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Taco Bell's Digital Guacamole

Dips heartily into social to debut new appetizers

Can apps sell appetizers? Taco Bell aims to fill its digital belly to find out, launching a campaign today to push new appetizer menu items. It combines a hearty mix of social ads and custom applications on sites like BuzzFeed, Machinima, Facebook, Twitter and Pandora.

Metaphorically, the ad buys would appear to make simple sense because appetizers are normally for sharing—the hallmark trait of the sites involved—among multiple people at a dinner table. Though the campaign juxtaposes that concept, pushing that Taco Bell items are too good to share.

On BuzzFeed, when a viewer mouses over share buttons, a two-second overlay will pop up with copy suggesting that Taco Bell’s new $.99 appetizers called Loaded Grillers aren’t to be shared. The message includes a button that says "Let Me Share This!" Sponsored editorials on the viral content site will center on an “appetizers just for one” theme.

Whether the premise of these so-called native ads is new or not remains a hot-button question in the industry. But Taco Bell is practically drinking the hot sauce when it comes to this campaign. For instance, on Pandora, when users engage with the thumbs up button during the coming weeks, an ad for the Loaded Grillers will appear.

At the same time, this is a layered effort anchored by the brand’s new lead interactive agency Digitas through Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 3). Via games site Machinima, four branded videos will include pre-roll alerting viewers that the content is just for them and isn’t to be shared. It also entails Facebook ads and Promoted Tweets, as well as day-parted banners across the Web, mobile and tablet properties for YouTube, Yelp and PayPal. Addtionally, the brand is the first national advertiser for mobile navigation app Waze, as users will see a branded map pin for every Taco Bell location when searching directions. Credit Taco Bell for cultivating a larger, pro-digital mindset, while employing social sites to counter lawsuits and product rumors during the last two years.

Mark Chambers, Digitas media director, told Adweek that getting his new client on board with all the digital moving parts was easy due to said mindset. He then described the campaign's "don't share" creative that's aimed at 18-34-year-old consumers.

"Loaded Grillers are a product for one," Chambers said. "So we like using that kind of selfish activity in social watering holes."

Between now and Super Bowl XLVII, Taco Bell will push both the Loaded Grillers and Variety Taco 12 Pack items. It's not known whether the brand will run a spot during the big game.

Though the timing and overall media plan revealed today signals a strong play on the last stages of football season. For instance, Taco Bell nabbed ESPN's exclusive College Football Scoreboard broadcast sponsorship for the next, bowl-games-heavy, two-and-a-half weeks that’s supplemented by similar appearances via the cable sports juggernaut’s mobile and Web properties.

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