Taco Bell Debuts Spicy Fried Chicken Shell Chalupa at New York Speakeasy

Latest zany menu item is here

Headshot of Christine Birkner

From the Doritos Locos taco to the cheese-stuffed Quesalupa, which debuted at last year's Super Bowl, Taco Bell is known for creating wacky yet often pretty delicious menu items that get its fans talking.

The fast-food chain is at it again—this time, with a chalupa shell made of fried chicken. The Naked Chicken Chalupa—available nationwide for the next five weeks and boasting a spicy fried chicken shell filled with lettuce, tomato, cheese and avocado ranch sauce—is Taco Bell's attempt to capitalize on the growing popularity of fried chicken in the QSR segment.

One TV spot for the chalupa compares it to other seemingly crazy inventions throughout history, like the car, rock 'n' roll and the internet.

At the center of its promotional campaign, developed by Deutsch L.A., is the fictional Council for Eating Fried Chicken the Same Way You Always Have.

A website and Twitter account for the "council," as well as a TV spot, are modeled after propaganda PSAs from the '50s, except instead of warning against the dangers of sex, drugs or communism, the ads promote eating traditional, safe fried chicken dinners, warning against the chalupa's "rebel shell … a delicious, golden brown nightmare … that continues to plague the nation."

Callers to a toll-free hotline, 1-844-DRUMSTK, will hear automated messages from the council. Callers can press 1 for "tips on how to recognize warning signs of naked chicken chalupa consumption" or press 4 to "learn what you can do to help combat the naked chicken chalupa menace." 

"We're trolling ourselves with this council in an amazingly distinctive style," said Marisa Thalberg, Taco Bell's CMO.

Taco Bell brought the fictional council to life this week in New York with a pop-up event, the Taco Bell Speakeasy. Fans entered the fictional council, tricked out in 1950s-era décor and fried chicken propaganda posters, and then went behind a mystical purple door to enter the speakeasy, where they could sample the chalupa and sip on specialty tequila and vodka cocktails.

"For these big launches, we want to be brilliant in the expected ways, like on TV, but also in unexpected ways, like an event that's a speakeasy, or the 800 number or Twitter feed," Thalberg said. "All of it supports the idea that this product is delicious and people are going to want to try it."

The Council for Eating Fried Chicken the Same Way You Always Have comes to life at the pop-up.


Thalberg said there's "not really a playbook" for why the brand is sitting out the Big Game this year. Taco Bell's last big product launch, the Quesalupa, took place during last year's Super Bowl. The brand slowly rolled out the cheese-filled concoction by releasing a redacted press release for its Super Bowl spot, which featured James Harden and soccer star Neymar.

"If people were expecting us to be in the Super Bowl, in a way, it's a reason for us not to be in the Super Bowl," she said. "I'm totally glad we did it last year, and I'm completely satisfied with the fact that we're not doing it this year. For us, it's not about being in the Super Bowl; it's about having a big launch." 


Client Credits:

Chief Marketing Officer: Marisa Thalberg    

Brand Creative Director: Tracee Larocca    

Manger, Advertising: Brian Darney

Associate Manager, Advertising: Kenny Heinau

Food Consultant: Carolyn Avelino


Deutsch Credits and Titles:

Creative Credits:

Chief Creative Officer, North America: Pete Favat

Executive Creative Director:  Brett Craig   

Executive Creative Director: Bob Cianfrone   

Creative Director:  Ken Slater

Creative Director: Rich Ford

Art Director: Albert Breitwieser

Copywriter: Bobby O'Neill   

Director of Integrated Production: Vic Palumbo

Executive Integrated Producer: Paul Roy  

Senior Integrated Producer: Jamie Gartner      

Music Supervisor:  Eryk Rich

Audio Producer: Chase Butters     


Account Management Credits:

Group Account Director: Walter Smith       

Account Director: Kristie Weston   

Account Supervisor: Kelly Childers    

Senior Account Executive: Chelle Toulouse   

Assistant Account Executive: Estevan Palomino  

Account Planning: 

Co-Director of Strategy:  Lindsey Allison   

Associate Strategy Director: Armando Potter 


Business Affairs/Traffic:

Director of Integrated Business Affairs:  Abilino Guillermo

Executive Business Affairs Manager: Ken Rongey    

Director or Broadcast Traffic: Carie Bonillo

Associate Broadcast Traffic Manager: Anna Brito

Associate Broadcast Traffic Manger: Ana Barraza   



CEO, North America:  Mike Sheldon

President, Los Angeles:  Kim Getty

Live Action Production Company

Production Company:  Gifted Youth

Director: Peter Atencio

Executive Producer: Dal Wolf

EP of Production: Anthony Ficalora

Producer: Stephan Mohammed

Editorial Company

Production Company:  Cut+Run

Editor: Frank Effron

Assistant Editor: Tim Sekiguchi

Executive Producer: Amburr Farls

Producer:  Jared Thomas

Post Facility

Production Company:  C03

Senior Colorist:  Dave Hussey


Production Company:  Method

Executive Producer:  Robert Owens

Producer: Stephanie Allis

Lead Flame Artist: Thomas Downs

Licensed/Composed Music, Credits and Track Info:

Motive Music

Audio Post Company:

Production Company  Lime

Executive Producer: Susie Boyajan

Mixer: Mark Meyuhas

Assistant Mixer: Peter Lapinski

@ChristineBirkne christine.birkner@adweek.com Christine Birkner is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers marketing and advertising.