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Retargeted Taco Bell Ads Are Underfoot

Fast food: TV campaign is aimed at males 18 to 34. Burger King, meanwhile, is offering treats.

December 30, 1997|GREG JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Can a big-eyed Chihuahua with an appetite for Mexican-style fare help to beef up fast-food sales?

Taco Bell Corp. is betting that a new string of television ads featuring an undeniably cute dog will help draw more core customers--males between the ages of 18 and 34. The Irvine-based company on Monday unveiled the first of five new ads featuring the Chihuahua, which joined the company's ad campaign in July.

In the commercial, the dog ignores an ersatz Elvis and a female Chihuahua to confront a man munching some Taco Bell fare. The dog delivers his line, "Yo quiero Taco Bell," with an English-language subtitle, "I want some Taco Bell."

Meanwhile, fast-food competitor Burger King said it will give away French fries to consumers who enter its stores on Friday. The giveaway is part of Burger King's ongoing war with fast-food leader McDonald's.

Burger King said the cost of the fries giveaway will probably exceed the price of a 1995 Taco Bell giveaway that industry analysts pegged at about $12 million.

Taco Bell's new ad offers a discount on a Mexican pizza to consumers who buy a large soft drink.

Taco Bell spokeswoman Laurie Gannon said the Chihuahua won't always be used to pitch price discounts--a practice that can sap profit even though it sometimes helps build revenue.

"This ad features . . . a value price on a popular item for a limited time," Gannon said. "But we won't always be using him to promote discounts. There could also be new-product introductions or general promotions."

The 30-second ad and four upcoming commercials created by Venice-based TBWA Chiat/Day seem to put to rest rumors that Taco Bell isn't satisfied with the ad agency's work.

In a news release issued Monday, Taco Bell Chief Marketing Officer Vada Hill described the Chihuahua ads as "just the kind of break-through advertising that we challenged TBWA Chiat/Day to create. . . . This spot was creatively right on the mark."

The quirky dog first appeared in July as a bit player in a series of harder-edged commercials aimed squarely at teenagers. The new ads are designed to appeal both to teens as well as 20-to-30-year-olds who buy fast food.

Taco Bell, a subsidiary of Louisville, Ky.-based Tricon Global Restaurant Inc., has 4,700 locations nationwide. The chain recently reported its third consecutive quarter of improved sales at stores open for at least a year, an important measure in the restaurant and retailing industries.

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