Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Chris Darkes, Sara Honchar, Joe Giorgi and Brittany Samson.
Creators of
Just the Fax, first-place winner in the Chipotle video ad contest, are (left to right) Chris Darkes, Sara Honchar, Joe Giorgi and Brittany Samson.

To obtain a print-quality JPEG of this photo, contact the Office of Public Affairs at (815) 753-1681 or e-mail

News Release

Contact: Laura Vazquez, NIU Department of Communication
(815) 766-0577

November 15, 2007

Team of NIU students grabs top prize
in Chipotle advertising contest

DeKalb, Ill. — For four Northern Illinois University students and their professor, life isn’t just good. It is, as the advertising jingle goes, burritoful.

That was evident late this morning as a collective gasp could be heard coming from the video editing lab in Watson Hall. Two teams of NIU students, both finalists in Chipotle Mexican Grill’s student advertising contest, “30 Seconds of Fame,” had gathered for a conference call to learn the contest results.

Like a hot pepper with some kick, the gasp was followed by a collective scream.

“Just the fax”—a video ad produced by students Chris Darkes of Schaumburg, Brittany Samson of Huntley, Sara Honchar of Freeport and Joe Giorgi of Rockford— took home top honors in the contest.

The NIU team of students will split the first-place prize of $15,000 with a student team from Chapman University. Additionally, NIU will get $7,500 from Chipotle. Video entries from all 12 finalists are posted on Chipotle’s Web site at

Chipotle’s internal marketing team selected the two first-place video spots, said Chris Arnold, Chipotle public relations director.

Judges looked for creativity and originality, consistency with brand and production value. They found all of the above in “Just the Fax.” The spot uses no dialogue while telling the story of a famished officer worker (played by Darkes) whose Chipotle burrito order arrives in a rather unconventional way.

“We like the focused approach it took on promoting one element of our business, that being the fax-ordering capabilities,” Arnold said. “We thought the production value was really top notch, and the subtle humor really fit our personality and culture. It was a really good spot across the board.”

Arnold said Chipotle representatives, who will visit campus to deliver the prize money, don’t have specific plans for how the first-place ads might be used.

Last year’s winning spots were displayed during the holidays on the big screen in New York City’s Times Square. One of the spots also ran during the BCS championship football game, and some were used in movie-theater advertising.

The idea for the “Just the Fax” entry came to Darkes in a dream, he said. The NIU students filmed their ad in the Experiential Learning Center in the College of Business.

“We had a really good feeling about our spot,” Darkes said. “We’re so excited that NIU (media production) is now on the map.”

“It’s a huge thrill,” added Sara Honchar. “I was confident we had done a really good job, but I had no idea.”

Communication Professor Laura Vazquez, who advises the NIU Student Film and Video Association and teaches courses in media production, could hardly contain her exuberance once the conference call concluded. The NIU students were competing against peers from universities with larger advertising and video-production programs.

“How exciting is that?’ she told the students as the conference call concluded and high fives and hugs were exchanged. “We’re up there with the top dogs—and we’re winning.”

“Steak dinners on Vazquez,” one student chimed in.

Make that steak burritos.