel, Spurlock keeps after the corporate food giants and takes aim at this whole new wave of marketing tricks.
“Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!,” distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films, opened in New York City and Los Angeles on Sept. 6. It opens in additional markets and on-demand Sept. 13.
Humanaut built the Holy Chicken! brand featured in the documentary as well as all assets for the pop-up shop, from the cartoon chicken mascot and the Instagram-friendly décor to the artful explanations of the adspeak to the design of all cups, signs, tray liners and other collateral. The shop’s founders, David Littlejohn and Andrew Clark, are featured in the film as Morgan’s insider guide to the “health halo” created by food marketers.
The biggest thing that has changed about cheap fast food in 15-years since the first movie is how cheap fast food is marketed, said David Littlejohn Humanaut’s co-founder and chief creative director.
“We’ve been fighting the BS in food marketing since we opened shop,” Littlejohn say in a release. “We couldn’t be more excited to help build the world’s most honest brand while entertaining and educating people about the deceptive practices used by the fast-food and advertising industries.”
At the Holy Chicken! pop-up at 18 W. 23rd St., customers can order the Original Grilled Crispy Chicken Sandwich (with painted-on “gryll” marks), Li’l Cluckers Chicken Tenders, veggie sides and “Holy Water” seen in the film from a deliberately sparse (“has an appearance of quality”) menu. The shop will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Decorative store signage delivered in a faux farm-to-table aesthetic points out the ways restaurants have adapted the way they sell their food to appeal to more conscious consumers by crafting positive-sounding phrases in handwritten type and environmentally friendly green hues. A small floor map notes the amount of space a farm is required to claim that its chickens are raised “free-range.”
While restaurant brands’ actual improvements to food quality and ethics varies widely, the terms they use to signal this shift -- such as “natural,” “transparent” and “artisanal” -- are unregulated.
“What this means is that the fast-food business is still cultivating and profiting from its customers’ own worst eating habits, only now they’re helping them feel better about it by dressing it up as something “good” for themselves and society, says Andrew Clark, Humanaut co-founder and chief strategist, in a release.