New Plans Afoot for Taco Bell Ads

Client Meets With TBWA/C/D to Discuss Future Direction
LOS ANGELES–Taco Bell and TBWA/Chiat/Day are discussing the future of the popular talking
Chihuahua campaign. As a result of the evaluation, the campaign could follow a new direction by early 2000, sources said.
Taco Bell’s new chief marketing officer Kip Knight wants to “bring food back front and center” in the campaign, as well as possibly introduce a tagline, said sources. Another source added that the client wants to focus more on price.
By all indications, “Gidget,” the dog and his “Yo quiero Taco Bell” phrase are safe. Recent work has focused on the Taco Bell Phantom Menace cross-promotion, which was widely regarded as a flop.
Meeting with TBWA/C/D last week with Taco Bell’s Knight was CEO Peter Waller, vp of brand communications Cindy Hearn and vp of consumer insights and brand planning Lynda Firey-Oldroyd. Tom Carroll, president and CEO of the Los Angeles office, attended from the agency along with account director Pam Keehn and creative directors Chuck Bennett and Clay Williams.
The arrival of Knight, 42, in the chief marketing officer post sparked a reassessment of all Taco Bell creative work, said sources. Knight took over the post in June following the departure of Vada Hill for a top marketing position at Fannie Mae. Knight, a former Procter & Gamble executive, joined Taco Bell’s U.S. unit after a nine-year stint in parent company Tricon Global Restaurants’ international operations.
It is no secret that Foote, Cone & Belding, which handles media planning and field marketing on the $200 million account, has been continually trying to woo the client over TBWA/C/D’s turf. Taco Bell firmly denied that any changes were in the works: “Chiat/Day is an excellent strategic and creative partner and we have no plans to change that relationship,” said a representative of the Irvine, Calif.-based client.
In August 1994, Taco Bell ended a six-year relationship with FCB and split its business between The Richards Group and Bozell (now FCB’s sister shop under True North). In 1997, TBWA/C/D won the creative assignment without a review.
Taco Bell posted a slim same-store sales increase of 1 percent in the second quarter versus 3 percent for the period a year ago. The increase trailed a 9 percent increase at Pizza Hut and 2 percent at KFC.
–with Michael McCarthy and T.L. Stanley