TBWA C/D Taps Keehn For Taco Bell

Agency Makes a Talking Dog the New ‘Brand Icon’ for the Chain

LOS ANGELES–TBWA Chiat/Day has named a new account manager on its $200 million Taco Bell business as the agency prepares to turn a talking chihuahua into the star of its campaign for the fast-food chain.
Pam Keehn, the U.S. account director on the agency’s $250 million Nissan Motor Corp. U.S.A. business for the last six years, will assume the same role on the Taco Bell account, effective Jan. 5.
“The [account] needs somebody of her ability and caliber to lead it,” said John Truscott of the agency’s Venice, Calif., office. Keehn will report to Truscott, who was named co-managing director along with Steve Goldman earlier this year after Bob Kuperman was promoted to president and chief executive of TBWA Chiat/Day North America. Anne Truscott, acting account director on Taco Bell, will concentrate on her role as account planning director on the business.
Goldman will assume Keehn’s Nissan duties temporarily as the agency searches for a successor. The new account director will report to Goldman and Tom Patty, president and worldwide account director on Nissan.
Separately, the agency’s creative directors on Taco Bell, Clay Williams and Chuck Bennett, have decided to gear the next phase of the campaign around the talking chihuahua, sources said, due to the popularity of a previous spot featuring the dog.
The dog, known for its “Yo quiero Taco Bell” phrase, will become the chain’s “brand icon” in four or five new TV spots breaking over the next few weeks. In one, said sources, the dog asks an attractive woman for a date; another pairs the dog with a cute female chihuahua. The tagline remains, “Want some?”
Laurie Gannon, a representative for Taco Bell in Irvine, Calif., confirmed that several new spots are “in production”; the agency declined to comment on the ads. Foote, Cone & Belding handles media duties.
Taco Bell’s same-store sales rose 3 percent in the first nine months of 1997; sales at KFC and Pizza Hut chains rose 2 percent and fell 4 percent, respectively, according to Tricon Global Restaurants.