Taco Bell's nacho fries get a third movie trailer treatment

James Marsden is the latest star in the campaign from Taco Bell and Deutsch LA.

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James Marsden stars in Taco Bell's new nacho fries campaign
James Marsden stars in Taco Bell's new nacho fries campaign Credit: Taco Bell

Taco Bell is bringing back nacho fries for their third run, and this time it is promoting the limited-time run with a faux trailer for an earth-to-space odyssey starring James Marsden.

If it all sounds a bit ridiculous, that's because it is.

"The tone that we've been striking really well with our work is it's all actually extremely sophisticated," says Global Chief Brand Officer Marisa Thalberg, "but there's always a little bit of a wink."

The new campaign is the third in a series of movie trailer-esque ads that promote the fries. Taco Bell introduced Nacho Fries in January 2018 and they quickly became the chain's most successful launch. How successful? When nacho fries returned in July, one out of every four orders at Taco Bell included nacho fries. While that was a dip from the more than one-third of orders that included them soon after the launch, it was clear to Taco Bell that the product, and the marketing, were resonating.

Now, nacho fries are back, and so is the movie trailer concept. The "Nacho Fries: Retrieval" campaign from Deutsch LA includes a 60-second high-style video starring Marsden as Dr. Danny Conrad, a retired astronaut who returns to outer space to figure out where nacho fries have gone.

Marsden is known for roles including Teddy Flood on "Westworld" and for movies ranging from "X-Men" to "The Notebook."

"I think he brings the celebrity power and acting chops needed to really sell the idea," says Brett Craig, CCO of Deutsch's Los Angeles office. "It's a preposterous premise, but we play it all so straight-faced and having someone like James Marsden just adds to the satire."

Last year, the fries were promoted with a "Web of Fries" campaign from Deutsch starring Josh Duhamel, who reprised his role in the conspiracy trailer's follow-up summer spot, "Web of Fries II: Franchise Wars."

"We felt like we created a sequel that was as good, if not better, than the original," says Thalberg. "The question becomes now how to do you top that and keep going with that?"

Marketing plans for "Retrieval" (the "i" in the trailer name is replaced with a fry and cheese) include running the spot in movie theaters, printing movie posters and sending For Your Consideration kits to media. Plus, there are IMDB pages. Despite the movie theme, Thalberg says that for now there are no plans to run the spot during the Oscars. There are also 15-second and 30-second cutdowns.

The limited-time offer's popularity makes it clear that the return of nacho fries could be more of a recurring theme. "We plan to keep bringing them back as fans continue to demand that we do," says Thalberg.

Presumably, the trailers will stick around as well. As Craig notes, an executive at a major movie studio who saw "Web of Fries" said the agency makes better trailers than they do. "That's a high compliment."

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