Dog-gone days: FCB creates ads for Taco Bell acc't

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Taco Bell Corp. is wasting no time moving forward with its newly appointed president and ad agency, as two new spots -- minus its famous spokesdog -- were approved for production last week.

Last week, parent Tricon Global Restaurants named Emil Brolick, 52, its new president and chief concept officer. Mr. Brolick, formerly senior VP-planning, research and new-product marketing at Wendy's International, succeeds Peter Waller, who is pursuing outside interests.

The company also passed its $206 million national ad account on an interim basis to former agency FCB Worldwide from TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey. The account will be managed through FCB's three Southern California offices, with creative overseen by Geoff Thompson, chairman-worldwide creative director. FCB had handled field marketing and media buying through its Costa Mesa office. FCB's San Francisco office is focusing on humor in the two spots, which break in mid-August.


The move to replace Mr. Waller with an outsider surprised some observers. "At some point, money's thicker than blood," mused one person close to the situation. Another executive said, "Benchmark your competitors. Find out who's done the best over time, and go out and get one."

Others had only praise for Tricon CEO David Novak's decisions.

"[Mr. Novak] brings brand-building architecture along with product focus," said a fast-food agency executive. "He will raise the profile of the Taco Bell brand and make it stand for something."

Wendy's marketing formula is said to be one of the most successful in the industry because it makes quality food the hero while building a consistent brand profile.

"Wendy's struck a balance between big brand equity and individual products haloed by Dave Thomas, who is the guarantor there will be good product," one industry executive said. "If anybody's going to make it right, [Mr. Novak] will."


Some observers said they understood the rationale for eliminating TBWA/Chiat/Day's Chihuahua from ads. "Food wasn't the hero and the dog couldn't eat the product without it being a putdown," one executive said.

"The dog wasn't the issue," countered another, who said pointed out that the dog was part of two big launches, the Gordita and the Chalupa.

"It isn't about the advertising," declared one agency watcher. "The most fickle audience in the world is adult males, who are price sensitive."

TBWA/Chiat/Day, which has some 600 employees and billings of $1.3 billion in its Playa del Rey office, said it does not expect to lay off workers as a result of the Taco Bell loss. "Everyone should be easily absorbed [into other businesses,]" including the agency's recent wins of XM Radio and Earthlink, the agency spokesman said.

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