Taco Bell's Super Bowl Ad Emphasizes Meal Quality

Yum Brands' Taco Bell is using its Super Bowl ad real estate to tout a new menu item, Fiesta Platters. The company's Bowl ad touts the meal as the nearest thing to a Mexican-style dinner north of the border--any border, although not the Brooklyn border.

The $4.99 (Well, all right, make it an even $5) combo meal--which appears on menus beginning on Monday--includes soft tacos or Taco Bell's Grilled Stuft Burrito or Carne Asada Steak, beans, rice and a side of tortilla chips and tangy salsa.

The 30-second HD spot, via Irvine, Calif.-based AOR DraftFCB, shows two frantic factotums late for an office lunch meeting, Fiesta Platters in hand. As usually happens in these situations, the two are stopped dead in their tracks by a Mariachi, who--as those desert-bird noises come up--tells them the meeting can wait. "Fiesta platters are truly meals and meals are meant to be enjoyed," he says as two other musicians stroll in and sit the two down at a table for a proper meal.



When a woman stops to ask what gives, the Mariachi winks at her and says "hola." Voiceover says "Fiesta Platters; get it fast, enjoy it slow," as the girl reappears, shakes her hair loose and says, seductively, "hola!" Tag (in Mexican accent): "Think outside the bun."

Debbie Myers, vice president/media and promotions at the company, says that Taco Bell has advertised in the Super Bowl almost yearly since 2001, always with a focus on a specific menu item.

She says the Fiesta Platters spot will run in the fourth quarter: "Whatever happens, viewers will hang in there, they tune in to watch not just the game, but the ads themselves," she says. "[The Super Bowl] is the consistently highest-rated program of the year, where people--instead of avoiding commercials--are anticipating and looking forward to seeing them."

CMO David Ovens said, in a release, that the company is using its Super Bowl ad buy to focus on product versus branding because of the opportunity to drive immediate sales. "This is our opportunity to drive transactions versus developing a brand-centric spot."

Myers adds that pre-game exposure and the ad during the Super Bowl launch a five-week campaign window for Fiesta Platter that includes advertising on Fox's "American Idol" and during broadcast of the 50th Anniversary Daytona 500. What there won't be is a major online push, because the company is launching a second campaign online, for another product, with another media giant.

"We certainly increased our investment in online," says Myer. "But we tend to look at the Internet more as a way to engage consumers in '360' fashion. For example, our consumers love sports, so we have sports media buys including sponsorships [with professional leagues like MLB and the ESPN X Games] and we fill that in online with media buys on MLB.com, ESPN, Fox Sports." The target, she says, is 18- to-34-year-olds.

The chain is also making a semi-serious play to striking Writers Guild writers: Guild members can win a year's supply of Taco Bell valued at $260 for penning bits of wisdom for on-packet art for its Border Sauces. Taco Bell typically emblazons the packets with such spicy bits of wit as "Nice palm. I see pleasure in your future."

Interested writers may submit their "words of wisdom" by Feb. 24 at tacobell.com/saucyscribe. Proof of membership in the Writers Guild of America is required to participate. Such efforts aren't unusual. Taco Bell last year sent an open letter to Paris Hilton, asking her to volunteer to work in a Taco Bell for three days post incarceration because she'd reportedly asked for Taco Bell once she was released.

Taco Bell, which has 5,846 stores in 14 countries, leads the Mexican QSR segment in the U.S., with 58% market share. It has also been Yum Brands' sales leader, accounting for over half of its U.S. profits. But while Taco Bell enjoyed sales growth from 2001 to 2005, E. coli problems in 2006, followed by rat infestation news in early 2007 put on the brakes. Company-operated same-store sales dropped 11% in 2006.

In the first half of last year, Yum Brands reported U.S. sales and profit growth were below company targets because of Taco Bell. In the third quarter, Yum Brands attributed a 1% decline in U.S. company same-store sales to a 6% decline at Taco Bell. The company will post Q4 results next week.

"Think Outside the Bun" replaced Taco Bell's talking Chihuahua, which was shelved in the late 1990s. Draft FCB became Taco Bell's AOR in 2001.

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