Mir’s Deep Impact

}Well, it didn’t happen. But Taco Bell is certainly no worse off.

The fast-food chain’s “buzz mar keting team” is patting itself on the back after last week’s stunt, which promised all Americans a free taco should the Mir space station’s descent bring it crashing into a 40-by-40-foot floating target in the South Pacific, a few miles off the Australian coast.

Anyone who saw Cast Away—or read where the damn thing was expected to land—knew the odds were less than zero. But PR queen Laurie Gannon still insisted last Thursday that Taco Bell was keen to deliver. “We’d love to give everyone a free taco,” she said.

Yeah, whatever. More interesting was the mix of skepticism and grudging admiration ad folks seemed to feel about the stunt.

Larry Postaer of Rubin Postaer and Associates thought it a risky idea. “What happens if it hits Honolulu?” he asked, a bit disturbingly. “What if it hits a Japanese fishing trawler again? I’m sure they’ve got it figured out, but so did that sub commander.”

Others applauded the Taco Bell team, which cut its publicity-stunt teeth in ’96 by claiming it wanted to buy the Liberty Bell and rename it the Taco Bell. “People are tired of seeing advertising. You’re everywhere, and yet you’re hardly seen,” says Team One’s Tom Cordner. But he, too, acknowledged the risks. “It’s like going to Vegas. How do you think you’re going to do at the tables?”