When McDonald's Corp. ran off with Hollywood's promotional Prince Charming, Walt Disney Co., the bet was that Burger King Corp. would have its choice of moviedom's most eligible other properties. But in the six months since, Taco Bell has proven it can fill Ronald's glass slippers just as well, with its programs for "Star Wars" and "Batman & Robin."
Granted, Taco Bell got to tap the Force via a larger alliance of parent PepsiCo with Lucasfilm. True, Taco Bell did get "Batman" because McDonald's abandoned him and BK had already opted for "The Lost World." And, yes, BK was Sony Corp.'s first choice for next summer's "Godzilla," but BK is committed to Warner Bros.' "Superman Reborn."
Still, Taco Bell has proven it can work the promo dance as well as those burger flippers. Credit leadership-Peter Waller, senior VP-marketing, and Lauren Heller, senior director-media services and entertainment-which has given movie tie-ins a strategic role in Taco Bell's overall marketing plan.
"A year ago, Taco Bell wasn't in the promo business in a significant way. Now we have credibility," Mr. Waller said.
Taco Bell has impressed with its interest in PG-13 films, which appeal to the chain's 16-to-24-year-old consumers; and its media schedule, weighted with prime-time inventory. Also impressive has been Taco Bell's creativity, whether filling its windows with larger-than-life posters of stormtroopers and superheroes; innovative sweepstakes, like "Feel the Force"; or toy premiums, like hand-held exploding Death Stars.
"We want to capture the spirit of the movie and the event at our restaurants by making our promo a true event experience through innovative merchandising," Mr. Waller said.
Taco Bell launches a $20 million effort for "Batman & Robin" this week. And Mr. Waller promises bigger and better for "Godzilla," which begins its hype-building in early July.