FCB RUNS FOR THE BORDER IN PURSUIT OF TACO BELL

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Agency woos $200 mil account lost to Bozell in '94 Foote, Cone & Belding is trying to recapture the $200 million Taco Bell account it lost to Bozell in 1994.

Executives within FCB said the agency has been wooing the PepsiCo fast-food chain, with its West Coast offices taking the lead. They wouldn't say whether their efforts are close to paying off, but FCB recently declined an invitation to pitch the $85 million Subway Sandwiches & Salads account to avoid a potential conflict with Taco Bell.

"We've got bigger fish to fry in that category," said one executive about the decision to pass on the Subway review.

NO CREATIVE OFFERED

FCB insiders said the agency has not produced or presented any new creative for Taco Bell but has been talking with company executives. An agency spokes-man denied that, saying FCB is "absolutely not talking to Taco Bell."

"Bozell remains our agency of record," a Taco Bell spokeswoman said.

Because of Taco Bell's sluggish sales the past two years, Bozell's hold on the account has been considered shaky almost since the day it won the business in August 1994.

The agency manages the account out of its Costa Mesa, Calif., office. Peter Stranger, exec VP, and Harvey Hoffenberg, exec VP-creative and a former Taco Bell consultant, run the account, with involvement from Chuck Peebler, chairman-CEO of parent Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt.

A SOLID RELATIONSHIP

Bozell insiders said their relationship with Taco Bell is challenging but solid. One said it has grown stronger in recent months, thanks to the recent arrival of Peter Waller as Taco Bell senior VP-marketing, from a similar position at Pepsi-owned KFC.

Mr. Waller is credited with helping to lead a turnaround at KFC.

"He's made a world of difference," the Bozell executive said.

Taco Bell is one of the swiftest-growing fast-food chains in the U.S., having increased its store count 15% to 6,300 in 1995. However, same-store sales dipped 4% last year and are down again this year.

Aggressive pricing helped the chain achieve strong sales growth

FCB woos Taco Bell in the early '90s, but that has ceased to be a unique selling point in the fast-food category.

Bozell initially shared the account with Richards Group, Dallas, but it won the full assignment a year ago. Richards had launched the low-fat Border Lights, a line praised by critics and analysts but mostly ignored by consumers.

This spring, Bozell launched the tagline "There's nothing ordinary about it"-a campaign Taco Bell called the biggest in its history. Many observers considered it a make-or-break effort for the agency (AA, April 1).

`COMPELLING' CAMPAIGN

"`Nothing ordinary about it' is one of the most compelling campaigns in our history, and we have no plans to change," said the Taco Bell spokeswoman.

Some earlier Bozell ads had used the "Run for the border" tagline penned by FCB's San Francisco office.M

Contributing: Bill McDowell and Alice Z. Cuneo.

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