Taco Bell Throws a Lavish Feast Filled With $1 Food

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Nachos are served on fine china. Hot sauce packets and paper napkins rest on the table near silver candlesticks. And a woman wears a golden headband made out of forks.

Welcome to Taco Bell's version of a feast, seen in an ad from Deutsch L.A. hitting TV on Monday.

The chain's new effort, depicting a fanciful meal of items that it sells for $1, is a bit of a storytelling departure for the Yum Brands Inc. chain, which is often touting limited-time flavors of quesalupas, quesaritos and other fare.

The fast food industry has been focusing on value meals throughout the year, including Taco Bell's own $5 Cravings deal.

Now, the California-based Mexican food chain is taking the chance to remind people, or perhaps inform them for the first time, that it sells 20 items at $1 each throughout the day.

"We felt like this was an opportunity to sort of almost create a brand anthem about who we are and what we offer," said Chief Marketing Officer Marisa Thalberg. "This is obviously meant to be visually arresting and theatrical and not look like anything that's completely realistic."

Still, Taco Bell has seen people cater some high-end parties with its food.

The campaign features some of the $1 breakfast items it introduced earlier this year and some of the $1 items served later in the day, such as the small plate of nachos. Pricier items, such as the Steak XXL Burrito that runs about $5.49, are absent.

Ms. Thalberg, who joined Taco Bell in 2015 and became CMO in early 2016, described the campaign as an opportunity to tell Taco Bell's "elevated value" story with a bit more subtle wit than some of its other marketing.

"In the midst of a very, very competitive year I was waiting for a moment to really make a statement that just absolutely spoke like a category of one," she said.

Taco Bell's U.S. same-store sales fell 1% in the second quarter of 2016 after rising 6% in the second quarter of 2015.

"We expect more out of Taco Bell, given the strength of this brand," Yum Brands CEO Greg Creed said during the company's July conference call. "In the current environment, we need to pair innovation with value that clearly resonates with our consumers."

Mr. Creed said then that Taco Bell's sales had subsequently improved, with third-quarter to-date same-store sales in positive territory. Yum Brands is due to report third quarter results in early October.

While Ms. Thalberg did not confirm any plans, it is possible that Taco Bell may add additional $1 items to its menu, including limited-time products.

Along with 30-second and 15-second TV commercials, the campaign includes digital elements and will be shown in movie theaters. The work is expected to run at least through the end of the year.

Along with Deutsch L.A., Taco Bell worked on the campaign with Digitas, Edelman, Spark and Collider, the marketing strategy firm acquired by Yum Brands in 2015.

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