Taco Bueno has narrowed to five finalists in a review for its $5 million account, the client confirmed last week.
The contenders are Brann Forbes, Levenson & Hill, The Loomis Agency and PGC Advertising, all in Dallas, and Jordan Associates in Oklahoma City, according to a client representative.
The review was sparked by last year's change in ownership at the Mexican fast-food restaurant chain.
Previously, Dallas-based Taco Bueno had worked with Mendelsohn/Zien Advertising in Los Angeles, the agency for former parent company CKE Enterprises. Since being purchased by a New York investment group last June, though, Taco Bueno officials saw conflicts of interest arising at Mendelsohn.
"There were competitive concerns now that we're a stand-alone company and [Mendelsohn] had just picked up the Hardee's account," said Taco Bueno vice president of marketing Scott Terraciano-Spence. "We made a mutual decision to split."
The Los Angeles agency is responsible for Taco Bueno's4-year-old advertising campaign featuring Señor Bueno, a mustached hand puppet who "talks" with the movement ofa thumb.
Terraciano-Spence, who is managing the review process, said the five agencies were given a positioning, rather than a creative, assignment. Presentations will be held Feb. 28-March 1.
"After that we'll see what direction we're going to take with the creative," he said.
Over the last three years, Taco Bueno has moved to contemporize the look and ambiance of its restaurants. Its new signage sports an O-shaped mouth that seems to shout, "Bueno!" Interior elements now include stainless-steel counters, black slate tile and vividly colored modern art.
Taco Bueno's review takes place just weeks after competitor Taco Cabana of San Antonio named McGarrah/Jessee in Austin, Texas, its new agency.
Taco Bueno operates 125 locations in Texas and Oklahoma.