Deutsch Los Angeles Picks Up Digital Duties on Taco Bell

Incumbent Digitas Will Stay on Roster for Digital Media Buying and Planning

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The mobile ordering app, which Deutsch and Digitas introduced in October
The mobile ordering app, which Deutsch and Digitas introduced in October

Deutsch Los Angeles, the lead creative agency on Taco bell, is adding digital to its duties.

Publicis Groupe's Digitas in San Francisco had been handling digital for the chain, and just recently helped launch its mobile-ordering and payment app in late October. Deutsch handled the TV creative, but the biggest splash of that campaign was Taco Bell's blackout of all its social media for a couple of days to draw attention to the announcement. Digitas also created the design of the app, on which it will continue to work.

Digitas will also continue to handle digital media planning and buying. Its sibling agency Spark handles media planning, and WPP's MEC handles buying.

A spokesman for Taco Bell confirmed the change but declined to elaborate.

Digitas, which won the chain's digital business in 2012, said in a statement that it was proud of its Taco Bell work and looked forward to doing more. "While we are disappointed by this decision especially on the heels of the transformative mobile ordering launch (which DigitasLBi had a heavy hand -- and heart -- in creating), we move forward with pride in our people, and conviction for our work," the agency said. "We continue to be a valued partner for (and value our partnership with) Taco Bell, as we continue our work across digital media, mobile/app, CRM, loyalty, among others."

Deutsch called Taco Bell a digital marketing leader. The agency has been working on some digital business for the last year and a half, but that now the shop will handle social, digital and platform work, according to Winston Binch, chief digital officer at Deutsch L.A. "We're most successful when we're deep in the business," he said. "Given we're deeply involved with the Taco Bell brand, having our digital and social team in there now will lead to really great things."

The move is Deutsch's latest pickup from Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC. This summer, the agency picked up the Pizza Hut creative account from McGarryBowen without a review. Pizza Hut's digital account remained with MRY.

Deutsch had also been taking more and more Taco Bell creative work from FCB in the last couple years, to the point that it became the lead agency on the account, though FCB still handles aspects like merchandising. Deutsch L.A. earlier this year led marketing for Taco Bell's breakfast menu introduction, the chain's biggest rollout in its history. The shop had picked up increasing digital work from Taco Bell as well.

Deutsch has been putting significant effort into building its digital offering in recent years. Mr. Binch, a former CP&B exec, joined Deutsch in April 2011 and has since grown its digital group to include some 200 employees, according to a person familiar with the agency.

Taco Bell spent about $327.5 million on U.S. measured media in 2013, according to Kantar Media. It's by far the biggest spender of the Yum brands, with KFC second at $284 million and Pizza Hut third at $247 million.

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