Behind the Scenes of Taco Bell's Snapchat Film

Fast-Food Chain Filmed on the MTV Movie Awards Red Carpet

By Published on .

Advertising Age Player

"It's ready. Who wants it?"

Around 5:20 pm on Sunday, Los Angeles time, the first post in Taco Bell's Snapchat "movie" introducing a new Doritos Loco taco was set to go live. Taco Bell's social-media lead, Nick Tran, grabbed an iPhone and hit send. From there on out, the clock was ticking.

Taco Bell had less than 24 hours to film and post what would be, to Snapchat's knowledge, the first film a brand had created on the ephemeral messaging service.

Mr. Tran wanted to test the limits of real-time marketing. He wanted to record a scene from the red carpet of MTV's Movie Awards -- which took place in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday evening -- and post it on Snapchat ASAP. Problem No. 1: The clip takes place after the halfway point in the Snapchat film's storyline. Problem No. 2: Once a clip is added to a Snapchat film called a Story, it has 24 hours to be seen before it's automatically deleted forever.

That meant a crew including Mr. Tran, Taco Bell's agency Deutsch L.A. and the campaign's director Jason Zada of Tool North America spent all day Sunday racing around Los Angeles. Editing clips in a cargo van, the team received a police escort from famed music venue The Wiltern to an East L.A. laundromat to downtown's entertainment hub LA Live.

Another wrinkle: the filmmaking would not cut corners. While the time constraints meant that they weren't shooting each 10-second clip for perfection, they were aiming for authenticity. No crying over the fact that 24 hours after the campaign went live, it will be gone like anything else posted to Snapchat.

Mr. Tran said the brand was committed to using social networks the same way people do. That meant a camera rig typically reserved for big-budget film work sported an iPhone. Huddled around a cargo van outside the East L.A. laundromat, right before uploading the first clip to Snapchat, Mr. Tran and the Deutsch team spent about five minutes going over how to horizontally shoot with an iPhone so that finger-drawn illustrations appear right-side up on the social-messaging service (They needed to have the phone's home button on the left.)

Roughly 20 minutes after Mr. Tran posted the film's first and second clips, the group was on the MTV Movie Awards' red carpet at LA Live to film the money clip. The Snapchat film's star was to run the red carpet just as the pre-show festivities were wrapping so that when the video hit Snapchat a couple hours later, people would say, "Whoa, that just happened!"

"Guys, we have 10 minutes. Let's go," shouted Deutsch LA producer Win Bates at 6:10 pm PT.

"No, you have five minutes," responded an MTV employee whose own team needed to start tearing down the red carpet.

A little after 7 pm PT, the first 69 seconds of Taco Bell's Snapchat movie posted.

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